It’s a sort of wonderful treat when an artist you like gets to reveal their own musical tastes and said revealed musical taste match up with yours. Such is the case with electro pop duo Sylvan Esso who’ve taken to performing a cover of Porches. “The Cosmos” on their current batch of shows. It’s delightful to say the least as the band leave behind their dancefloor ready jams in favor of a more intimate kind of number. Their take on “The Cosmos” is surprisingly sparse – a blanket of synthy hum while Amelia Randall Meath’s vocals arc and glide (and Nicholas Sanborn adds a bit of flavor with backing vocals). It’s appropriately chill, an enjoyable homage that highlight’s Aaron Maine’s quirky but intelligent songwriting talents while also showcasing Meath’s powerful vocal ability.
Brooklyn experimentalists Salt Cathedral continue their genre switch up and the results are a lot more infectious than previous venture “Good Winds”. That’s fair, considering the newly trimmed down quartet have already established they very much know what they’re doing with b-side/first dip into electronica “Rainy Days”.
“Tease”, another peek at their upcoming EP, is a good example of the type of brilliance their previous characteristics can bring to the electro pop arena: Juliana Ronderos’ vocals still remarkably alluring over the surging beats while Salt Cathedral employ their complex rhythms/textural interplay on a much smaller scale, with many of the intricate layering reserved for cool background effects. Aside from a bit of it at the track’s introduction – Salt Cathedral avoid the stuttering glitchy approach towards dance and instead make full use of beautifully flowing melodies aided no doubt by Ronderos’ magnificently fluid delivery.
Los Angeles experimentalist Robin Nydal aka Mirage manages to blend bedroom pop intimacy with technicolor psychedelic deviations and that’s just the starting point. With songs that function more or less like sound collages, Mirage’s songs run the range of everything from orchestral pop flights of fancy to jittery electronic pop all stitched together with the consistency of a ransom letter crafted from newspaper scraps. The same skill for small scale musical metamorphoses applies not only to Nydal’s production but the man himself – vocals going from svelte whisper to warbling croon at the drop of the hat when Nydal requires another timbre to throw into his impressive textural play. “Something” is one of the rare cuts on Blood For The Return that blunts its abrasive edge in favor of the crisp elegance string arrangements. And yet, it’s not without an obvious air of whimsy and certainly doesn’t sideline Nydal during its forays into beauty – the track’s true lushness comes from Nydal’s machinations at the helm- harmonies and various effects swirling around the sweeping string ornaments. “Something” is a work of surprising tension release – swinging with ease between sections while never losing its off-kilter footing.
Mirage’s Blood For the Return is out in August on Olde English Spelling Bee but available to stream via Bandcamp.
It may be too soon to call it but today art pop collective Hundred Waters released a music video for what may arguably be my favorite track on their enthralling sophomore record and album of the year contender The Moon Rang Like A Bell.
Directed by BANGS, the video takes a decidedly direct and minimalistic approach towards the track’s multitudinous layers. Beginning with an closeup of vocalist Nicole Miglis as she sings the tracks’ stuttering opening while the camera subtly follows the incomplete non-delivery with slow clean jerks, BANGS quickly establishes a dreamy quality before any of the action truly begins. While Miglis wanders around a beautiful home in the midst of destruction, there’s both an unshakeable melancholy and an unsettling resilience in her mere presence. As pieces of debris rain down just right of her, and lights flicker, Miglis sits unshaken and dare I say comfortable.
BANGS’ vision is quietly surrealist to the point that the video’s plot remains for the most part indiscernible. Is it all a dream? And while Miglis stalks the grounds like a ghost, there’s a twist every so often that turns that theory on its head. Whether its the demolition crew’s relative inattention to her subverted by a shot of her standing hand in hand with one or their own dreamlike qualities, nothing is quite what it seems and that makes the video all the more intriguing.
It’s pretty much inevitable when you go to a large festival that you won’t see all the bands you meant to and such is certainly the case with Iceland’s Ásgeir at SXSW – a musical act I was attracted to based more on name and country of origin than through actual listening habits. That was a huge misstep on part though as if I had made time to listen before my Texas excursion I certainly would’ve made time to see them perform.
The brainchild of singer/songwriter Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, the band are most likely to draw comparisons to Sigur Rós due to their shared homeland but other than that the similarities end there. Where Sigur Rós are atmospheric and ethereal, Ásgeir is much more direct; embracing pop conventions but by no means solely defined by them. On In The Silence (the English language version of debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn and US debut), Ásgeir manages to create a cohesive collection of songs that elude any concrete genre descriptors incorporating elements of electronica, chamber pop, and folk in good measure without getting bogged down by their inclusion.
“Torrent”, the latest single from his debut, is perhaps the most telling of the band. Surging forth like its namesake, “Torrent” is a deluge of melodic grandeur – from its thundering drums to its piano pop flourishes, Ásgeir effortlessly invokes wide open expanses with a life-affirming brilliance. Ásgeir’s vocals are silvery and pristine but there’s no deny they’re elevated by a knack for melodic songcraft – lending them a necessary insistence, a heightened state of drama that renders the track’s 3 minute length tragically brief.