Archive for April, 2010

Trans Am at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto

April 22, 2010

21 April 2010

Thrill Jockey’s post-rock synth trio, Trans Am, played to a full house at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on Wednesday night, and goddamn it was LOUD. My ears they still be a buzzin’. Live shows at The Horseshoe always tend to be a bit on the louder side, but Trans Am had it right cranked — to the point where it’s so loud it makes no difference even if you have your ears plugged. But I guess a little aural degradation is the price you gotta pay to live like a rock star.

I love Trans Am. But I haven’t listened to any of their albums since Red Line came out in 2000. They’re one of those bands from my youth that hold a very special and revered place in my heart. However, over the years the trio started getting weird and inconsistent, and although I liked the robot and electronic angles they were embracing, there were just so many other musicians who were making similar sounds and doing it better, and so I abandoned Trans Am for close to a decade. But when I heard they were on tour, some friends and I decided to go for nostalgia’s sake, and as an excuse to drink on a Wednesday, so we bought tickets and showed up and were pretty much blown away by their show. It was deep, dark, moody, tight, heavy, trippy, aggressive, poppy, and 100 percent relevant. In short, Trans Am still kick ass.

Drummer Sebastian Thomson was an absolute machine, banging hell out of his kit, shirtless (as always) and spitting and swearing in between tracks. Best quote from him when the crowd requested “Futureworld”: “NO. We play what we want, when we want.” Haha. Fucking rock stars. And true to his word, they didn’t play it, but it didn’t matter, their set still rocked.

Philip Manley was stellar on guitar, effortlessly playing big fat riffs and soft delayed chords to the delight of the crowd. And frontman Nathan Means is always a large presence on stage, and not just because he’s 6 foot 5. He gets right into it, all smiles and occasional looks of innocent wonder, as if while he’s playing the song he’s surprised that it’s actually his band he’s hearing. Plus he loves him some vocoder and did a sweet job playing the part of the robot last night. ‘Twas a tight set and a great one. Go see Trans Am if they play in your town.

Warp Records up and comers Nice Nice was second on the bill and also played a fun and hectic, sample heavy set, that was pretty damn loud and awesome in its own right. Check out their debut album Extra Wow at your local record store. I missed the opener’s Jonas Reinhardt because I had to work late, but all in all it was a great midweek concert to help usher in the weekend.

Loved it.

Matthew Herbert – One One

April 21, 2010

For Juno Records

Avant-garde musician Matthew Herbert welcomes spring with the release of the first installment in his “One” trilogy, entitled One One. The album’s title is fitting, because the man of many samples has chosen to use just one here — himself. Herbert wrote, performed, produced and recorded everything on the album, and also decided to add vocals in the mix, sung all by his lonesome. Sounding somewhere between Alexis Taylor and Erlend Øye, Herbert lulls with soft vocals and self assured lyrics detailing a day in the life of one man.

For those hoping for the return of Herbert’s signature deep house, you’ll have to wait for the last installment in his trilogy, One Club, because with One One, Herbert displays his soft side, and in many ways this record could be considered a sort of eclectic folk album. Each track has an intimate feel to it, as Herbert confides in his listener, asking: “Who knows where this journey will be taking us? Who cares?” on “Leipzig”, and croons about his second home in the stripped-down and emotional “Berlin”.

Each track’s title is the name of a city, and this quiet collection of songs is like a travel guide through Herbert’s thoughts and memories. Highlights are “Dublin”, “Porto” and “Milan”, which best reveal his knack for melody and newfound vocal chops. For those of you looking for a subtle and introspective album by an ever-changing musician, One One is for you. Overall it is slightly forgettable, but it’s a nice album worth checking out, even if only to hear Herbert sing. Peace.

The xx at The Phoenix in Toronto

April 5, 2010

4 April 2010

London trio the xx returned to Toronto for their first headlining show on Easter Sunday and delighted the crowd with an intimate and understated live show. Beginning the set with moody album opener “Intro”, the band was shrouded behind a white curtain and their silhouettes were cleverly illumined against the scrim. As the track ended, the curtain dropped revealing the giant X (that has become their hipster branding) and their trademark light boxes lit up in the centre of the stage. They immediately followed with “Crystalised” and had the crowd in melancholic rapture. The overall mood was dark and big props have to go out to their lighting team who deftly added excellent atmosphere to the band’s timid and shoegazey stage presence.

Guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim stood on either end of the stage, while beatmaker Jamie Smith worked the drum pads behind them. At times the percussion seemed a bit muted, but the bass drops were deep and rattled appropriately. Croft’s guitar work was a bit rusty, perhaps still adjusting to the absence of rhythm guitarist Baria Qureshi, but I enjoyed the very live feel of it all — a young band on their first big tour, exploring the capabilities and further possibilities of their sound in a live setting. They played every song off their debut album and one cover by UK artist Kyla called “Do You Mind”, which featured Smith manipulating the vocals to great effect and vigorously playing a snare and floor tom during the song’s kick. The additon of real drums is one thing the three-piece will surely realize as a necessary expansion for live gigs, but overall, the xx are a young band with loads of potential and subtle class. I dug it.

Sweden duo jj, on the other hand, played a ridiculous set of their Pitchfork lauded, pot leaf and blood stained album covered, cheese pop garbage, to a very bored and befuddled crowd. jj are sure to fade into indie-rock obscurity just as soon as Pitchfork finds another crappy band they decide to make popular for no reason other than the fact that they can. The singer Elin Kastlander does have a very nice voice, but it could do nothing to save their set from totally sucking. The guy was air-guitaring on stage instead of actually playing the real one next to him. Haha. So bad.

We missed Nosaj because he went on so early, but I have seen him twiddle his knobs before. Next time he comes back, he better bring his visual accompaniment with him. But overall, yes, twas a great night. I’m out.