Monday, June 20th, 2011
NXNE 2011 Day One
The Postelles, Suuns, Lower Dens and more at NXNE
Frank YangWhy yes, it was NXNE this past weekend in our fair city of Toronto. And yes, I was out partaking in the festivities, even going so far as to participate in some Wednesday night programming in camping out at The Garrison, which was hosting a nicely random bill of acts.
Opening things up was Pat Jordache, previously known for his associations with tUnE-yArDs and Sister Suvi but now looking to establish his own (pseudo)name with his debut album Future Songs. Those coming to them from the aforementioned connections weren’t lost, however, as there were echoes of Merril Garbus’ breakout project in some of their Afro-beat rhythms and Pat Gregoire’s affected baritone vocals but to my ears, Jordache and company sounded more comfortable in a more conventional, New Wave rock mode. And while it’s getting a bit common, it’s hard to argue with the impact that double drummers have on a live performance – when they’re as lockstep as Jordache’s were, it’s immensely powerful.
The fact that Baltimore’s Lower Dens was going to be playing was one of the main motivating factors in getting out of the house; I’d seen them at SXSW but that was a particularly short set and my affection for their debut Twin Hand Movement had only grown in the interim. So that they were disappointing was, well, disappointing. It was partly their fault and partly not, the latter because the mix was so loud and bass-heavy that the mind-bending, fuzz-laden intricacies of their on-record arrangements, which represented so much of their appeal, were frustratingly obscured and the former because, well, the PA didn’t force them to just meander through their material and look disinterested in the process. There were moments of clarity where they either pulled it together or the sonic murk cleared up or both and then, the results were impressive, but when someone asked later if they should see Lower Dens’ show at Lee’s the next night, all I could honestly answer was, “no, but do pick up the record”.
If you’d seen my face upon learning that The Postelles’ just-released self-titled debut was produced by Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes, you may well have been impressed by the complete lack of surprise in my expression. Because if you were to describe The Postelles’ sound in one word, it’d be “Strokes”. If you were allowed a whole sentence, it’d be along the lines of “The Strokes in the ’50s”. Reductive, sure, but also true. The New York quartet has that same dry, too cool aesthetic but rather than poach the ’70s punk scene for their influences, they seek to invoke the era of Elvis and Buddy, though made louder and slicker for modern audiences. And by and large it worked, as their set was fun and high energy but by bringing little new to the table, they also felt disposable even after hearing their material just once. Spinner has an interview with the band.
Photos: The Postelles @ The Garrison – June 15, 2011
MP3: The Postelles – “123 Stop”
MP3: The Postelles – “Hold On”
Video: The Postelles – “Sleep On The Dance Floor”
Video: The Postelles – “White Night”
Montreal’s Suuns weren’t the last band on the bill but they were the final act of my evening’s programme, and a wholly satisfying one at that. I’ve been keeping tabs on the outfit since they went by Zeroes and checked in last Fall, just before the release of their debut Zeroes QC and if possible, they’ve increased the amount of tension and intensity quotient of their distinctive electro-post-punk sound. Frontman Ben Shemi still looks like he’s in some kind of intestinal distress whenever he steps up to the mic and his tightly-wound vocals back that diagnosis up, but overtop his band’s throbbing, insistent analog pulse it’s a brooding yet heady stew of sounds.
Finally some good news on the Wild Flag front; two bits, actually. In addition to announcing a September 13 release date for their self-titled debut, a Merge release announced a Fall tour that included an October 11 date at Lee’s Palace. I had the pleasure of catching them at SXSW and you better believe that the rock will be brought.
Video: The Rosebuds – “Woods”