Thursday, October 27th, 2011
The Twilight Hour
Still Corners, Mausoleum and Foxes In Fiction at The Drake Underground in Toronto
Frank YangI spent an inordinate amount of time at this year’s SXSW chasing around London’s Still Corners, my attempts to catch one of their many sets foiled by things like not noting the difference between AM and PM on set times, showcases falling three hours behind despite having only been running for two hours and the like. I eventually caught them at a day show in an Austin Convention Centre meeting room where the room setup didn’t even allow them to perform underneath their projected lightshow, instead playing in the dark while the movies ran on another wall, and even though it was about as un-vibey a setting as you could imagine, I was still totally smitten by their retro-cinematic dreampop, making their debut Creatures Of An Hour one of my more anticipated releases of the Fall.
With that past history, and even though I didn’t have any rational reason to be worried, I still half-expected some sort of calamity to befall their Toronto debut at The Drake Underground on Tuesday night. As it turned out there was a hiccup in the evening but it affected their tourmates Ganglians, who were apparently refused entry to the country and necessitated a couple of pinch-hitters to sub in. Personally, I’d have been happy if they just dispensed with the openers and let Still Corners play – and let me get home early – but no. I was actually fine with Foxes In Fiction opening things up; I’d seen Warren Hildebrand do his thing – which is fiddling with a table covered with samplers and keys while singing and playing guitar – at the Wintergaze show in December and while the presentation options of a one-man band are limited at best, his songs were solid enough to allow it. I guess I was feeling a little less generous this evening because while the music sounded fine – even the opening ambient sample-driven piece which he described as a “pretentious experiment composed today, won’t do anything like it again” – the slow-motion electro-pop failed to come across as any more than just pleasant, largely because of the static presentation. I appreciate that to change the live formula is to change all that is Foxes In Fiction and it certainly seems to be working for him, but… yeah. Could have used a little more engagement.
But I’d have rather had another half-hour of Foxes In Fiction than have to hear Mausoleum. The trio came across as amateurish Joy Division acolytes but any cues they took from that band were made to sound awful, mostly thanks to the singer’s barked, tuneless vocals. The only upside to their set was that it was short.
Thankfully there was enough time for the air and ears to clear before Still Corners took the stage, this time with the projections directed not only squarely at the stage but the two side walls as well, creating an extra-enveloping effect. Interestingly, the band started playing with frontwoman Tessa Murry standing out on the floor, facing the stage, for an extended moment before stepping onstage – an unexpected little bit of showiness from an outfit who otherwise seemed to prefer to stay in the shadows. And though Murray’s presence was largely as demure and ghostly as her atmospheric vocals would imply, they were also stronger live than you’d expect live and her heretofore unknown crooner side was given the spotlight on a couple of stripped down numbers including a cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”. It’s as though they’ve realized they have a bona fide frontwoman in her rather than just another instrument and are beginning to utilize that strength, even though she’s already so much the centre of the band’s sound. It’s hard to imagine that they already existed before she joined, seeing how much of their identity her vocals comprise.
Also more pronounced live were the band’s facility with the drone and the pulse, built around whirring organ, twangy guitar and dubby bass, coming across more Stereolabby than I’d have expected and giving the sound more muscle than Creatures necessarily implied. But what I found most exciting about the show – not that the intended response for their gorgeously hazy set was necessarily excitement in any conventional sense – was how much more there was to Still Corners than I’d necessarily expected. If they simply continued making more records in their clearly-defined Morricone-meets-Slowdive aesthetic, there’d be a built-in audience for that style and sound for it and everyone would be happy – but more than that was the sense that there were still many more places they could take it, be they more seductive, romantic, mysterious or even rocking. I am more than happy to have Still Corners for what they are, but hadn’t necessarily expected more from them on future outings. That is no longer the case.
Photos: Still Corners, Mausoleum, Foxes In Fiction @ The Drake Underground – October 25, 2011
MP3: Still Corners – “Into The Trees”
MP3: Still Corners – “Cuckoo”
MP3: Still Corners – “Don’t Fall In Love”
MP3: Still Corners – “Endless Summer”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “School Night”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “Lately (Deuxieme)”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “Flashing Lights Have Ended Now”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “15 Ativan (Song For Erika)”
Video: Still Corners – “Cuckoo”
Video: Still Corners – “Wish”
Video: Still Corners – “Don’t Fall In Love”
Stream: Still Corners / Creatures Of An Hour
Also with a new video – Clock Opera. Their debut album is due out in March.
Video: Clock Opera – “Lesson No. 7”
Video: I Break Horses – “Wired”
Paste is streaming the new Loney Dear album Hall Music, even though it came out some weeks ago. But it’s well-timed to remind you that they play The Drake Underground on November 5. And check out this interview with Emil Svanängen at Prospectus News.