MALOO with JESSE FUTERMAN as part of Emergents III at the Music Gallery (197 John), Friday (February 1), doors 7 pm. $10. musicgallery.org.
The accessibility of music-making software has democratized electronic music over the last decade or so. It's also created a generation of amateur producers who excel in their bedrooms but struggle to move their talents from SoundCloud to the club.
Maylee Todd is not what you'd call a reserved performer. She first hit Toronto stages as a member of Henri Fabergé and the Adorables, but could barely conceal her frontwoman charm in a supporting role. She then channelled her magnetism into an all-singing, all-dancing, future-boogie/retro-soul band named after herself that's turned her into a local treasure. To hide her charisma behind a laptop would be criminal.
So when Todd more recently developed an entirely solo electronic-oriented pop project, MALOO, she needed to find a way to play her MIDI-based tunes without sacrificing stage presence. She discovered the solution while trolling Craigslist for MIDI looping software, stumbling upon an instrument introduced by Yamaha a few years ago called the Tenori-on.
"Dude, this thing usually costs $1,000," she says between bites of turkey confit sandwich. "I bought mine from this guy for $600 second-hand, only because I got to him right before Christmas. Now I just found out that you can get a Tenori-on app on your iPad for, like, 20 bucks."
But the iPad version lacks the eye-catching visual impact of the real thing, which translates auditory information to a double-sided 16-by-16 grid of flashing LED lights. Unlike at a laptop performance, the audience can actually see how Todd is making the sounds, which she mostly samples, loops and controls on the fly.
That emphasis on spontaneity carries over from her Maylee Todd project, which is still very much on the front burner. She'll release her second LP, the follow-up to 2010's Choose Your Own Adventure (Do Right), in April, and preview the material February 8 as part of Fucked Up's Long Winter series at the Great Hall.
Stylistically, the album follows the upbeat, good-time vibe of her debut, but it also takes a few left turns. It's an approach she says she learned at Humber College, where she completed a two-year program in comedy.
"I learned that it's easy to fall into a certain template, and after a while people start noticing your patterns," she says. "The trick is to look for the twist, to give people something other than the expected punchline. That's really difficult to do, but it's a great exercise for the creative mind."