Thursday, June 17, 2010

Plat de Jour Madness!

Over the past three years, the folks over at Plat de Jour have grown notorious for throwing eminently rowdy parties which always feature the rawest and most gleaming DJs to be found.  This year's off-Sonar affair is no exception as it will showcase the talents of one of the most important labels in electronic music, Hyperdub.  Not only will founder Kode9 be on the decks, Ikonika will be tearing things up with material from her excellent debut LP, Contact, Love, Want, Have.  Darkstar, Guido, Cooly G, the Plat de Jour crew, and a cadre of surprise guests complete this ace lineup which will undoubtedly supply more than enough ruckus to create an unforgettable night of Barcelona bass.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tennis - Marathon

This Denver couple have ingeniously turned their sailing memoirs into one of the most unmistakably infectious pop gems to be released so far this year.  Drawing from the suave finesse of Motown, the song's full of swooning hooks that remain polished behind a strong blast of warm guitar fuzz.  Unapologetically bare in their delivery, the vocals are sung with such sprightly charm that you can't help but want to get on board.

Tennis - Marathon

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Primavera Sound Wrap-Up (Saturday, May 29th)

A friend told me on the final day of Primavera Sound, that it was best to not to see the weekend as a race but rather as a marathon.  Having seen bits and pieces of probably over thirty concerts over the previous two days, it was hard to imagine how this night would compare to the others.  Free from any giant headliners(I'm sorry but the Pet Shop Boys don't count), this showcase seemed to be more about having select quality acts, than overwhelming the audience with a flood of names.

Atlas Sound (19:15)
Describing Atlas Sound's music as restrained or simplistic would be haphazardly inaccurate for an artist whose albums always feature an assortment of different styles.  However when Bradford Cox took the stage and it became clear that he would be playing alone, it became hard to visualize how he could reconcile his vast material with only an acoustic guitar, some loop effects, a drum machine.  The answer is that not only did he succeed in accomplishing this daunting task, he translated each piece in such way that it became a presentation on how he singularly constructs the dense layers that his songs are composed of.  By beginning on a more uplifting note and ending with only the repetitive looping of his own voice, the set seemed to a progressive dismantling of the elements that form his sound.

Nana Grizol (19:50)
One of the more pleasant surprises of the weekend, this outfit featuring Laura Carter of the Elephant Six Collective provided the instigative jolt that the initially disinterested crowd seemed to be in desperate need of.  The timely use of a small horns section and having two drummers on stage made, what at first appeared to be cookie cutter festival filler, an impressive flash of upbeat dance rock.

Grizzly Bear (21:55)
Baroque style pop which relies heavily on variable instrumentation, doesn't come off as something that would work well at a large festival.  Besides "Two Weeks", Grizzly Bear's repertoire doesn't have much in the way of instantly catchy songs or anthems that could inspire first time listeners either.  These factors seem like a perfect recipe for disaster, but seeing as how everything these Brooklyn protégés touch seems to turn to gold, their hour long set, unsurprisingly was perhaps the best performance of the weekend.  Indie might take a lot criticism for its stance that places style over musical expertise, but this idle judgment was discredited by the phenomenal artistry that was displayed throughout the show's entirety.  Each member possessed a profound command of their instruments and each part was so thoughtfully placed that those who were lucky enough to be close to the stage, were left mesmerized by the quenching resonance that these four were able to produce.  The complexity behind the composing of each score came off as fluid and effortless, while still delivered with a unique fervency and humility.  The highlight of the set came with a glowing performance of "While You Wait for the Others", which featured every member singing in perfect unison to create a more spirited version of one of last year's best songs.  By the time the show came to an end, one couldn't help but admire the diligence and perfectionism that was behind creating this extraordinary set.  

Built to Spill (23:00)
Plagued by sound problems from the start, Built to Spill's set never seemed to be able to gain any sort of momentum. Even after playing fan favorites like "Going Against Your Mind" and "Carry The Zero", any type of enthusiasm seemed forced for a band that I had hoped would be one of this weekend's best.  Doug Martsch was constantly complaining about the sound levels on stage in spite of the fact it sounded decent enough to those in the audience.  The three ax men on stage all played with an acute sense of time and place but didn't show any signs that they were taking in pleasure in being there.  Maybe it might have been better to just salvage what they could from the unideal conditions, instead of trying to force perfection at the cost of the everyone else's enjoyment. 

Liquid Liquid (00:30)
"Feel the groove!" "Get funky!"  Old guys running around stage and playing a wide assortment of different types of drums while some other guy beat-boxes.  Maybe it's because my feet were tired and that I had scored a good seat near the stage, but I still have no idea why I stayed for this entire set.

