story + photos / Joelle White
On Friday night at Mack Sennet Studios, a silent film era soundstage turned hybrid production and events space in Silver Lake, pulsing with indigo light and decked with more chandeliers than a Disney ballroom, Damian Lazarus and the Ancient Moons played an electrifying set of tracks of their upcoming album, Message from the Other Side. Hanging from those chandleries were creepy twig decorations that looked like they were lifted from the prop department of True Detective. Somehow, all these esoteric elements came together when Lazarus took the stage.
Behind his mix board and crowned with what looked like a metallic turban, Lazarus, his backing guitarists, vocalists, and hand drummers delivered a globe-trotting set. As the title of the album suggests, the sound was heavily influenced by what the west would describe as “other” – namely eastern music. Drums dominated the ethereal synths, allowing for a tribal circle vibe to come alive in the crowd and the twig décor some context. At times, one felt transported to a Bedouin tent in the middle of the desert, as strangers danced and passed joints.
Before I had taken this assignment, I was totally ignorant of the artist Damian Lazarus, so I did what any type-A person would do: I listened to everything I could retrieve on Google. From the album, only “Lover’s Eyes” had been released; a track with a unique blend of Qawwali (which google tells me is devotional music popular in south Asia) and house beats. And only the night before the show did the amazing track that is sure to become a summer hit, “Vermillion,” drop into our stratosphere. However, either of these tracks did not prepare me for the wide variety of sounds the rest of the album delivers. You would probably have to consult an anthropologist to pin point all the cultural influences Lazarus works into his music. To the average layperson, all that matters is the incredible feeling and connection to the past that the music imparts upon the listener. As a result of the antediluvian soundscape Lazarus painted, I experienced peace and happiness with my fellow humans. I think it a credit to the artist and his music that when I needed to get closer to the front to take pictures for this post, most people ushered me forward and I only met resistance from one over zealous fan. Just one! Of course, when the show was over and it was time for us all to push into the after party, the carriage turned back into a pumpkin so to speak, evaporating those warm and fuzzy feelings. Personally, I can’t wait for the album to be released just so I can revisit those feelings again.