Electrelane and Ted Leo/Pharmacists at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, March 25). $10. 416-598-4753.
Don't blame Mia Clarke, guitarist with avant-rock outfit Electrelane, if she's suspicious of music journalists. "We've had quite a lot of criticism in the press because we don't talk to people when we're onstage," she says on the phone from her home in Brighton, England. Her tone is light, amused and a little wary.
"I can't understand that. I find it corny when a band tells jokes. People say we're not interactive, but that's what the music is. We're playing to the audience, not playing at the audience. We get our cues from them."
Electrelane have worked hard to evade definitions in their relatively short career. On their first album, Rocket To The Moon, they accomplished this by turning in a soundtrack for some imagined film, almost without vocals.
"When the band started we were actually fairly singsongy," Clarke offers. "We wanted to do something different."
Now, with the release of their second full-length, Power Out, they've turned that expectation on its head as well.
"Maybe because an all-female instrumental group was so novel and because critics became attached to us playing a certain way, the reaction to the vocals has been very alarmed," says Clarke. "But why would you want a group to keep doing the same sort of thing? Wouldn't it be dull?
"People need to find something to hold onto," Clarke concedes. "But improvisation is so important to what we do. It's part of what defines Electrelane. We have to be able to exploit that freedom."
And exploit it they do.
Power Out is a track-after-track stumper. No song hints at what the next one will sound like. For all the controversy surrounding the voice (of co-founder and multi-instrumentalist Verity Susman), it acts as a melodic and harmonic tool, not as singing in the traditional sense.
"We wanted to have the voice sitting inside the music rather than distinct from it," explains Clarke. "When I'm playing, I respond as if it were another instrument, not a superimposed element."
Clarke is philosophical about being misrepresented, but it doesn't come easy.
"You can't expect people to always be exactly where you are," she laughs. "The weirdest thing is that we get compared to Stereolab. I don't get it at all."