w/ Hrvatski, Erock, Lamplighter
Crocodile Cafe, Wed April 10, $7.
It's not clear what Greg Davis will do on stage to support his debut release because the man's music is completely unpredictable. He'll be armed with a laptop and an acoustic guitar, and, like his unusual album Arbor, the music will be some kind of folk-electronica hybrid, but the tools of his trade are where the certainties stop. As Arbor shows, Davis' music teeters in a purposely off-balance act that tinkers with different musical weights: Guitar melodies gently rest the songs on solid conceptual ground, while computer-driven sound effects send the tracks off into abstraction. The overall sound isn't overtly aggressive, but the pastoral acoustic guitar work is more often discordant when crushed by his computer.
Davis' earthy guitar-playing is very folksy, with sweet chord progressions that recall sunny meadows, crackling fireplaces, and other naturey Hallmark images. His playing style is very precise and perfectly measured, with melodies that usually resolve themselves in complete 16-bar phrases. When he's got his guitar in hand, Davis is an impeccably programmed, mild-mannered musician.
If his guitar brings out a calm Dr. Jekyll, though, Davis' laptop work forces Mr. Hyde to the surface, and he uses the machine to tweak the acoustic sounds, break the melodies, echo the tone into odd fragments, add sharp blips and blips, and, on occasion, send the song into swift motion with a breakbeat. Unlike the gentle, dependable guitar, Davis' laptop component is spontaneous, erratic, and sometimes even a little nasty with the noise.
If these sonic mood swings sound a little manic for your taste, Davis is happy to settle into whatever vibe you request when he plays live. Before his gig, he plans to take an oddball survey to determine what the audience wants to hear, where the crowd can choose from such polarities as "Harsh, Hyper-active," "Soothing, Womblike," "Showy, Interactive," and "Less distractive from sound." As the hopeful Dr. Jekyll, Davis will concoct the formula to give the people what they came to hear. Judging from the sounds of Arbor, though, no matter what mood you choose, Davis will be sure to show his evil laptop Hyde.