Slenderbodies With Traces At The Roxy, Wednesday September 12th 2018
Slenderbodies, a California-based duo, sing, write, produce, and mix their own tracks with great success. They have indeed collected 15 million collective plays for their single ‘Anemone’ released in 2016, and their other songs don’t look bad either. I had the chance to catch the duo on Wednesday night, as they kicked off their ‘Take You Home World Tour’, with a headlining show at the Roxy, before taking the road across Europe and the US.
A band called Traces opened the night with a very dramatic set of songs and an emotional croon coming from their frontman Tim Dehnert, often looking for air like an out-of-water fish. Originally from San Diego but now based in LA, the band had a poignant and vulnerable sound with dramatic guitar effects, cascading drums and a moody electronica to follow the singer’s R&B-influenced high-pitched voice and his hip-hop moves. After releasing a first EP, ‘Heart of Gold’ in 2017, Tim Dehnert (who is the songwriter of Traces) has just released a sophomore EP titled ‘Median’ featuring ‘Before I Wilt’ and ‘Clouds’, songs that the trio played besides other successful track such as ‘Do Better’. All set-long, it was all about this atmosphere installed through dramatic soundscapes, which could go from sad R&B ballads to more stormy tracks, letting Dehnert’s convincing voice express some very personal feelings.
However, the night belonged to slenderbodies, a duo who may have come up with a sound of their own. With no real drumset in the back of the stage (just electronic pads on the side), the two played a set of their light and playful music, while walking on clouds and bathing in a psychedelic and colorful lighting. Their voices were certainly the most remarkable elements in their music, they sounded like a falsetto whisper, so soft and fragile that it could have evaporated between the notes. Nevertheless, the soulful vocals were very much present, haunting their electro-guitar pop like fragile ghosts in exotic lands. I said exotic because the guitars had a gentle island-feel bounce during certain songs such as ‘Gray’ (but also many others) as if Jack Johnson was fronting MGMT and reinterpreting Sade… and talking about Sade, they covered ‘Smooth Operator’ with the signature sultriness in the vocals, melting in front of your ears and gently fading away in the music.
Some clap-along songs sounded a bit more upbeat than others, ‘Anemone’ was a good example of that, and while all the songs were engaging the crowd into a dreamy state, they were working like dynamic lullabies with inventive melodies. even though they varied from a sing-along to a dance-along.
If the sound of slenderbodies has been compared to the work of alt-J, Glass Animals, LEISURE, and MGMT, the two Californians, Max and Benji, seemed to go for a more fluid and subtle poppy murmur and definitively for a simpler stage-arrangement: they were only two on stage, and the music was only built around two guitars blending with nature sounds and electronics layers, while two lava lamps in the back were matching the colorful psychedelic lighting.
Their last EP, called ‘sotto voce’ – the Italian translation of whisper – floats around songs with a recurrent sea-theme, which was more or less consciously participating to the deep immersion triggered by their intricate guitar work. It was also a feeling conveyed by the title of their songs, which can go from ‘opal ocean’ to ‘little islands’, ‘opal ocean pt.2’, ‘windmarks’… and even though they probably didn’t play all of these, the song themes were reflecting the spirit of their body of work.
With the help of psychedelic rainbow lights, they turned the Roxy into a dreamy and beautiful place, making their delicate melodies vibrate like a ray of sun at the surface of water at the image of their polychromatic (also the title of one of their songs) music. With a new EP ‘SORAYA’ due out this fall, they will surely continue to captivate the crowds around the world. After a few songs, it was even apparent that their fresh pop, effortlessly blending electronica with an organic sound, had a jazzy vibe, but it was so light and ephemerous that it was evaporating in the soft murmur of the wind-like voices and the Technicolor dreams of their intertwined guitars.