MP3: Wye Oak – For Prayer from Live Set @ Aural States Fest 2009
MP3: Pomegranates – Corriander from Everybody, Come Outside! (2009)
MP3: Pomegranates – Beachcomber from Everybody, Come Outside! (2009)
Cakes of Light have a sound that lies somewhere along the desolate backroads of noise folk. Their music unfurls with a weight and gravitas that feels mostly mesmerizing and entrancing, but at times overbearing and overwrought. Never quite reaching the level of histrionics, but inching ever dangerously closer and closer to that edge. Interesting, spacious music, but not a fan of the vocals…so I was a fan of the concept, but not the entire execution.
Pomegranates were positively explosive, their energy building and building until it boils over, the increasingly frantic music wriggling through and possessing each member’s body, emerging as anthemic shouts or abrupt outbursts of physicality (at one point, someone mounted the half-wall stage-right and catapulted themselves from it). Their growth and elated release is not unlike that of Arcade Fire, down to the urgent vocal stylings that bear no small similarity to Win Butler’s. The difference here is that you never once wonder if Pomegranates feel and believe every word and note, unlike the Arcade Fire, who are often found on the other side of the too-thespian boundary line (partially due to their big draw now putting them on the big theater stages, but I digress).
The sharp, staccato guitar and bass lines pluck their way finely through each song, as if a brightly-colored thread woven by a fine sewing needle, popping out from the compositions while somehow still stitching everything together. They facilely switch modes from ambient, dreamweavers creating in broad and expansive textures not out of place in the gaziest of shoegaze, to propulsive and visceral passages that err on the side of angular and technical. The energy level reached its peak as they closed the set (and their tour with Wye Oak) with the rollicking barnburner “Southern Ocean,” fitted with an immediate hook and a playful, warmly welcoming hoot-and-holler vocal breakdown that opens into the shout-along chorus anchored by the emphatic words “We’re not scared anymore.” Backed by Jenn Wasner on backup vocals/tambourine, the Poms closed a great set in fantastic fashion.
Wye Oak just keep getting better and better. Every time I see them, they raise the bar and blow the roof off the venue. This time was no different. After touring and recording The Knot, Jenn and Andy are remarkably comfortable in their skin and stage performance. Gone are the jitters and anxious giddiness of performances past; in their place, they exude a strong self-assurance and a relaxed glee and joy. They were clearly excited to be home.
Their forthcoming LP The Knot is a powerhouse of emotion and music, building on their debut If Children in all the right ways and places. Their compositions for the new album show Jenn getting bolder with her guitar work and more dynamic with her vocals, and Andy getting more finessed and diverse with his texturing of all manner of sounds, from percussion to keyboards to drones to harmonium (and violin and pedal steel make notable, rich contributions as well).
The result is truly epic grandeur.
This treatment gives new life and depth to their live set, yielding refreshing accents of old standards like “Family Glue,” while really soaring on newer tracks like “For Prayer” and “Take It In” that incorporated these elements from their genesis. Combined with their building stage confidence and much tighter symbiosis, they take you on a truly affecting musical journey, replete with lofty peaks, chasmic valleys and all intermediate variations.
An absolutely crushing, down-tempo rendition of “Warning” closed their set. Andy took a break from his multi-instrumental orgy to let Jenn start off the track and set the tempo: slow and spare, with only vocals and guitar. Andy hopped up after a few verses and phased in a soul-shaking variant of the noisy squall found on the recorded version. The more intense and textured drone was brought to the fore in this rendition, starting as a deep, soft baritone that grew to an immersive mass. The re-imagined track was their second encore of the night, and it left everyone aching for more.
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