Lucretius, Dickson, and Philth Haus Bring Experimental Sounds to WHRB’s Recovery Ward

Lucretius and Philth Haus
Lucretius and Philth Haus perform at WHRB's Recovery Ward.
“If I could, I would scream for an hour straight. I just don’t have the stamina. That’s why I make my music,” said Max O. Lesser ’19.

On the evening of Sept. 22 in WHRB’s Recovery Ward concert space, Lesser performed a set of previously unreleased pieces under his nascent noise punk outfit lucretius. Lesser is also currently playing in the rock group Cold Jacket. The experimental and tortured sound of lucretius contrasts with Lesser’s previous projects, according to the singer.

Lesser, an English concentrator planning a secondary in Philosophy, named his solo project after the Epicurean philosopher Lucretius. In explaining the style of lucretius Lesser used the words of the philosopher himself: “From the very fountain of enchantment, there arises the taste of bitterness to spread anguish amongst the flowers,” Lesser said.

Due to the nature of Lesser’s electro-punk-noise sound, the music was custom-fit to the voice of the evening’s vocalist, Claire Dickson ’19. An accomplished jazz, pop, and R&B; singer and composer, and a member of the band Foxpack, Dickson’s collaboration with lucretius is a departure from her usual work. Dickson described her own vocal contributions as largely spontaneous.

After the show, Dickson reflected on the unique perspectives that unconventional sounds bring to the table. “It’s really about the sound. It’s not about melody, or rhythm, or these elements we normally associate with music,” she said. “We’re just exploring the very basic elements of music, the sound. The sounds are helping me get into this mood that’s very enveloping.”

In a seemingly spontaneous outburst towards the middle of the show, during a song, an audience member got up and proceeded to yell tortured screams while writhing in pain. He and the man sitting in front of him then rose and began to scream, jumping around rocking their heads in agony. Towards the end of the set, the first man sprang onto the performance space and began to dance expressively to the music, and was later joined by Lesser.

The two screaming men, Jack Corbett ’19 and Cole M. Thompson ’19, admitted that their contribution to the performance was planned, as both are members of Cold Jacket, for which Lesser is the keyboardist. Corbett said that the lucretius performance was a departure from what he, Thompson, and Lesser would do in Cold Jacket. “We have more of a classic band set-up rather than production on computer.”

Thompson anticipated that lucretius might garner some negative responses. “Anything that’s new that your brain hasn’t heard before, it’s going to throw you off. I just think that performance was so unique and so creative, it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard,” he said.

Friday’s concert was a collaborative project between lucretius and the on-campus art collective Philth Haus. Known for their bold and evocative art installations, Philth Haus’s unsettling decorations paired well with lucretius’s music. The set-up consisted of three tall blocks illuminated by two black lights.

In front of the foremost block sat Philth Haus’s creative director, ANDRA (Philip A.N. Chowdry ’19), clad in sunglasses and heels, covered in small paper rectangles and used cigarettes. Past Chowdry’s feet sat a bowl of milk, and a trail of honey led down the length of a tarp. Lesser crouched below that foremost block, and Dickson sat on a taller one near the back. Chowdry felt that his installation related to lucretius’ music in a few key aspects. “Religion, holiness, and opacity being atrocity,” he said.

After an hour of live broadcast on WHRB, the music went silent and Dickson announced to the room that the performance was over. The audience members, still processing the music, waited a few seconds before applauding for Lesser, Dickson, and Chowdry.

Updated September 25, 10:50 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that Max O. Lesser '19 is enrolled in a dual degree program with the New England Conservatory. Lesser is no longer enrolled in the program.

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