Miike Snow/ Delorean

Miike Snow

A Miike Snow concert is truly the best remedy for the tedium of a Monday night. Morphing into sexed-up animals, the crowd was delighted by the electro pop anthems and pounding bass soundscapes emanating from the Swedish trio.

Spanish indie rockers Delorean raised the bar for Miike Snow with their blistering performance. With singer/ bassist Ekhi Lopetegi looking like something of a mediterranean Jesus, the band’s sonic dreamscapes were faintly reminiscent of the eclecticism of Animal Collective.

Dominated by white beams of light and intense smoke clouds, the stage nicely complemented Miike’s Nordic, glacial aesthetic. After baiting the crowd with smoke and mirrors for some time, the band came out wearing creepy white masks, raising intrigue and anticipation. Kicking off the show with a five-minute psychedelic jam, they transitioned into “Cult Logic,” arguably the most infectious and anthematic track off their album. Satisfying the ravenous crowd, the trio played favourites like as “A Horse is Not A Home” and “Black and Blue,” remaining true to the album but sounding less processed and more spontaneous. Tearing off the white plastic mask, frontman Andrew Wyatt completely killed it during “Plastic Jungle,” a song about the brutal, military-likeness of postmodern life.

Stockholm-natives Wyatt, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg have garnered much deserved acclaim for their self-titled debut, which came out last year. Rich with layered, complex synth rhythms and salacious lyrics, the band’s sound is also surprisingly dreamy and introspective. Added last minute to the SXSW bill, this group is adding a much-needed cool, Scandinavian touch to the electronic music scene. With a sonic formula that combines beauty, strangeness and the sublime in perfect proportion, Bjork could learn a thing or two from these guys.

Oh, and for those who didn’t know, Karlsson and Winnberg have previously worked together as Bloodshy & Avant, a songwriting team that has created songs such as Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and have worked with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Kelis and Madonna.

Stars and Hey Rosetta! Feb 19 @ Orpheum

Stars make great bedroom music

For anyone who’s listened to Stars’ 2004 album Set Yourself On Fire, it’s hard not to shed a tear for their beautiful, eloquent and heart-breaking indie pop. After a week in the craziness of the Olympic cultural hullabaloo, this show was like a much-needed sedative that lulled the attendees into a peaceful, thoughtful musical reverie—though not entirely replete in energy—with frontman Torquil Campbell balancing the melancholy with humour and frequent curse words.

Hey Rosetta! took the stage just as someone in the crowd screamed out “You are so cute,” an arguable reference to vocalist Tim Baker’s irresistible smirk. The band, originally from St. John’s, has progressed tremendously from their garage-rock sound to their performance which was lush and complex. Layered with Romesh Thavanathan’s cello and Erin Aurich’s violin, the string section added a sultry, soulful dimension to their indie rock trademark sound.

Stars’ performance, on the other hand, was something rather cathartic, as Amy Millan’s velvet voice can often inspire. Playing mostly from their 2004 singles, they sparked up the show with “Set Yourself on Fire,” then quickly went into “What I’m Trying To Say,” now the anthems for any romantic break up. Campbell, as the son of the two Shakespearean actors, waved his right hand quite a bit, which gave the lyrics a more dramatic, soliloquy-type quality. Between songs, he advised that if anybody shook his hand on the street, that they fail their drug test. Then seeming visibly embarrassed, Campbell quickly said “Don’t do drugs” in a way that was both cute and a complete lie.

The Montreal-based group indulged fans with a few new songs from their upcoming album. “Open” followed the Stars formula in that it was upbeat and catchy, but had less vocal harmonies in it. “Dead Hearts” was a spooky, lullaby-sounding tune that alluded to dead children Millan once knew. After three encores, the group finished off their set with “One More Night,” which Campbell said was about “fucking someone to death.”

Taking place at Vancouver’s historical Orpheum Theatre, a seated opera house with velvet cushions in the lobby and bartenders who called you “madame,” the show was certainly the best edition of the Cultural Olympiad to date.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v8FJhQ-teE]

CODE fest is code for shmoozefest

for Exclaim!

Upon hearing that LA Riots, the Golden Filter and a special DJ set from Junior Boys were set to play together, who would expect that it could be a disappointment? With less than a week to go before the 2010 Olympic games begin, the Vancouver live music scene has exploded with musicians from all over in collaborative musical mischief, but Saturday’s show proved to be a less-than-perfect operation.

Taking place at Great Northern Way campus, a technology school located in the heart of Vancouver’s industrial playground, the sense of estranged abandonment carried through in the performances. Waiting in line for half an hour to get a drink, I caught Jeremy Greenspan’s set, only at the end of his performance, and it sounded nothing like Junior Boys. Instead of an expected synth-funkiness, the venue throbbed with a sexed-up, generic clubsound you’d expect to find everywhere else on a Saturday night.

