Live review: Exhausted Prayer at Relax Bar, October 26.

First I’m gonna review the bar itself, which I hadn’t been to before, then I’ll talk about the band.

Real culture clash going on here, reminiscent of punk days 30 years ago when groups were playing Chinese restaurants for lack of options. The bar’s a little squeezehole in an especially rotten (but improving) neighborhood at Hollywood & Western.

You walk in. What’s going on? A jumble of arty-art paintings and Asian cheez clutters the right wall. To the left, an Asian man and woman work the bar with a steer skull hanging behind. There’s a decent beer-only selection, but the Corona has gone sour, the downside of clear bottles; stick with the Bud. Near the door, a few Asian customers poke at plates of abstract food, somehow ignoring the metal that blasts from the far end. Fifty or so guys ‘n’ gals in their 20s, facially hairy (the guys) and sartorially grunged (most all), mill in the 12-foot-wide, 30-foot-long floor space. Only eight of them can see the band, cuz there’s no stage.

The sound system isn’t horrible, just real raw, with no reverb for the vocals. Anyway, you don’t need to hear the words.

Exhausted Prayer have a command of texture that came through even in these primitive environs. The two guitarists, Swansong and Chris McCarthy, dialed in distinct, tactile tones that blended well with the colorations of bassist Richard Vulich and drummer Mike Caffell. If you could’ve graphed the music, it would’ve looked like sine waves, not square waves, moving like liquid under the influence of wind/gravity. This Mike, if you could get a squint at him, was a sight: a tall, gaunt specter who had his drums spread out below him around knee level -- take that, you little fuckers! He expanded a thrash basis with seemingly spontaneous accents you’d never expect on toms and cymbals, a self-made drummer if ever there was one.

It was a short set, but it built strong through the burgeoning changes of “Logic of Death,” the keynote from their album, “Looks Down in the Gathering Shadows.” Variety and intelligence that rocks like crazy -- any questions?

I really wanted to stay for the combustible Watch Me Burn and the formidable Intronaut, about whom I overheard some worshipful comments from fans. But I’d seen both before, the five-band show was running way late, and that bad Corona wasn’t sitting too well. Glad I didn’t try the food.