The Stranger, April 10, 2003

The Blow's Metaphysical Question Mark

by Zac Pennington

Meme Concert Series #8
The Blow, Bill Horist & Marco Fernandes, Super Unity
Fri April 11, Center on Contemporary Art, $5.

All right, so let's begin with the facts: Khaela Maricich is the Blow. Or rather, the Blow is Khaela Maricich. Wait, no--that's not it either. The Blow is sort of a thing. But then at the same time, it's also sort of an absence of a thing. And between this presence and this absence lies the Blow. Or maybe that's where Khaela lies. Okay, now I'm getting tangled in postulation, and the Blow isn't tangled postulations. Get it?

For the sake of clarity: The Blow is, by physical definition, the current recording and performance outlet of Khaela Maricich. But to be fair, the Blow isn't much of a band at all. First of all, there's the mathematic anomaly of its membership--one-woman strong--but that's not exactly it either. The real truth is that the Blow isn't exactly a band because what the Blow is isn't music. Not exactly, anyway. Certainly, there are songs. Good songs. Even great songs. But that's sort of beside the point, as, in its purest form, the Blow is a manipulation.

Wait, wait--the facts. An integral member of K Records' current incestuous stable--the collective of like-minded performers whose impossible overlap the cool kids are calling the "Invisible Shield"--Maricich has been until now most recognizable for her frequent collaborations with the more high-profile artists on the label, her hushed, postcoital delivery a familiar presence on records by Mirah and Dennis Driscoll, with a particular weight on innumerable recordings by the Microphones. On her own, Maricich has birthed three disparate solo projects, each with a record under its respective belt: a debut under her own name, a follow-up as Get the Hell Out of the Way of the Volcano, and now as the Blow. Though last year saw the release of the Blow's official debut (an EP called the Bonus Album), the current Maricich incarnation is truly defined by its most realized achievement to date, the engrossing, operatic performance piece entitled Blue Sky vs. Night Sky. Anchored occasionally to an acoustic guitar, in its musical manner at least, the work is more often than not an orchestra of stuttered, minimalist pop tones--all undulating synths, languid bass ambiance, and quilt-thick vocal layers.

But forget about that, because, as I said, the music is beside the point. Maricich is, first and foremost, an artist, and subsequently, a performer--embracing the narrative of song as a populist tool of expressing a larger storyline. The particular narrative, Blue Sky vs. Night Sky, is a consuming, ambiguous meditation on, among other things, the nature of youth and its constant dissipation--a pubescent monologue of absence, avoidance, and perception. As a performer, Maricich channels youth in all of its stammered, circular vagaries--with assumed truths, abstract contradictions, and marked naiveté all delivered in a tone that feels like one long rhetorical question. Combining elements of theater, music, and visual art, Blue Sky vs. Night Sky is multimedia, but only by default. And though presenting a wholly realized performance piece, the Blow isn't quite performance art. The success of the theatrical elements relies on Maricich's deft ability to fully integrate her media--song, context, delivery, narrative, confusion, etc.--into a tone that supports the work's most profound calculation: a leashed intimacy that is the Blow's ultimate faculty. Maricich wields an almost uncanny ability to reduce her audience to a show-and-tell circle eating dotingly from the palm of a calculated hand--manufacturing an air of closeness that drives her performances. So, then--the Blow is intimate. Or rather, the illusion of intimacy. An earnest deception that's as captivating as it is sharp. And as sharp as it is obtuse. Wait, that can't be right, can it?

Anyway, in conclusion: The Blow is a something. And that something transcends its components to become something entirely different. I think. So, I guess the Blow is that transcendence. Or else maybe the Blow is just Khaela Maricich. Er... I mean, Khaela Maricich is the Blow. Wait. I mean... not that. Get it?

copyright 2003 loss leader