REVIEW: Algiers, Zen Mother at Cactus Club

I’ve wanted to see Algiers for years now, having been following them since their 2015 debut album. They were originally coming to Cactus Club in April of last year but had to reschedule their tour twice before finally making it here this past Sunday. It ended being a relatively quiet night, with a crowd of 20 people give or take, but nevertheless the band delivered a truly incredible set. A group called Zen Mother opened.

Zen Mother is the duo of Monika Khot (AKA Nordra) and Adam Wolcott Smith, currently based in New York. Joined by a touring drummer, the duo combine dark and gothic sensibilities with clangorous industrial-electronic rock. Their dynamic instrumentation enters a duality with Khot’s haunting yet transcendent vocals. Fun fact: Zen Mother is known for earning the opportunity to re-score the 1973 cult classic fantasy film “The Holy Mountain” a few years back. I spoke with Wolcott Smith at the bar after they played and he explained that the majority of the material they’re performing on this tour is off of a forthcoming record that they’re hoping to release soon. If you are a fan of experimental music that is somber as it is exquisite, check out Zen Mother.

Algiers are from Atlanta. The band consists of vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist Franklin James Fisher, bassist/synthesizer/drum programmer Ryan Mahan, guitarist/looper Lee Tesche, and drummer Matt Tong (not present; another drummer and auxiliary percussionist were in his place). Their eclectic style combines elements of soul, post-punk, industrial, and psychedelia. The group chose their name because much of their music is influenced by anti-colonial struggles, and Algiers, Algeria is a landmark of such. Fisher is a robust frontman and Mahan’s groovy dance moves are quite fun to watch. The group’s artful experimentation reflects a key form of resistance against categorizing constructs, where the fusion of ideas lays an avant-garde groundwork unique among contemporary collectives. Their set contained an even amount of songs from all three of their studio records, the most recent of which was “There Is No Year” from early 2020. Algiers are a must-see live show while their records are radical and inventive.

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