In its defense, the Golden Filter put out a mad decent performance. Vocalist Penelope Trappes was alluring and thought provoking , and the blonde bombshell dressed in a way that reminded us of the best of the 1980s. Quirky and intelligent, their upcoming album Völupsá is based on the Nordic poem about the creation and impending end of the world. Full of energy and electro-eccentricity, the Golden Filter was by far the standout performance of the evening.

This concert was part of a series called the Cultural Olympiad’s Digital Edition (CODE). Originally intended as a means of showcasing Canada’s talented DJ culture, the event itself was more of a shmoozefest than an actual concert experience. Here’s hoping the next CODE event will be times better spent.

Here’s the teaser for the Golden Filter’s new album. It looks really good.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCylWgQFMXU]

Zero 7

Zero 7’s leading female vocalist Sophie Barker has a robust, yet dreamy quality to her singing style that would have made the opera heroine Maria Callas nervous. Coupled with her antique, hand-pumped organ at her hip, Barker filled the Commodore with sweeping soundscapes that lulled the audience into a soulful trip-hop experience.

Opening up with a pseudo-Pink Floydian instrumental montage, the UK-based duo Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker delivered a surprisingly relaxing and inspiring show on one of the coldest Vancouver nights to date. Chill and contemplative, the audience opened up to the calmness within the chaos, offering an occasional cloud of marijuana over to the stage.

Acclaimed for their ambience and introspective lyrical elements, the set sounded much like an acid jazz cover of their own music; playing softer, more slowly, more thoughtfully and avoiding the electronic glitches and loops from their albums. The band played a few crowd favourites like “Home” and “Speed Dial No.2” from When It Falls, not to mention a gorgeous jazz-infused version of “Destiny” from their debut, Simple Things.

Overall, the show felt much like the effects of Ambien; soothing,phantasmagorical and almost surreal. Baiting with the crowd with warm sound bytes and the irresistible crooning of a woman “watching porn in my hotel dressing gown,” Zero 7 did not disappoint.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qT6uEHvCVSo&feature=related]

Woodhands

… I wanna do it one more time

The Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, BC November 28

 

Woodhands will break your heart

 

 

Plaid shirts. Bearded hipsters. Women dancing in their bras. These are the fundamental elements that Woodhands brings to the realm of indietronica rock. The Toronto-based duo Dan Werb and Paul Banwatt blasted the miniature-sized stage of the Biltmore, causing chaotic dancing and chanting of epic, rave proportions.

For those who don’t already know, frontman Werb is bringing back the keytar. He showed full mastery of synthesizers, drum loops and sound mixers and spat out fat, earth-shaking techno riffs with a machine-like exactness.”Chocolate” drummer Banwatt was tweaking just as hard, sweat drenching through his his retro Star Wars t-shirt, demonically pounding his white Pearl set until he actually destroyed his snare.

“Somebody needs to go home right now, and bring your snare drum back to the show,” Werb said, sweat dripping down his neck and face, fogging up his black-rimmed glasses. “I guess we’re still gonna keep on going though. Fuck yeah!” When the drum was restored, the group played a new song from their upcoming album Remorsecapade which is set to be released late January. The song was surprisingly mellow, almost contemplative and borderline ethereal, certainly foreshadowing a progression in their songwriting.

Leaning heavily on their last album Heart Attack, they also played some crowd favourites like “Under Attack” and “I Wasn’t Made for Fighting.”  Things got very intense during their five-minute electro jams, which were blisteringly loud and cathartic. Showing unparalleled energy, Woodhands delivered a furious show catering to an ADD-riddled generation — fast, sweaty and catchy as hell.

Watch “I Wasn’t Made for Fighting”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eLfpqxremM]

Chad Vangaalen lulls Vancouver to sleep

Rio Theatre

October 15 2009

Polaris-nominated experimental alt-rocker Chad Vangaalen made hundred of hipsters swoon last night at the Rio Theatre on Commercial Drive.

IMG_8476

Playing an intimate set in quasi-candlelight, Vangaalen delivered his usual, hauntingly beautiful vocal talents reminiscent of a younger, more optimistic Neil Young. Clad in a vintage 1970s outfit, complete with flared pants and a moorlock-styled mop of a wig, the singer songwriter played songs mostly from his critically acclaimed album Soft Airplane, which has become somewhat of a modern classic to those who favour poetic contemplations of death, decay and the sweetness of the human condition.

Highlights included an energetic, distorted performance of “Inside the Molecule,” an homage to grungy guitar rock of the 1990s, typified by the image of the lazy teenager rising “early in the afternoon.”

He finished the set with an eerie but sedating performance of “Molten Light,” which has been dubbed creepy and morbid by some, and sentimental and poetic by others. All in all, it was a beautiful show.

Check out his video for “Molten Light,” which Vangaalen animated himself.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLw5b70OJH8]