Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Night of Noise with Sleigh Bells and Neon Indian

Sleigh Bells
Vancouver's Vogue Theatre last night was host to a night of noise. The double-bill of Sleigh Bells and Neon Indian, along with opening act Oberhofer, all had a noisy lo-fi sound, whether it was filtered guitars or pounding electro drum beats. Each band came from a different branch on the tree of noise, and all three are fairly new, each with no more than one LP under their belts.

Oberhofer kicked things off with a summer vibe, their set decorated with tropical plants and the four-piece band rocking shiny shelltoes. These guys had a massive stage presence, right from song one, kicking things off with “o0O0o0O0o”, a song whose title might be the best way to describe the band. Their style is all over the place, but they began with some catchy rock tunes and a high-energy, lo-fidelity pop sound. It only took me a few songs to realise that Oberhofer has this unusual habit of ignoring the urge to play a catchy chorus, instead using pop music's catchiest vocal sound ever discovered, the sound of “ooo-ooo-ooo”, into every song.

By mid-set, however, they had swung over to an instrument-focused noisepop vibe, with the energy of a punk band. A song finished, and there was silence, when suddenly a piercing shriek exploded through the theatre, giving everyone a start, and so began the chaotic intro to “Haus”. It was like they were saying, “Wake the fuck up and listen to us!” except everyone already was. The song eventually became cohesive and even catchy whenever they got to the chorus of “I wanna build a house with you, a house with you”, but then the sounds would break apart into a chaotic cacophony of smashing drums and shimmering riffs, only to reform for the next chorus. Oberhofer is fantastically unpredictable and has a hell of a stage presence, for such a new up-and-coming band.

Oberhofer - I Could Go (YSI)

Neon Indian was up next, and their set definitely gave me mixed feelings. I think they were sort of co-headlining with Sleigh Bells, but it made sense to have the weird, eclectic band play before the band with the big stage show and more danceable tunes. They're quite an experimental band, which I love, delving into the new genre of chillwave with a four-piece band playing synths, drums, bass guitar, and frontman Alan Palomo on vocals and keys. As is natural with chillwave, due to it's similarity to shoegaze, everything was covered in a layer of noise, and the vocals took backseat to the instruments. However, on record the band still makes some damn catchy singalong tunes, but on stage, everything was just buried in too much noise. I knew a bunch of their songs already, but I couldn't recognise a single tune they played, with the exception of “Deadbeat Summer”, their biggest hit, and that was only because they introduced it and tried in vain to get the crowd to sing along.

I love experimental music, but if your songs have a fairly “pop” vibe, you shouldn't be turning your live set into a new experiment. Best case, you'll alienate all but your biggest fans. The music I heard from Neon Indian last night was good, and it was interesting, but it sure wasn't the same band that's in my headphones, and that was disappointing.

Neon Indian - Deadbeat Summer (YSI)

Sleigh Bells was a shocker. They hit the stage hard and fast, with a massive wall of Marshall stacks and pillars of lights behind them. Sleigh Bells is a Brooklyn duo, a boy guitar/girl vocals band, backed by earth-shattering drum tracks. Not unlike a certain two-piece rock band I also reviewed recently. What I really didn't expect was the hardcore, as they opened their set in darkness, to the screams of the sweaty crowd and the screams of Black Sabbath's “Iron Man”, which transitioned into their own “Crown on the Ground” as the lights came on. Sure, let's rile up the crowd into a riotous horde in the first fucking song, right? Actually, I fucking love when bands do that. Alexis and Derek came onstage, Alexis rocking a red Sleigh Bells/Slay Bells jersey. Like the bands before them, Sleigh Bells is definitely an experiment. On record, I had only gotten a small taste of what they can do. On stage, they rocked militant electro drum beats, with a variety of raucous synths and wailing guitar riffs.

Alexis was like a trashy grrrl version of Alison Mosshart; fresher and more down and dirty. They played all their best songs, with Derek leaving Alexis alone onstage for the few songs that didn't feature him on electric guitar. Their setup with Derek on guitar, Alexis on vocals, and a backing drum track reminded me of The Kills, who have the exact same setup, but their aggressive vocal tendencies and raging electro beats actually reminded me of when I saw Atari Teenage Riot live. Sleight Bells was like a bizarre combination of the best parts of The Kills and Atari Teenage Riot, with explosive results. Sleigh Bells definitely slayed.

Sleigh Bells - Crown on the Ground (YSI)

Sleigh Bells, Neon Indian and Oberhofer all have more US tour dates in the next few weeks, together and apart. Don't miss them!


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