- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

As giddy as a 5-year-old with a full can of finger paint, Film School smudges its inspirations across the 10 songs on its new self-titled record. The disc, released in late January, pulses with the innocent, experimental and do-it-yourself raggedness of early ‘90s indie-rock.

That’s not a knock. In fact, a reverence for pioneering guitar bands such as Sonic Youth and the droning, echo-adoring “shoegazer” bands adds a significant layer of credibility to any up-and-coming act.

The band’s opening set Wednesday at the Black Cat will showcase Film School’s ability to translate its command of studio effects to the stage. The songs grow stronger with “saturated, thick sounds” during live performances, says singer and guitarist Krayg Burton during a phone interview.

On the CD, the standout track, “Pitfalls,” builds stamina with a repeating keyboard line, an ethereal guitar part and Justin LaBo’s simple-but-stabilizing bass.

Backward tape loops form the entirety of “Garrison,” and “Sick of the Shame” melds gooey acoustic pop with a lurking tension that engulfs the middle section of the track, only to give way to a cascading and sunny conclusion.

Even though San Francisco-based Film School has been together in different configurations since 1998, the five-member band is just now setting out on its first full U.S. tour, Mr. Burton says. The month-long schedule will introduce Film School to fans who have only heard the group’s new disc and 2003’s four-song recording, “Always Never.”

Other than New York City, the band has never played East Coast mainstays such as Boston and Philadelphia. Mr. Burton says he’s excited to play in the District for the first time because fans in the area have been writing to him.

He also is ready to showcase the band’s material after battling for years to find a label and release a record. “It takes a lot of work … trying to get your name out there,” he says.

In a time when digital music Web sites can distribute songs directly to fans, the long wait associated with releasing a CD on a major label was difficult for Film School.

“We were ready to go about a year ago,” Mr. Burton says. The issue was exacerbated when the label pushed back the release of the self-titled disc by three months. “There was some frustration” with the delay, he says, but the opportunity to spend a month playing to all-new crowds overshadows the wait.

• • •

Wolf Eyes has no interest in melody or hooks or anything that resembles a traditional song structure.

The group deals in abstractions and shrieks and squeals, the kind of horrific noises that fill Halloween haunted houses and children’s nightmares. Its shows are less like concerts and more like howling blasts of performance art engulfed in an immaculate mess of cables, wires, mixing deck, guitars and other electronic gear.

Wolf Eyes appears with Pig Destroyer and Whitehouse tonight at DC 9.

The titles on 2004’s “Burned Mind” reveal the group’s sinister modus operandi. “Dead in a Boat” sizzles and pops like flesh in a frying pan, and “Reaper’s Gong” spurts white-hot energy waves. “Rattlesnake Shake” conjures the landing of an extraterrestrial spaceship inhabited by slithering, tongue-flicking reptiles.

Hard-core noise and electronic bands such as Wolf Eyes, which has existed in different incarnations since 1996, don’t compromise or deal in subtleties. Their records synthesize and regurgitate the violence that engulfs and unsettles us all.

Tonight, Wolf Eyes will show those who are brave enough to step into DC 9 how it translates that violence into bold, creepy explosions of sound.

• • •

The Jai-Alai Savant’s most recent visit to the nation’s capital was high on energy but low on paying customers. A posting on the band’s Web site recounts its recent six-date East Coast tour with the brief comment that “at the Velvet Lounge we played to about 10 people but it was a very good vibe.”

The four-piece unit — Ralph Darden (guitar and vocals), Jeremy Gowertz (drums), Nash Snyder (bass) and Major Taylor (beats and dubs) — is looking to repeat the vibe and increase the audience during a Wednesday show at Warehouse Nextdoor with Gold Standard Lab label mates GoGoGo Airheart and Subtitle.

The five songs on Jai-Alai Savant’s 2005 EP, “Thunderstatement,” deserve a larger following. Anchored by a devotion to British punk and bass-heavy reggae, the group searches for new terrain to explore along a path blazed by the Clash and the District’s own Fugazi.

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