HIAWATHA at the Drake, Thursday, November 22. Rating: NN
Hiawatha is a new project that pairs Toronto DJ David Psutka (better known as Egyptrixx) and former Thrush Hermit alt-rocker Ian McGettigan. On paper, the pairing sounds like it shouldn't work. And it doesn't. At least not on stage.
Hiawatha's setup is certainly more "live" than the head-down knob-twiddling that sometimes plagues dance music outside of a club setting. Psutka held down the drums, only occasionally fiddling with his laptop, while McGettigan faced towards him on bass. The setup seemed conducive to a bit of showmanship from the two musicians, but instead they hid under a sheath of complete darkness.
The pair's new record, Language, does a good job of combining rock distortion with electronic synths and moody, psychedelic textures into a cohesive (if sometimes undercooked) signature sound. In their release show at the Drake, however, those elements sounded like they were battling each other.
Psutka and McGettigan occasionally fell into a tantalizing groove between the gut-wrenching bass, drums and pre-programmed beats, but often overpowered it with piercing, way too high in the mix synth lines and, shrill, ugly noise. Psutka, meanwhile, often seemed like he was struggling to hold down the rhythm.
Hiawatha have some intriguing ideas, but they still need to figure out how to execute them.