Checked out Suction Records' electro party Saturday at the Rivoli and was thoroughly impressed by local synth-pop lovers Solvent vs. Lowfish. Their live set got a great reaction from the packed bar, and made more than a few people wonder why they haven't performed together locally since 1999.
They get extra kudos for pulling off the use of the vocoder without evoking any bad memories of Cher's I Believe. Nice to see somebody doing electro live without resorting to cheap visual gimmicks; instead they relied on the strength of their songwriting and tone-shaping.
Detroit-based Ectomorph were up next, in their first live appearance in Toronto. Setting the mood with DIY chaser lights around the gear and a glowing toy megaphone for the robot vocals, Brendan Gillen and Erika Sherman did a good job of reproducing live their stripped-down abstract electro-booty sound.
They paid a bit more attention to stage presence than Solvent vs. Lowfish but had a harder time seducing the audience with their more minimalist sound. Paradoxically, that minimalism is what's made their records popular with a wide variety of DJs, and in that context it works very well. A whole set of it, though, wears a little thin.
According to the laws of nostalgia, it's now time for a full-fledged 80s revival, just as the 70s were mined through most of the 90s. This will undoubtedly extend beyond the current electro fascination to include early hiphop and 80s R&B, so be prepared.
Whether or not this retro mindset is a healthy thing is another story, but as long as artists resist the temptation to simply reproduce, and instead engage in real reinterpretation, something new will emerge.
speedy speed bike
Wasn't sure what to expect from 1-Speed Bike -- featuring Aidan Girt of Godspeed You Black Emperor fame -- Friday night at Rancho Relaxo, but I definitely wasn't expecting what Girt presented.
DJing CD-Rs, he strayed far from the dubby, DJ Shadow-influenced albums he's produced and instead played a hyperactive set of punk-techno that was heavily influenced by mid-90s hardcore rave music. This meant excessively fast BPMs, cheeky samples, lots of half-time-to-double-time tempo switches and a lower-than-lo-fi aesthetic.
The crowd was mainly of the sit-and-watch indie rock variety, but unfortunately, there wasn't much to see, since Girt isn't much of a showman.
Still, it was a big change from the ordinary, and those who weren't driven out by the rave references had a stimulating experience.
It was a bit of a post-techno weekend. The Wabi presentation of Pan-American, Signer and Radian brought me to the Rivoli again on Sunday, where Austrian trio Radian closed the show. Although they could be lumped in with the post-rock movement, they're not exactly that. Working with drums, bass and one synth, they make instrumental music that at first sounds like abstract techno but also reminds me of an electronics-damaged math-rock band. The rhythms are creative, asymmetrical beats, and the synth is often noisy and atonal, but the overall sound is punchy and aggressive.
The crowd for this event was also very indie rock, with a sizable portion doing the sit-on-the-floor-in-front-of-the-stage thing, but more than a few techno heads were in attendance, too. The Wabi projections of floating candles were nice, but none of the bands wanted them to be used during their sets, greatly reducing the impact of the video.