by Josh Gross
Jan. 5 marked the long overdue live debut of Boise band Memory Smoker.
After a year of practicing the improvisational electronic sound art act, its three members—Alex Sprague, Benjamin Mulkey and Luke Hayhurst (formerly of Boise band Microbabies)—schlepped an army of synthesizers to Black Hunger Gallery in Boise's North End to play a half-hour of atmospheric noise and release its debut album, Skulled and Peeled.
The set consisted of long rolling hums and low-end scronks backed by sparse drum sounds mutilated with echo effects. Entirely improvised, band members played off one another with long slow builds to produce an overall sound somewhere between an X-Files score and the death rattle of an extra in Tron.
Part of what made the set interesting was how much of Memory Smoker's equipment was handmade by Mulkey.
His instrument of choice was a colossal patch bay analog synth he had made from an old organ. It was controlled by knobs and a joystick and topped with a bear's head with extra cables clutched in its teeth.
Originally a drummer, Mulkey turned to synths in a living situation that wasn't cool with loud noise, and taught himself electronics to soup them up once he became dissatisfied with their limitations. The colossal synthesizer he spent most of the night on is a work in progress that he has been adding bits to for two years.
Because of the setup time of the equipment and the nature of the music, Hayhurst said Memory Smoker will probably gig only a few times a year. Let's just hope some promoter has the foresight to put the band on a local bill with Phantahex and Wolvserpent for one helluva psychedelic evening.