Sensory Overload: DOMES at its best when at its loudest

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From the June 6, 2013 edition

One of the reasons I prefer psych-pop over just plain psych is its emphasis on songs over textures but not at the expense of textures. With a record like Tame Impala’s two LPs or Of Montreal’s Satanic Panic in the Attic or, hell, Sgt. Pepper, you get the mind-bending sonics melded to songs that would be awesome even without the psychedelic sheen. I enjoy a good space voyage as much as anybody, but I like to have somewhere to land intermittently.

DOMES seems to understand my smartphone-ravaged attention span and my predilection for pop craftsmanship. I didn’t always love the band’s show last Thursday at Kobo, but I think it’s on to something.

The trio, whose members have also played in Ghengis Green, The Lost Revival, The Spruce Campbells and Monolithic Cloud Parade among others, started out shifting between two distinct modes. First came a dreamy-but-driving instrumental punctuated by miniature explosions courtesy of Chris Cheeseman’s snare drum. Next, a punchy alt-rock tune with Pixies lineage and slight Kings of Leon drawl (not in a bad way). Then another instrumental, this one carried forward by krautrock’s motorik pulse and Ben Ahlteen’s tower of effects pedals. Then another CD102.5-style joint with slightly heightened twang and an ace mini-chorus.

These songs were different enough that they didn’t immediately cohere into an identity, but given where DOMES took its set’s second half, it became clear this was the band’s way of circling ever closer to the satisfying center between those two poles of spacey instrumental rock and earthy post-grunge pop. Its fifth song combined the best of those disparate worlds, draping another radio-ready rocker in sampled speech and stretching it to the heavens.

It was bassist Ian Mclain’s birthday. To celebrate, he traded places with Cheeseman for a slow-builder that peaked with tweaked vocal samples out of the Animal Collective playbook. The rhythm section was tight all night, but seeing them hold it down after switching instruments was extra impressive. Still, it was good to have Cheeseman back playing ballistic drum fills for the grand finale. Maybe this is just my restless hashtag-ADHD talking, but DOMES was at its best when it as at its loudest.