Monthly Archives: April 2010

YACHT

I’d intended to write about this duo in my LCD gig review, but for the sake of brevity I didn’t write about their support performance.

They’ve more than a bit neglected by me in general, See Mystery Lights was one of those albums that fell through the cracks and doesn’t get listened to for months. And, to my regret, when they pop up as a support act for one of my more anticipated gigs of the year and I give them a respectful listen, they turn out to be really good. Groovy, DFA dance-punk with a cultish, (although their excellent website/mission statement insists they are not) new age sheen that manifests itself in the glitched up vocals of Claire Evans.

She’s also the focal point of a band that clearly invests a lot into its performance. Before the starring duo appear, a lone backing player shuffles on, presses a button on his keyboard and Giorgio Moroder blares out as he sits still, waiting. You’re ready for a performance of similar deadpan when Jona Bechtolt, the original entity of YACHT, enters dressed in a white suit, half southern preacher, half extraterrestrial, alongside Claire, an imposing image in a black catsuit. However, the duo give it their all, Jona’s neverending thanks to us ‘guys’ has a whiff of hipster irony to it – thought it could just be west coast enthusiasm – but apart from that they’re all out to get your attention and you do honestly think, for a moment, that the whole sci-fi cult performance shtick is for real. Jona shakes and trembles around stage like a young David Byrne, (even his suit is a little oversized as if in tribute) whilst Claire prowls the stage, grabbing a lot of attention for her striking androgynous beauty, but a lot more for her palpable and commanding stage presence; the two also have a fair few synchronated dance moves to bust out. It sounds ridiculous, but it works really well with the rest of their look, as if it’s some advanced, science fictiony form of mind control (Claire Evans is a keen sci-fi blogger), and you come away from the show feeling you’ve been inducted into something.

MP3:YACHT – The Afterlife (The xx Remix)

MP3:YACHT – Summer Song

Cloud Nothings: Hey Cool Kid

Disgustingly talented 18 year old’s solo project; sounds like a mellower, less scrappy, but just as fuzzy Wavves. 60s garage rock influences etc.

http://www.myspace.com/cloudnothings

MP3: Cloud Nothings – Hey Cool Kid

LCD Soundsystem @ Brixton Academy 23.04.10

As much as I love LCD Soundsystem, I’ve been to the Brixton Academy quite a few times, so feel qualified to declare that its sound quality sucks. Animal Collective, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hot Chip, lord knows you all tried your best to make it work, but Brixton wasn’t co-operating. You all put on great shows; they just could have been that much better somewhere else. I was cautiously optimistic.

‘It’s been so long since we’ve been in London’. If they hadn’t just played opener, ‘Us v Them’, twice due to the keys being broken on the first take – a fact largely unnoticed, apart from those close enough to see keyboardist Nancy Whang remonstrating– such a statement would interpreted as standard crowd banter, making nice with the audience, but in this instance, coming from the heavy figure of James Murphy, it’s closer to an apology, a hint that the band might not be up to taking on the cavernous acoustics of Brixton Academy.

As a frontman, he cuts an awkward shape: his lyrics are conflicted, self-aware, analytical; his physical build is very Fred Flintstone and when he’s not obsessively moving about stage, tweaking sounds emitting from the band’s vast arsenal of machinery, he’s gesturing to the wings to turn it up, turn it down – all whilst spewing out world-weary melancholia through that vintage mic that is forever glued to his lips. Oh, and he occasionally makes time to dance in the most understated fashion, but totally unself-conscious way, too.

Usually such an obsession with perfection is damaging, but he’s always right. No one noticed the keys missing on the first take of ‘Us v Them’ but everyone preferred the second take. There’s a moment, around three minutes in, on new track, ‘Pow Pow’, where a simple bass groove suddenly cuts into the mix – you never noticed it wasn’t there on the studio version and certainly most of the crowd won’t realise that something so initially innocuous is missing on a yet to be released track in a live setting, nonetheless he marches across stage and turns up the bassist’s amp when another one of the venue’s gremlins appears. He cuts a vaguely heroic figure. I mean, this is the guy who coined the line, ‘borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties’ rendered more prophetic than ever in a scene of twenty-somethings, endlessly toiling to create music that sounds pre-aged, recovered off dusty VHS tapes. A world pre-Chillwave, before Harrison Ford agreed to the Indiana Jones remake, before Ashes to Ashes, before Rickrolling. The guy’s already pretty heroic.

The success of this herculean struggle is appreciated; people’s impression of the show is mixed and even from a cosy, central position the vocals are murky – not that it matters when everyone is determined to list every band in that bit of ’Losing My Edge’ – but the effort is more than welcome.

