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Elder Island At The Fonda Theatre, Friday May 27th 2022

Elder Island
Elder Island

British band Elder Island took the stage of the Fonda theater on Friday night to the sound of a cheering audience. The trio was occupying the entire stage with vocalist Katy Sargent in the middle, flanked by her two bandmates, David Havard and Luke Thornton, standing behind several synths and surrounded by guitar, bass and cello.

JORDANN, an independent bedroom pop artist from Montréal, opened the show with introspective pieces. The mellow music was built around atmospheric moods, slow-paced beats, dreamy synths, and dreamy vocals. The result was quite a low-key affair but with wobbling synth and the wah pedal in full use for some of his songs, the tone could take a nostalgic R&B vibe or even a retro turn.

It was first difficult to discern anything as Elder Island performed their first song, “Embers” in a semi-obscurity, bathed in blue light coming from thin neon lights. The music was dark and very cinematic at first, launched by a cello played by Katy and followed by syncopated beats and guitar riffs… At first, their sound was exuding an exotic sense of mystery a bit like their Bristol fellow country band Massive Attack, while Katy’s vocals were effortlessly encircling the swirls of synth with smoky tones. Fortunately, the stage lightened up after a few songs, enough to notice how stunning she looked: she was wearing an elegant cooper sunset suit and was graciously moving her arms around her electronics. She was occasionally adding rumbling notes with her electric cello, complementing the mix with a more melancholic note.

However, the vibe soon became much more dancier, still very hypnotic at times, but more like a house music party with dark undertones. They stretched “Black Fur” from their 2016 album “Seeds in Sand” for long minutes of glittery synth lines over EDM beats, getting to the next song without any interruption, building up a non-stop discotheque. Katy Sargent was often recording loops of her voices or cello lines at the beginning of a song, then incorporating loopers in the many layers of their compositions. At “Trailblazer,” a trance-induced song triggered by an electronic drumbeat, everyone was definitively dancing in the theatre. “It’s Friday night!” she said with a smile as she was visibly enjoying the dance party as much as everyone else. The nonchalance of some songs (“Welcome State”), Katy’s gentle and nostalgic singing pushed by the disco beats, the periodic classic cello line, as well as the band’s discreet but undeniable love for dancefloors were all building infectious grooves that captivated the audience. Despite its slow cello start, “Queen of Kings” brought the house down with vibrating fast dance beats.

After a short break, they came back to receive a very enthusiastic response from the crowd and play “Bamboo” which opened with a loop of Katy’s soothing vocals but continued with the hooky line, “I wanna feel that thrill of the night,” and catchy beats, subtle but strong enough to trigger another collective dance party on the floor of the Fonda. Their last song, “Purely Educational”, may have been one of their loudest tunes, with touches of industrial buried in their heavy dance strata.

Elder Island’s music could certainly not be pigeonholed in a specific style, their songs gathered a myriad of different genres and if their set was heavily influenced by electronic dance music, there was much more than redundant beats to their intricately constructed compositions. Just like the songs of their many EPs and debut album (“The Omnitone Collection”), the music of their second album, “Swimming Static,” defies genre. Live, their loopers set the tone for a song, while the trio’s perfect synchronization of their multi-instrument parts created an infectious energy that took over the venue. Their dark synthscapes, alluring dance grooves, and Katy’s versatile voice were an interesting combination of emotive electronic sound, neo-soul, and club music for a Friday night.

Setlist
Embers
Kape Fears
Black Fur
Trailblazer
Welcome State
Queen of Kings
The Big Unknown
Encore
Bamboo
Purely Educational

 

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