Sunday, November 11, 2012

CONCERT REVIEW: AU, Zammuto, Piney Gir @ The Bootleg

On Thursday, 11/01 AU and Zammuto played at The Bootleg. The show was originally scheduled to be at the Troubadour, but was mysteriously relocated to Fold territory. However, The Bootleg is a great place to see a show, and they seem to have a solid sound man (which can truly make or break a show), so no disappointment here.

Piney Gir opened the show, though I showed up late and unfortunately missed her set. However, she just released an album on Highline Records titled Geronimo!

AU sounds like a combination of The Boredoms, Sigur Ros, Tangerine Dream, and God Speed You Black Emperor. Consisting of Luke Wyland on keyboards/vocals/etc, Dana Valatka on drumset/percussion, and Holland Hunter Andrews on clarinet/vocals, one might be surprised at just how much sound this trio can make. They alternated between electro-acoustic grooves and grandiose, ecstatic builds, all the while abstractly vocalizing something quintessentially Northwestern. To achieve this pseudo-orchestral sound, they seem to have mastered the delicate art of looping and sampling, which has so much potential for tediousness.

Wyland, grounded at his keyboard, had quite an array of auxilary instruments. I heard/saw samplers, melodicas, lap steel, etc. Valatka had an in ineffable energy reminiscent of the bombast of Billy Cobham. That energy found release in his fantastic collection of bells and an epic drum solo near the end of their set. Andrews also had an impressive solo moment, building a sound world out of layered clarinet loops and accompanying herself singing. It reminded me a bit of Gabby La La mixed with Amanda Palmer.

It would be easy to make an aesthetic connection between AU and Animal Collective, but that would be an oversimplification. Each member of AU displayed their own performative virtuosity in a way that would far surpass that group. I saw AU play one other time in Portland, OR and it was a startlingly great experience. They had a much larger group - including a good-sized choir and guitar, but this current paired down ensemble still delivered the aural goods. AU also just released an album titled Both Lights, available from Home Tapes.

Zammuto is lead by Nick Zammuto, who was a key member of The Books. They sound like a mixture of The Books, Paul Simon, Dismemberment Plan and Cornelius. The vocals were often processed, offering a reminder of the bionic playfulness of The Books. Zammuto's songwriting and singing are often reminiscent of Paul Simon, and they even covered Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Some of the songs were sync'd to projected video, which brought to mind Cornelius' Sensuous Synchronized Show.

Zammuto had songs/videos about zebra butts, back pain, kids, 80's infomercials, and more. Though the spectacle of synchronization with the video was exciting, I felt the songs without video to be much more musical. That's not to say they were innately better, as I liked both quite a bit. Any musician who has played with a click knows that the difference in concentration alters a groove substantially. The final song of their set (not including the encore) involved a hilarious collage made from an instructional harpsichord video. Zammuto has a self-released eponymous album, available from their website.

Though their music is undeniably different, there are many parallels between the AU and Zammuto and I can see why they would choose to tour together. Both use electronics effectively, both lean towards detailed orchestration, and both had extended drum solos in their sets. The new music has learned the lessons and pitfalls of prog-rock and re-tooled it for the 21st century; I am excited by the future possibilites hinted at within.

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