The venue, a warehouse, is brimming with people and the feeling contrasts with the cold, humid air outside. I rush in after I get checked off a list and join the crowd waiting for the night to begin. It was nice to see others who were as excited as me since it’s hard to describe this concert to anyone outside the ambient/electronic scene. How do you define an experimental set? How do you convince people that you’re not just listening to people play tracks off their computer for two hours? Without traditional singers and band placements or even a simple DJ set, it can be hard to visualize or comprehend what takes place. The audience here gets it though.
As people mutter and crowd around the stage, the first act of the night begins. SY3, made up of singer Jia Pet, bassist Pheel Cho, and keyboardist Alex Ho, arrive on the stage. The group plays unreleased material; material that feels like a hazy moment or one of those movie scenes where everyone takes drugs and hangs out. “Tell Me,” a song that is “about phone tag,” moves through and around the audience, with Jia’s voice hanging in our ears. The warehouse, jarring with its steel and jagged points, doesn’t seem to dim down SY3’s sound.
The band, untitled (halo), is the second opener to appear. The music is unlike the previous, with more of a grunge reverb grainy sound taking center stage. It grounds all of us back after the previous dreamy set, filling us with bass and distortion. Influences from grunge and dream pop, you could hear it in the singer’s voice and in the music. The usage of discordinance and distortion played well– I could feel the crunchiness of it all, how palpable it was. Their songs felt like plucks from Björk, like “Army of Me,” and faintly of Mazzy Star.
In between sets, I converse with others who I ironically know from other ‘artsy-warehouse-shows’ and we discuss what we are about to see. Most people are curious about the nature of the set, while others are just excited to witness the duo live.
Natural Wonder Beauty Concept appears as the main act. They mess around and tweak their equipment before settling down into their seats. The band’s set contains a mixture of sounds, covers, and songs from their debut album. Behind the pair, there are curated projections of a helicopter, grocery stores, and more, all of which were displayed as the set goes on—a continuation of their music visualizations from their debut album. It feels like we are sitting in on an art exhibit.
Natural Wonder Beauty Concept is a project conceived by Ana Roxanne and DJ Python after the two became close friends in 2020. Both had extensive careers before this project however. Ana Roxanne is an experimental artist who combines airy, boundless sounds with her haunting vocals. She has been rising in the electronic and ambient scene, playing shows internationally and gathering critical acclaim for her personal and sonic depths. DJ Python, hailing from Queens, is a house and reggaeton producer who has been featured at venues such as Boiler Room and has also garnered widespread acclaim for his projects.
While the duo played staples such as “Sword” and “Natural Wonder Beauty Concept,” they decided to incorporate other samples and even cover a song. It turned out great with one instance of them playing and messing with an opera sample, garnering chuckles from the dense crowd. Another highlight includes a cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” which has recently been covered by other artists like Pipilotti Rist. A popular song within the artist’s sphere, Roxanne’s soft vocals give a fresh take on the rougher original.
This music isn’t traditional, and it’s exactly the reason so many people love Natural Wonder Beauty Concept. They’re different. They contain multitudes and layers stacked and woven within one another—sometimes seamlessly, and at other times it’s all intentionally messy. With or without lyrics, their music is also a deeply personal experience and there are many ways to interpret it. To me it’s like I’m sitting back in my high school English class, trying to pinpoint how one sound contrasts another and how it is meaningful alongside this one line that’s being repeated over and over. Natural Wonder Beauty Concept brings these wonders to us. Whether it’s from the droning in “World Freehand Circle Drawing” or the fast pace in “Natural Wonder Beauty Concept,” the audience is able to derive a variety of meanings or even a lack thereof from these pieces and everyone learns to enjoy the set in their own way.
Listen to Natural Wonder Beauty Concept’s debut album below!