The rest of the gig lurches between disco workouts, rowdy – but considered – moshing and sombre, head-nodding reflection in the way that perhaps only a LCD Soundsystem gig can: after hipster posturing (Losing My Edge) and frat boy chant (Drunk Girls, greeted like an old favourite) we’re suddenly down in the teary deliberation of All My Friends. It’s a meticulously planned exercise, just when things threaten to descent into a sweaty mindless rave; you’re grounded again with an elegiac ‘Someone Great’. The respectful applause to James’ tribute to loved ones lost juxtaposed with an excited crush in reception to a messy ‘Daft Punk’ is intense stuff, and all entirely respectful and earnest; a welcome reminder that it’s possible to engage the heart without being smaltzy and move feet without being inane. Testaments to a band’s ability to not only meld together genres and influences, but moods too, don’t come much more convincing. The band are at the height of their powers and, as omniscient as James Murphy’s judgement is , it seems a shame to call it a day.

MP3: LCD Soundsystem – Pow Pow

MP3: LCD Soundsystem – Drunk Girls

Flying Lotus: …And the World Laughs With You (feat. Thom Yorke)

Flying Lotus’s second album is set to drop next week, May 3rd.

It’s better than Crystal Castles and it gets a lot stronger than this track, but I didn’t want to spoil you.

If you like what you hear and fancy indulging yourself, then head over to his Myspace page where the whole album is available to stream.

MP3: Flying Lotus – And the World Laughs With You (feat. Thom Yorke)

Review: Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles are a tricksy band: despite their chiptune stylings, they’re not named after the 1983 Atari videogame; they’re not adverse to an on-stage hissy fit or a pre-show cancellation and Crystal Castles, the name of their second album, is the same as their first – Crystal Castles.

Such inscrutability translates into their music. Crystal Castles (the album – the first one) held still just long enough to be unsatisfactorily pinned down with labels like the aforementioned chiptune and, more awkwardly, new rave. But the NME’s keenness to create and categorise a movement unsurprisingly never quite rang true. The chiptune element on their debut was one of the most notable sounds of the album, but beyond xxzxcuzx me and Alice Practice it was a supplementary texture than a dominant one and was confused with a more general lo-fi, scuzzy sound. And, whilst plenty of Klaxon’s fans found themselves to be fans of the Toronto duo, there’s yet to be a convincing description of nu-rave that goes beyond vague aesthetics and marketing guff.

Crystal Castles continues to indulge in the child-like curiosity and refusal to settle, best exampled by the three track run of Celestica, Doe Deer and Baptism. Celestica is a breathless, airy affair; Alice sings in a perfectly crystalline tone and displays surprising warmth in her voice. The brief interlude of Doe Deer soon demolishes any frivolous sensitivities with a scuzzy, lo-fi scream-fest and then, suddenly, we’re greeted with stabbing, fissuring, stadium-sized synths, frolicking 8-bit key riffs and Alice delivering vocals in her trademark snarl, a world away from wounded croon of Celestica. The band remain eclectic and whilst there’s no equivalent to the debut’s acoustic closer, Tell Me What To Swallow, in terms of thematic sucker punches, it’s an album that defies an easy, sentence length summation. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. The album is long and more importantly, it feels long; as with the debut, the band’s restlessness grows fatiguing over the sub-hour runtime.

The duo clearly has a sense of adventure when it comes to their music and it often works in their favour. They deliver a remarkable variation of sound from such a low-key and limited set-up. The aforementioned mentioned Celestica and Doe Deer are both excellent tracks, having them back to back showcases the benefits of mixing up a sound, as does the larger, more ambitious sound of Vietnam whose eerie, glistening strains ebb and flow throughout its five minute runtime over a steady House beat and showcases the band’s progressive edge – something that couldn’t be said of their visceral debut.

A keen ear for current trends and perhaps an overly enthusiastic desire to dabble in them is evidenced by chillwave influenced Violet Dreams which takes the wistful soundscapes of Celestica further with a washed-out synth that repeats a hypnotic four chord progression over and over as it dissipates into the horizon over which processed, Alice’s vocals are disfigured, slowed down and glitched as ever; her vocal nihilism seems the perfect match for the genre’s passive indifference. It’s another accomplished switch-up and welcome change of pace that offers a welcoming mid-album palate cleanser and presents an interesting sound that the band could choose to pursue.

Despite this breadth the album’s numerous styles never feel completely explored or mastered. You almost wish they’d pick a couple of approaches and really drill them for hooks and melodies whilst also creating a cohesive, less fatiguing album.

Crystal Castles is a solid step-up from their debut and shows the duo displaying an increasing maturity and confidence in their craft. As the blogs invent and reinvent a dozen genres a week, the band shows a clear determination to avoid being typecast after a brief dalliance with the novelties of chiptune and nu-rave. This same desire to expand their sound and avoid falling into a niche does hinder when they set their stall to broadly, but the foundations of a stronger album is here. If the duo nail their colours to the mast, they could make something great, something permanent.

6/10

MP3: Crystal Castles – Violent Dreams

MP3: Crystal Castles – Vietnam

Crystal Castles: Baptism

Crystal Castles sophomore effort – annoyingly titled Crystal Castles, like their debut – is out today.

MP3: Crystal Castles – Baptism

The xx: Islands

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Not enough interpretive dance in music videos these days.

MP3: The xx – Islands