Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Interlude: Sundialing

This review's a long time coming, sorry. I'd like to rewind it back to the end March - an eternity ago, for sure, but it was definitely a memorable show. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Snaith, and mentioned the band's live set in passing, but nothing quite compares to experiencing it. I believe there was a third artist that was supposed to play, but somehow he got bumped, so the show started at 10 pm, which is pretty late, even for the Bowery Ballroom.

F*ck Buttons
The British duo of Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power didn't play so much as bludgeon. Wielding laptops and drums, they created a fearsome blast of noise and inexorable beats. But for all its magnitude, not much of the set was that compelling. There was zero stage presence, aside from occasional wails into mics clenching between teeth, and they acted as if no one was listening. Introversion is acceptable, but music so dense that it becomes off-putting is not. To be fair, this is probably an act that's better heard on record. Experimentation is commendable, but transforming bizarre ideas into something accessible is even better. For that, we would have to turn to the headliners.

MySpace: F*ck Buttons
Official Site: F*ck Buttons


The majority of quality bands fall into two broad categories: those whose songs you know well enough to recognize, and those who surprise you with fresh material that hooks you on the spot. Caribou was both of these and more. The songs of Andorra are clearly pop creations, with verse-chorus-verse arrangements, although bolstered by drum breakdowns and climaxes. This personalized style, plus their recent release, made them the most recognizable part of the set. But the older, looser material was as impressive. By frequenting so many shows, one can forget how incredibly talented each and every band is, and on this night, the technical skill was just flooring.

Dan Snaith is a musical virtuoso - as advertised, he switched between guitar, drums and keyboard, as well as picking up the melodica and singing. For once, the percussion was set up in front, and the double drumming was jaw-dropping. Each of his limbs seemed to operate independently, shifting rhythms constantly. Although he disparages the idea of his music being built around a mathematical formula, there was systematic beauty to his percussion. But it wasn't all beats, explosive as they were. He harmonized with bass player Andy Lloyd beautifully, and there were moments of pop brilliance. The guitars and bass were also used well, finishing off an inventive set.

One of the most insightful things that Dan said when I interviewed him was, "It's never going to be the kind of music that's going to be hyped." That's true - although critically respected, Caribou isn't going to ever going to become a buzz band in that way. That's a shame, because that means that a large number of people will be missing out. But on the other hand, I think those that do experience the music, particularly live, will gain an appreciation that's much longer lasting. Caribou is still in the midst of their tour - derailed for a couple days by drummer Brad Weber's broken wrist, but back on track. If you have a chance, absolutely see them. At the very least, check out Andorra.

MP3: Caribou - Melody Day
MP3: Caribou - She's The One
MySpace: Caribou
Official Site: Caribou

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