Friday night was perhaps the most cosmic throwdown Cairo has ever hosted. Megabats—Seattle dudes Samuel Melancon and Riley Scott—wore robes with xmas lights draped over their hoods and started things by sending out Terry Riley-esque pulsations to about 30 pairs of receptive ears. Compared to previous times I’ve seen Megabats, they leaned a bit more heavily on the tranquility tip—at which they did well. I recommend checking out their CDs, Goes to a Lemon and In/Out, for further illumination.

Hair and Space MuseumMidday Veil vocalist/guitiarist Emily Pothast and keyboardist David Golightly—looked like benevolent cult leaders in their all-white attire. They established their Riley credentials in September by performing a 12-hour drone piece at Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery titled A Double Rainbow in Curved Air. At Cairo, HASM dropped a subatomic balm on the crowd. Golightly coaxed swarming cascades of Moog Voyager and Roland Juno-60 tones that seemed cruelly cramped by Cairo’s tight dimensions. You could feel them vibrating around the ceiling, itching to frolic in remotest space. Pothast summoned deeeeep emotions and loosed them via her expressive repertoire of deliveries (earth goddess, soul healer, demonic diva) while occasionally tickling a toy piano, strumming an electric guitar, and shaking various percussion toys.

Thus the scene was set for French guitarist/effects-pedal magus High Wolf, who is making some of the most haunting, hallucinatory sound waves in the world right now. Anticipation for his set ground on excruciatingly for 30+ minutes (the crowd had swelled to around 50 by this point) as he and last-minute accomplice Panabrite (Seattle keyboardist Norm Chambers, at the suggestion of Brother Raven member/Gift Tapes boss Jason E. Anderson) tinkered with their gear to get the levels just right; High Wolf—who was terribly jet-laggged, by the way—had about nine pedals and FX boxes scattered on the floor. Once they started, though, all was bliss.

High Wolf only did three pieces in 30 minutes (I greedily wanted at least three hours), but they filled the tiny space with strange radiances and rhythmic undulations. The whole thing—mesmerizing hand percussion loops, guttural utterances garbled into alien textures, wah-wah’d and flanged guitar humidity, and Chambers’ Univox and Juno-60 keyboard coloration—was made up on the spot by two guys who’d never met before. Though frustratingly short, the performance thoroughly entranced. Next time, let’s hope High Wolf gets a bigger venue and more time to let his serpentine sonic séances unspool with greater freedom.

(Also, let it be known that Panabrite is a formidable talent worth following closely. You can download his Contemplating the Observatory album here.)