Loma Lynda makes music to watch movies by—and they make the movies, too. The LA-based band's songs are more than cinematic, packed so tightly with drama, tension, ecstasy and emotion they're exuberantly exhausting, with each strum across the guitar bursting with colossal slow-motion sadness. But behind the songs is a movie screen, and on the movie screen is a lurching funeral procession of found images and original footage, shot and arranged with dreamlike imprecision by the band themselves. It's an unsettling, disorienting, total sensory experience—film as musical instrument—and when it's over, it feels like you've just stumbled out of a bunker somewhere.
They've attracted notable comparisons to Radiohead, but Loma Lynda's songs are more immediate and warm, closer to the mournful Sigur Rs, the gentler moments of Mogwai, the torch songs of Jeff Buckley and the ether-clouded melodies of Broadcast. And it sounds intimately familiar on first listen, as if foggily remembered. Jason Bognacki, the band's guitarist and principal noisemaker, started the band in 1999 and makes the films with noted avant-garde filmmaker and artist Erik Saks—known for what one writer called "pseudo-documentary" films about "ecology and waste." Rounding out the lineup are drummer Bone Mammone, guitarist and bassist Dan White, and singer Sarah Ellquist, whose breathy, agile voice plays measured complement to her band's soaring, sometimes melodramatic melodies. The stories she sings—in lyrics both plain and poetic—aren't necessarily the same as those set up on the film behind her, but there's no competition: each narrative teases out the texture of the other.
In less talented hands, it wouldn't be much more than a gimmick, but Loma Lynda transcends any pretense. They've already won considerable critical acclaim in the national press, though their biggest media coup came not from any music magazine but during the Sundance Festival—where they got just as much attention for their music as for the film projected behind them.
LOMA LYNDA WITH AMPS ON TEN AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19th ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600. MON., 9 PM. FREE. ALL AGES.