The first time I stumbled upon their music, I forgot about kntrlr in about the same time it took for me to get acquainted; we parted ways after this trial period.
Four years later, and days ahead of the release of debut full-length The Great Filter, I rediscovered the pair of New York musicians Charles Davis and Michael Henry at SUB-Mission. Perhaps due to the complications with the hole-in-the-wall venue’s February calendar, the turnout was unfortunately low. In the time between sets, chatter in the din wasn’t loud enough to mask contrived conveyances of “good set, man” and other similar praises between crowd and performer as the opening band blended into the audience after their set.
kntrlr had drawn an eccentric crowd, some older and some scattered. Some came from the East Coast, where the duo originated after meeting at a Russian bath house. They opened strong, with digital drum programming on “The Great Filter,” title and opening track off their upcoming record.
Henry, diva-esque on vocals and guitar; Davis, in shades, worked a kit; and their touring bassist filled the space between space percussion elements. They filled it rather too thickly, really, by only partial fault of the band. The small, sparsely populated venue simply wasn’t able to absorb the sound, creating a sort of aural claustrophobia.
Furthermore, as kntrlr progressed into “Halogen,” I got the sense that although The Great Filter does some neat things with its electronic programming, the band’s live show is 500% old school kntrlr — organic, angsty post-punk. Like a vodka red bull, it’s guaranteed to give you a throbbing headache in the morning but fun in the moment.
And Saturday was — kntrlr’s dark, oddly aggressive yet danceable set had the few patrons in the room grooving without thought. That night, “XXX” — perhaps their tamest tune to date and easily the single with the most press attention — felt out of place.
The 30 or so patrons managed to rouse an encore out of them, in the form of album highlight “Double Helix”, before many of them joined the band to continue the evening on Mission Street.
The Great Filter drops via Goodnight Records Tuesday, February 24. Until then, the good folks over at SPIN are streaming it, courtesy of the label.
Article by Joanna Jiang