CMW Friday: From soft Quilt to hard hitting Odesza


by Eric Smale & Kateryna Topol | photos by Eric Cairns

Quilt, Boston, at The Great Hall

Boston-based band, Quilt, kicked off Friday’s CMW proceedings at The Great Hall. The band plays Byrds-esque, psychedelic folk rock complete with four-part harmonies and duelling guitars. Their set was captivating right from the first note, a flange-y wash of guitars shimmering over a light, propulsive rhythm section.

Unlike the more song-oriented scope of their most recent album, Held in Splendor, Quilt’s live set was expansive, allowing the relatively condensed album tracks to blow out past their structures into noisier, more improvised territory. And the guitar interplay between Anna Fox Rochinski and Shane Butler is where Quilt’s unique musical identity really flourishes; in a live setting, at least, the bright, major-chord progressions and harmonized vocals of Quilt’s songs become more a vehicle for these dynamic, minimalist jams. But this isn’t to say that their songs lack character at all; rather, the band uses their sweet, whimsical excursions into ’60s psychedelia as a jumping off point for these wonderfully loose and dynamic instrumental moments. The band put on a great show and maintained a communal presence and synchronicity (despite their songs’ abrupt shifts in tempo and groove), throughout their hypnotic performance.

Woods, Brooklyn, at The Great Hall

When Brooklyn-based experimental folk band, Woods, took to the stage, it was immediately clear that this is not the same band that recorded such lo-fi, haunted albums as Songs of Shame (2009) and At Echo Lake (2010). As shown on their last couple of records, and new album With Light and With Love in particular, Woods have stepped out of the shadows of their murky, homespun sound and moved into a clearer and cleaner register.

Their set focused largely on the streamlined, Beatles-meets-R.E.M. folk pop of the new album, eschewing the experimentalism of their past for a grander, more robust presentation. Their current lineup, which has singer/guitarist Jeremy Earl joined by a four piece band (drums, organ, lead guitar and bass), felt like a well-oiled machine, running through songs from the band’s increasingly solid catalogue like veterans. From “Cali in a Cup” to new single “Leaves Like Glass” and late-set highlight, “With Light and With Love”, Woods demonstrated that they can pull off jangly, tuneful indie pop as well as anyone.

Operators,  Montreal, at The Silver Dollar Room

The anticipation and energy was electric for Operators, the new synth-punk project from indie fixture, Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, Divine Fits). With no recordings available yet (they recently finished a record in Montreal with Arcade Fire producer Howard Bilerman) and virtually no label promotion to speak of, their three-night residency at the super-small Silver Dollar felt like a chance to experience something rare and potentially huge.

Picking up more or less where the electro-rock supergroup Divine Fits left off (drummer, Sam Brown holds down the groove in both), Operators is an invigorating take on aggressive, synthetic pop music. Unlike so much modern electronic music, Operators forego the onstage laptop to create angular, ecstatic dance music with real instruments in real time, with Boeckner and fellow knob-twiddler Devojka hunched over a tangled array of analog synths, samplers and sequencers, both dancing to Brown’s processed beats. As a concert experience, it was the polar opposite of the EDM tent, laptop-and-laser spectacle – a sweaty future-punk show that lived up to Boeckner’s description of Fugazi meets New Order.

The songs are unmistakably Boeckner’s though, nervy and brash and catchy, but they skew towards some of the most vital, immediate, hook-laden music he’s made so far. And after Japandroids came on stage to join Boeckner for a cover of Wolf Parade’s “This Heart’s on Fire”, it was all over as quick as it began. Consider it a taste of good things to come. [Bottom image]

ASTR, New York, at Tattoo

ASTR are a New York based, electronic pop/R&B duo. Earlier in the week BROODS gave ASTR on-stage props and Tattoo proved to be one of the busiest venues for CMW, but these two have got some serious bad bitches fan-base. Zoe, the singer, danced across the stage whipping her ponytail, her petite girlish figure in a crop top. ASTR brings together some soft, lyrical pop sounds underlined by hard hitting electronic beats with an occasional R&B verse, making it really hard not to get hooked on their music. These two are a pair to watch.

ODESZA, Seattle, at Tattoo

Since the day ODESZA released Summer’s Gone, Quip has had a crush on the band. When it comes to seeing bands you have a musical crush on live, it’s hit or miss. The high expectations, the girlish excitement, all of that can come crashing down when the band is not as thrilling live as you imagined them to be.

But this was not the case. The dance floor at Tattoo was packed wall to wall, already hyped up by ASTR. “We’re gonna play some weird shit for you guys” alluded Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight and dove into their clean-cut beats. By the third track you could hear the murmur going through the room, the sweaty, dancing crowd is trying to figure out who these dudes are, while Mills and Knight drum their synchronized drums.

Having played nearly their entire repertoire of music with a two-track encore way over the expected one hour set, the band seems to have won some hearts. This might be the day Toronto will finally start appreciating ODESZA.

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