After listening to Charlatan’s self-titled album for the past couple weeks, my expectations for last Wednesday’s show were justifiably high. Needless to say, his fog machine theatrics and projections of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis only doubled them. As moody as it is poppy, the debut, nine-track record is remarkably dynamic and accessible. And The Burlington, a Logan Square staple quite close to my heart, was the perfect venue to host this budding Chicago shoegaze solo act.
Charlatan Plays the Burlington in Logan Square
The one man behind the band is Omar Rashan. With the weight of a complex, heavily reverberated sound on his shoulders, he’s forced to multitask. Rashan took the stage armed with an electric guitar as well as a small arsenal of pedals, drum machines, and other creative modifications–one of which is a pickup placed behind the bridge of his jazzmaster used for erratic, nails-on-chalkboard solos. Throughout the soundcheck, Rashan tweaked and fiddled like an engineer until he was pleased with the sounds being made. Soon, that burnt caramel smell of synthetic smoke filled the hazy venue, silent movies flickered on the stage, and the show was underway.
Charlatan’s set began with “Other Side,” a three-note anthem that was both upbeat and dissonant. Spacey delays made his brash strings sound more like bells that blasted throughout the small room. Amidst all the chaos and noise, a tender guitar solo cried out, full of John Hughes angst and eighties nostalgia. By now the garish projector light was playing off the disco ball in a way that amplified the drama, transporting the audience to some bizarre school dance that never actually happened.
Rashan followed up with “Vanishing Act,” a more digital dance track full of bright synths and droning bass lines that left a Joy Division flavored taste in my mouth. Despite his tucked-in appearance and timid demeanor, Rashan is a true performer. While constantly sawing at his guitar, stomping pedals, or making the whammy bar his bitch, it’s clear that his unique sound is anything but random. Even the reverb delays add to the rhythm section. Next he played “Yesterday’s Weather,” a psychedelic track full of metallic vocal effects and “Plastic Ashes,” rich with video game tones and strobing drum machines.
While he said very little all night (except requesting that his mic be turned up) Rashan’s passion for experimental noise pop was evident. Whether strumming furiously behind the bridge or attempting to drill his guitar–headstock first–into the stage, his presence is exciting and unpredictable. Around halfway through the show I realized that there isn’t a bad track on the album. Rashan’s continued energy made “Hearts” and “Too Much of a Good Thing” particularly fun to dance to. They are probably the best tracks on the record.
Rashan ended the show by apologizing for the “technical difficulties” and dropping his guitar nonchalantly on the stage. I know one thing: Anyone willing to batter their gear for a twelve-person crowd has to have some serious stones. And as for technical difficulties, Charlatan’s entire sound IS a giant technical difficulty. One that’s been honed to perfection. From within a rampant storm of synths, guitars and effects, Omar Rashan seems to have bottled lightning.
Article by Mickey Jacobs