So you overdid it during the holidays. You've resolved to subsist on a diet of raw vegetables and fruit smoothies for the month of January (and possibly February too). Right now, you probably want to do nothing more active than retreat to the sanctuary of your sofa and watch reruns of Scrubs. But let's face facts: you can only find solace in Zach Braff's puppy-dog eyes for so long. Eventually, you're going to have to leave the house. So why not get your year off to a proper start by braving the arctic chill of our northern California winter and going to see Lymbyc System play the Cafe du Nord?
Sure it sounds scary, but this is the best time of year to go see live music. Venues are quieter, seats are more plentiful, and bar queues are shorter (while we're at it, you can forget that New Year's resolution about not drinking too: one or two medicinal pints of Guinness will help, trust me). And don't be put off by that name: Lymbyc Systym. It may only be one ümlaut short of honorary heavy metal status, but you can rest assured that brothers Jared and Michael Bell won't assault your fragile senses by screeching and screaming about Satan. Why? Well, there are three reasons:
1. They aren't a heavy metal band.
2. They're more of a snuggly quilt band.
3. Their music is instrumental.
OK, so "snuggly" is maybe overdoing it a bit. Genre-wise, the duo's most recent album Shutter Release fits into a slot somewhere between post-rock and electronica, but it draws on the softer edges of both, mixing warm acoustic guitars and strings with subtle, organic samples. Tracks such as "Interiors," "Bedroom Anthem," and "Late Night Classic" largely live up to their benign titles, with layers of sound that pull off the enviable trick of sounding both fuzzy and clear at the same time. But, as their awkward, consonant-laden name suggests, Lymbyc Systym aren't all pillows and sugary tea. Discordant notes leak in around the edges, feedback lurks in the distance, and tracks that start out cute and quiet ("Contemporary Art," for example) sometimes take surprisingly noisy turns. It's a bit like discovering your grandmother has laced her cucumber sandwiches with jalapenño peppers: unexpected yes, but not necessarily unpleasant.
All this, together with Lymbyc Systym's status as an instrumental electronic outfit, might lead some people to throw around careless words like "experimental" or "difficult." But that would be doing the band (and us) a disservice. The end results are inviting and intimate rather than alienating. Even the more tumultuous passages never leave sight of melody or structure, or descend into white noise freakouts. Which isn't to say that the Lymbyc Systym live experience is guaranteed to be free of its minor challenges. But when your only alternative is another night of channel surfing from the couch, what have you got to lose?