Metalux
Fri July 29, Dr. Glorious
(2216 E Fir St, 633-1490),
8 pm, $5, all ages. Metalux also play Ladyfest, Sat July 30.

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Metalux guitarist J. Gräf habitually snaps photos of her band's audiences. Reversing the usual fan/artist interface has resulted in many interesting shots. Metalux crowds "often have a mysterious combination of looks," Gräf relates. "They'll simultaneously be really attentive and open while looking horrified. Which is really strange to play to. I always used to turn my back on the audience. Then I decided that I had to start connecting with people."

Along with bandmate M. V. Carbon, Gräf didn't so much connect with people as alienate them in her previous group, Bride of No No. Both women played guitar with that Chicago quartet, which was led by AZ of Scissor Girls. BONN's two albums sound like a no-wave-inflected prog-rock unit painstakingly grinding out Byzantine song structures that could give math majors migraines and leave the rest of us with knotted limbs.

Following BONN's 2003 dissolution, Carbon moved to New York City and Gräf to Baltimore. The geographical distance hasn't hindered Metalux's productivity, as they've issued eight releases, including their latest and greatest on 5 Rue Christine, Victim of Space.

Victim of Space, it must be said, is potentially hazardous to your mental health. Unmoored from reality and gravity, this is a nightmare soundtrack of unfathomable distress, a creepy compendium of blown-neuron symphonies. You can practically smell the frying circuitry and singed eyebrows wafting from Metalux's studio. A stern constitution's needed to withstand Metalux's disorienting experiments with the time-space continuum.

Metalux appeal to the psychedelic-explorer mindset. Victim of Space seems like it would be especially interesting under the influence. Perhaps this effect is merely an unintentional by-product of the duo's imaginations.

"I can see what you're talking about, because some of the songs are ritualistic," Gräf says, after stressing that Carbon would respond differently to my questions. "They have chanting and a lot of repetition; repetition can induce some strange things in the brain. I think of societies where chanting plays a big role in getting into another mental state. And I definitely think Metalux is about inducing different mental states. But hopefully the music is a bigger part of it than the drugs."

Listen to Metalux for any duration and you'll notice similarities to sonic surrealists like Chrome, Butthole Surfers, Residents, Royal Trux circa Twin Infinitives, and various no-wave artists. Do Gräf and Carbon have any affinity for those groups?

"I don't think it's as conscious as that," Gräf says. "We both did grow up listening to a lot of really experimental stuff, but we also both grew up in places that were not big cities. Carbon grew up in the country; I grew up in a suburb. We didn't have access to that much. So a lot of our stuff is self-made. We have pretty good imaginations, and a lot of the stuff we [create] comes from what we want to happen."

Metalux's unique sound partially derives from their gear. Besides guitars and synthesizers, the two use a reel-to-reel tape machine and something invented by Baltimore instrument inventor Peter B. called a "tranoe" (pronounced like "canoe").

"His instruments are tactile," explains Gräf, "so they're electronic but they're sort of like patch synthesizers; but you're making the connections with your hands or you can make them with alligator clips. Instead of knobs, they have these nodes, metal rods sticking out that you connect. I can process things through that—my voice, guitar, whatever I put into it. Carbon plays her voice through a reel-to-reel and that causes a lot of the strange enunciations. Carbon has a really distinctive voice, sort of like a cat meowing. When you add a reel-to-reel that has a delay system in it, it kind of messes you up in your head, so you're trying to keep up with yourself."

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Metalux's shows have caused much bafflement and heckling. Graf welcomes the abuse, seeing it as a spur to creativity, but thinks a lot of it's due to the duo's gender. "We don't know how to relate to a woman onstage. So much about music is about identification, especially in the smaller genres where it's like you're this underground cult that identifies so closely with one another because you're outside the mainstream. If we can't identify with something in their gender, then it becomes a block to getting into the music. I think it's just a matter of time. We don't know how to read a woman who is full of agency."

segal@thestranger.com

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