HEALTH (3:00)
Even heavier than on their grating records,  HEALTH's mammoth set was not for the faint of heart.  Intense focus was a requisite in order to appreciate the feedback tweaks and morose twists on analog sounds that were being made on stage. A willingness to head bang for hours on end also made the whole experience that much more gratifying.  The manic, and at times trancing, stage circus created a sense of chaos and disarray that seemed to resonate well with a crowd that was running on fumes.  By the time they played "Die Slow", there somehow appeared to be a clear harmony between the jerky rhythms and the idiosyncratic noises that hold HEALTH together.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Primavera Sound Wrap-Up (Friday, May 28th)

After Thursday's unexpectedly salvage ending, I was left wondering if my body could withstand another two days of increasingly exhausting abuse.  A few pots of coffee later and enough junk food to sink a small boat, I was set for Round 2!

The New Pornographers (18:15)
Nothing dampens the day as much as finding yourself watching a band that you've seen enough times to know exactly what to expect from their live performances.  The only thing which made this set strikingly different from other occasions, was the noise level in which they decided to play material from their new album Together. Approaching these songs more aggressively was perhaps a strategy in trying to make up for the lack of not having Neko Case and Dan Bejar on stage to contribute their unparalleled voices to the giant wave of sound that is a New Pornographers show.  The absence of fan favorites from Mass Romantic and Electric Version was a big let down, but Carl Newman and company still managed to throw together a decent enough set to kick off the evening.

Best Coast (19:15)
Oh the risks of seeing a hype band!  One's personal expectations can sometimes be so high that you're pretty much setting yourself up to be disappointed, but Best Coast's brief and dry set didn't seem to conjure up any sort of marked emotions from the mostly watery public.  The Balearic and low-fi feel of their material seemed to be washed out in a quite standard sound and instrumentation, which choose to concentrate more on lead singer Bethany's disinterested delivery than in creating even a drop of vibrancy or variation.

Condo Fucks (20:30)
After hearing Condo Fucks' clamoring take on garage classics, I finally understood why some people actually choose to go to concerts with earplugs on.  This drenching live experience was at first hard to associate with the familiar faces on the stage, but the excellence of Ira Kaplan's ear for making the most of analog feedback effects was one of the most distinctive features of the set.  Cleverly choosing a wide array of different rhythms and approaches to a more or less straightforward genre, helped keep the mood fresh and engaging throughout this electrifying indulgence.

Beach House (21:40)
Front woman Victoria Legrand has managed to turn herself  -with only two albums worth of exquisite material- into one of the most distinctive voices and forces in indie pop.  Drawing from the 60s orchestral flairs of groups like The Zombies and Nico, this perfectly sounding translation of moody and intimate dream pop onto the big stage was one of the definite highlights of the entire festival.  Gems like "Used to Be" and "Gila" glided through with a mastery that made each rise and fall more climatic than the next. By filling in all the empty spaces of the densely packed amphitheater with the softest of nuances, Beach House demonstrated their expertise and how they have pushed themselves musically in so many ways with so little time.

The Pixies (1:15)
The idea of getting excited about a reunited band that hasn´t released any new albums for more than a decade, and that has said on numerous occasions that their reasons for touring are purely financial, may strike some as pathetic blind devotion, but when you´re talking about a force as imposing and influential as The Pixies, all preexisting ideals get thrown out the window.  Yes, Frank Blank and company may have labored through a greatest hits set and there was definitely still some visible tension in how the band members interacted with one another, but the punch and determination behind each one of the their classic songs was exactly what the crowd wanted and received.  Free from any sort of spontaneity or originality, the set list centered on keeping within the boundaries of the original recorded material but I guess we should be content with just having been witnesses to such a display of potency and drive.

Joker (2:45)
Massively thick and saturating bass, served with a dash of melodic trills, and a stale MC on the side that you tried to forget was there, were the basic elements of Joker's intensely satisfying set which included few departures away from the roaring dub-step we've come to love from this up and coming urban star.  Though the crowd may have seemed confused at times with how to react to the darker moments in his mostly upbeat performance, Joker's crafted and pronounced mixing kept most of his listeners captivated and wanting more after a set that seemed to cruse through every transition with increasing ease.

Mujeres (4:00)
This local band's take on indie punk might not have been the most innovative music of the evening, but they indubitably showed that they could enliven big crowds- who for the most part had not heard them before- with little effort.  A beaming cover of "Run Run Run" which included a barrage of audience members joining the group on stage, was a memorable end to an evening which featured very little in the way in the way of disappointment but faltered in not delivering any fresh surprises.