Re-opening the gallery10/21/2015
It has been a banner couple of months for fans of Des Moines’ bygone music scenes, as local acts Towncrier and The Hollowmen have played reunion shows after eight- and 20-year hiatuses, respectively. Now, the wayback machine gets cranked up a little higher, as ’80s synth-pop act Gallery of Voices reunites for a show at Lefty’s.
“We formed the band back in ’86,” said GoV member Jamie Downing. “It was kind of a high school thing. We released several tapes and projects throughout the years, then got older and kind of went our separate ways.”
It can feel like a forgotten and under-represented niche in Des Moines’ rock- and metal-soaked scenescape, but Gallery of Voices was one of the first all-synth acts to come from the capital city and stand as an important spiritual ancestor to current Des Moines acts like Annalibera and MAIDS.
So when The Hollowmen got the band back together, it helped push GoV’s founding members — Downing, Chad Davis and Allen Coppock — back into the water. It has been a long time coming.
“We did a CD in 2008, but that was basically a re-release of our first tape,” Downing explained. “So we did a kind of one-off show at the VFW. But this week’s show is our first full-blown performance, really, since 1987.”
Synth pop is a lot like modern computer-generated images (CGI) in films in that it is easier to spot the lazy examples than the good ones. Gallery of Voices avoided many of the traditional pitfalls of the genre by not relying too heavily on an automated sound.
“The only thing we didn’t play live was the drum machine,” Downing said. “So we would program the drum machine and play everything else live. If we screwed up a take, we had to back up the tape and do it again.”
That organic sound is on display again this week, with a couple of new wrinkles.
“For this show, we’re actually using a lot of our original analogue equipment from the ’80s,” Downing said. “But in this show, we’re actually having a real bass player — Mark Donovan. And Chad, who used to do our drum programming, has since become a real drummer. So he’ll be playing an electronic kit, and Alan will play saxophone. We’ve got a real mix with that old-school synth feel along with a more organic, live sound.” CV