It turned out the High Noon's stage and sound system, plus the opportunity to project a montage of astronomy footage and weird old educational films, suited Trin Tran, a solo project in which Madison resident Steve Coombs simultaneously handles guitar, synths and drums. Madison audiences most often hear Coombs' music, catchy but twitchy, in more compact spots like the Dragonfly Lounge or the old Corral Room, though he's also opened several times for the splendid Deerhoof, both at the Memorial Union Terrace and in Chicago.
After all, a small venue complements Coombs' ramshackle one-man setup and often abrupt vocal delivery. During a March show at Mickey's Tavern, a friend occasionally hunched down to repair a taped-together rig involving a snare drum and a foot pedal, and a pint glass shuddered precariously on one corner of the table that held Coombs' keyboards.
But the High Noon provided more breathing room for Coombs' newer songs, and they spread out nicely into it. He's recorded a new album's worth of material to follow his last, 2007's Grows A Rose, though he's not sure yet when it will come out. The song "Itchy Gowns" best shows the balance he's striking with the new stuff: He still writes lyrics that translate as odd chants (say "itchy gowns" over and over again rhythmically -- does your mouth feel weird yet?), but he centers the song with a big, simple keyboard hook that feels serene compared to the vocal delivery.
Coombs ended up on the bill because, as he found out last year, Ty Segall is a fan. During a work trip to the Bay Area last year, Coombs met Segall, who, to Coombs' surprise, somehow got a hold of some obscure CD-Rs Coombs burned years ago.
Playing a longer set than usual, and in a space where low end and reverb come out a bit more, offered proof that Coombs isn't making something chintzy, but is fleshing out his own balance of tuneful electronic music and compulsive post-punk rhythm. In fact, the music sounded even fuller than it does on the new recordings, especially on the weirdly sweet, if still kind of cryptic, "Ko Ko De." Though much about Trin Tran's sound and execution signals an attack of the nerves, Coombs sounded just loose and confident enough last week to bring that extra dimension to it.