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Desolate disco

Seattle artist Nightspace deserves a quiet night

Nightspace croons nocturnal post-punk with a bite. Photo credit: Brita McAuliffe

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In the days since David Bowie passed, an overabundance of think-pieces were published about the effect that he had on generations of weirdos, experimenters, LGBT kids and astronautic explorers. Bowie gave permission to so many people to live out their wildest ambitions and their most taboo desires. I've spent a lot more time than necessary thinking about how Labyrinth was a sexual awakening for a lot of people, including myself. Yeah, for a mostly straight kid like me, I was focused on Jennifer Connelly. Still, sometimes a Goblin King would enter frame and, cod piece or not, I'd find myself thinking, "Who is that?"

Bowie's influence cannot be ignored, however indirect it may be. It's the little things in music and art, which can eventually be traced back to Bowie, like a game of six degrees of separation, linking together creative outsiders and giving them a space to be as balls-out as they want to be. It's his influence, though it may not be cited by the participants, that gives us something like the Gay Rodeo, which is happening at Le Voyeur on Friday. In addition to a couple DJs and the feminist Afrofuturism of Aeon Fux, we have Nightspace, who most directly recalls Bowie's brazen sexuality and experimentation, even if as he incorporates decades of underground synth-rock and provocation.

Nightspace is the work of one Bailey Skye, a Seattle artist who creates dark, swirling musical works with him as the center, the eye of the storm. "Nightspace" is a fitting moniker for Skye, whose music tends toward the nocturnal. Listening to "Untrue," off of the EP of the same name, I couldn't stop conjuring up the REM line about how "nightswimming deserves a quiet night" - I imagined myself swimming in the dark depths of a lake in moonlight, rising above the muted sounds of the water to be met with Nightspace's sighing soundtrack.

There's a narcotic swell to Nightspace, making it feel perfectly appropriate to accompany a David Lynch piece. Even when things get raucous, there's a feeling of exhaustion that threatens to shut everything down, like a blinking neon light on the horizon. Every bit of energy is used to keep Nightspace afloat, which lends a bit of tension even in the most languid of moments. "Mean Kids," with its buzzing intensity, still seems to be fighting against the sunrise, preferring to carry on in the dark of a desolate disco.

As a performer, Skye thrives in the mode of a backlit crooner, evoking the fatalist edge of early ‘80s post-punk. Occasionally, his voice rises to a yelp, like what you'd hear from a wounded animal in the distance on a still night. Nightspace's production is minimal, but effective. The reverb-drenched "False Priest" lives by its jarring stabs that lend a sense of anxiety even apart from its chilly drum beats. In fact, the more minimalist the arrangement, the more Nightspace shines - with a ton of demos available online, it's easy to see that the most basic of accompaniments only highlight the mood of Skye's songs.

A friend on Facebook pointed out, in the wake of David Bowie's death, that he was a not a born starchild, but was rather formed by experiences. His famously mismatched eyes, for instance, were not hereditary, but rather the result of a violent fight with a schoolmate over a girl. This was a man who did not simply paint a lightning bolt on his face and grab a leotard; this was an artist who embraced the darkness, as much if not more than flamboyant experimentation, and his life gave him the tools to do so. Nightspace grasps at the darkness more than other things, and is elevated by an exuberance of performance that gives energy to a brand of synth-pop noir that is ultimately empowering.

LE VOYEUR, w/ Aeon Fux, DJ Loose, DJ MG, Mona Real, Friday, Jan. 22, 10 p.m., donations accepted, 404 E. 4th Ave., Olympia, 360.943.5710

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