Review from Shutter 16 Magazine-HuDost’s Secret Weapon Against ‘Boring’ Music

HuDost played the Evening Muse in Charlotte NC for Creative Loafing’s Jeff Hahne’s music/interview series ‘Off the Record’. It was beautifully reviewed by Amanda Tattermask for Shutter 16 Magazine with photography here by Meredith Jones. Here’s the direct link but we’ve also added the full review below as well. The Shutter 16 site has a lot more pictures by Meredith Jones from the show as well so take a look!

Musical creativity of bands like HuDost gives me faith in the future of music. I had the pleasure of taking in a set of theirs in “duo” format, consisting of lead vocalist/harmonium player Moksha Sommer and guitarist Jemal Wade Hines, while they answered some “Off the Record” questions from Jeff Hahne of Creative Loafing notoriety. While their set was much more mellow and tame than those I had seen before, the abbreviated ensemble of HuDost delivered it with masterful prowess and emotion.

Presenting themselves as an “Experimental Indie World Rock” band, HuDost pushes the boundaries of sound with east-meets-west fusions and then settles right back down with a good ol’ American pop-style tune. Being all over the map is what makes a HuDost show or record an engaging journey for the listener. The “Off the Record” crowd’s journey began with “Hunger,” with an intro adapted from a traditional Georgian healing song sung to infants leading into a psychedelic, almost new-age-sounding tune, with sweet vocals floating on a sea of e-bowed Takamine 12-string and the unusual punctuations of Shahi-Baaja. For those furrowing their brows in confusion at the mention of the Shahi-Baaja, singer Moksha Sommer described it as an Indian harpsichord, and she played it like a steel guitar.    

In the midst of the music-centered chit-chat between the band and the show’s host/emcee about how much the band enjoyed the harsh note combinations and odd time signatures in the Eastern European music that inspires them, HuDost tossed in a token pop song, “Even When,” that could have easily been mistaken for Colbie Caillat. With a backing track for rhythms and the unusual (for them) appearance of an electric PRS guitar, this straightforward little ditty presented a much more mainstream side of the band. Guitarist Jemal Wade Hines maintained the sensitivity of guitar-work on the aforementioned electric as if it were an acoustic, though, so the sound difference there was subtle—he uses his vast array of effects on his large variety of stringed instruments. Next up came a song called “Korea,” which featured a bouzouki in the hands of Hines, who used this cousin of the lute to sprinkle arpeggiated chords over Sommer’s soulful vocal sustains and the duo’s shared vocal harmonies—so beautiful.

JW beats his 12 string Off the Record Charlotte by Meredith Jones

Like many of HuDost’s songs, “Arrhythmia,” which followed, found its inspiration in musings on the universal human experience—this time in the form of “loss.” At the outset, we hear the church-organ-esque sound of the harmonium— a squeezebox instrument, much like a bass accordion— and the somber, yet uplifting, chords lift the tune up to its cerebral lyrical content about the firing of neurons, the transitory nature of life, and the oneness of the human race in an “arrhythmia of souls.” Among all the songs brought to the table tonight, the duo professed that this was the newest, and I could see in their tangible excitement (and simultaneous new-song anxiety) in performing it. A funny side note from the interview portion—apparently Sommer wrote this song while driving and had to pull over to record it quickly so she wouldn’t forget it.

The sequent song on the set list featured Hines on lead vocal, entitled, “All My Guitars.” Fitting, since he used three different guitars and a bouzouki throughout the set. Hines said that the main riff to the song came to him in a dream about a performance. A familiar Americana vibe, akin to something like Indigo Girls, filled the song with comfortable emotions, but I could feel something a little more creative and quirky injected into this piece—almost as if They Might Be Giants crashed a Dixie Chicks concert—as the occasional minor third found its way into the mostly major mix. The penultimate tune kept in line with the country/Americana vibe—“Waiting.” This one reminded me a lot of Sarah MacLachlan experimenting with crossover country. Once again, the vocal harmonies were the driving force behind the success of such classically simple arrangements such as this one. At this point in the concert, Sommer admitted to having been struggling with laryngitis for the past week—not that it showed in her voice at all—and gave us all a brief giggle at her mention of the microscope photos the Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor took of her vocal cords looking like pictures of a vulva. I appreciate it when musicians can share personal anecdotes; it really adds to the intimacy of a small venue performance.

Banter & Storytelling Off the Record Charlotte by Meredith Jones

With that, HuDost closed out their mostly “mainstream,” 4/4-timed set with one of their more experimental pieces, “More Sokol Pie,” from one of their older albums, “Seedling,” (2006). The poem around which this song is written comes from the dying words of a Macedonian warrior. Watching only two people perform such a multi-faceting composition with that full a sound was mind-boggling. Hines’ guitar doubled as percussion, and Sommer even banged along a bit, too, while harmonium and guitar intertwined with soaring, Middle-Eastern-sounding vocals that bordered on screaming at times—a truly exhilarating spectacle to take in. I really love watching and listening to musicians like HuDost who shed the shackles of the ordinary and take the risks of the roads less traveled.

Please check out HuDost’s website, be sure to catch them the next time they come through your town, and pick up a CD if you are intrigued by what you hear.

Dost Duo rocking the Muse for Off the Record in Charlotte- Photo by Meredith Jones