Kranky 25th Anniversary Concert at The First Congregational Church of Los Angeles — Less Bells, Brian McBride, and Grouper

I am sorry I even took photos at this concert with my crappy phone camera. I did so for posterity’s sake, but I do feel like these photos cheapen the profundity of this event.

Music, audio was just a part of the experience. I thought about birth. Death. Misplaced life priorities. Bleakness. Contentment. Lonely walks by cliffs overlooking some Northern European coast. Religion. Universe. But, I was able to hold myself from completely drifting off into reveries of my own lame thoughts. A couple years of scattered, undisciplined meditation practice was still able to help, and I was glad to be able to bring my attention back to present sensory experiences. I had a couple moments of heightened mindfulness during Liz Harris’ set that were enjoyably unsettling; feedback between the audio and the light show (even if more muted during Liz Harris’ set) made me uncertain about colors I was seeing, a gamma-radiating shade oscillating between red and blue.

I have been waiting to see Liz Harris live for years, so that is something I can now check off my bucket list. Expectations were certainly fulfilled there. However, the openers were also consummate. Less Bells, a three-person act — I will be sure to start following their work. At a surface level, they brought to mind a combination the works of Rachel’s, the late Johan Johansson, and Max Richter, along with a splash of Terrence Malick film soundtracks, but that superficial description alone obviously cannot do their performance justice, so I recommend checking out their work. It appears that Less Bells’ debut album released this year is available for streaming on Spotify. Brian McBride and crew’s middle set was similarly sublime, complemented by a haunting and celestial light show that used the stained glass of the church to evoke a narrative. My jaw dropped at the level of detail, attention, and precision evident in the lighting setup that allowed edges of specific stained glass pieces to be exactly traced by light.

This concert exceeded mere concert and has entered into my hall of core memories. Thanks to the performers, Ambient Church, and Kranky for making this happen. I needed this in my life.

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