Did you know that the latest addition to the electronic pop French band (and very successful) M83 had his own project? I arrived earlier at the Echoplex free show on Monday night, to see Jordan Lawlor of M83 start the night as the band J Laser, a duo with his drummer and brother Jamie. I am not sure people were aware of the fact that this super young guy has recently toured the arenas of the world as the guitarist, bassist and pianist of M83, but his ease to move on stage like a rock star was telling a lot. He soon embarked in a set of tumultuous electronic rock show, with a large part reserved for dance beats and soaring vocals. With his head full of hair, a strong voice, a black outfit decorated by a red Flash Gordon logo, and the help of his look-alike brother, this kid (and he is a very cute one) put on a damn powerful rock show! Mixing bass, guitar and lots of buzzing electronics and pre-recorded beats, the music was dynamic, explosive and inventive, with his soaring hi-pitch vocals directing the show. Unsurprisingly, Lawlor won the M83 audition in 2011 when he was just 19, by sending a YouTube video to the band! He described J Laser as a ‘new sci-fi glam project’, and if I didn’t see any UFO landing, there were definitively fireworks.
Tien was next on the stage of the Echoplex, and the young guy had brought a large ensemble, back up singers included. If blue-eyed soul exists, I guess we need a new term to describe Tien’s phenomenon. He had the warmest voice around and played a mix of gentle R&B, soul, jazz with super catchy melodies and arrangements which recalled Stevie Wonder’s… actually he also sounded like Wonder and looked like a Vietnamese version of Mayer Hawthorne. The guitars could go a bit funky, the keys could wobble and the songs were soulful with honey-ed back-up harmonies, sprinkled with exotic beats and moves. It was definitively fuzzy-upbeat music, a R&B revival shining like a big warm sun, and destined to cheer you up no matter how bad was your day. He and his band went a bit outside his territory by covering Little Dragon’s ‘Feather’, and suddenly the sound was less obvious to categorize. Tien said he will have an Ep out soon, and I hope that his song ‘Peaceful, Patient’ will be on it because this one sounded like we were back in the 70s, in a very good way.
The next band, MYPET, was a complete different story, a trio cultivating a strange and creepy atmosphere of minimalist industrial and electronic beats and muted drums, inhabited by Amy Kuney’s sexy moves and eerie vocals – a bit sleigh Bells’ Alexis Kraus, a bit Bjork. The throbbing rhythms of the songs were both industrial and primitive, the bass coming of these synths was turned so low that the whole room was vibrating with it, myself included, and as a result the video I shoot is totally inaudible! Thanks to the fog machines and Kuney’s blue hair, the whole set was a hazy purple-green trip in a cold country where the only hot thing was this women, dancing and kneeling down a lot with a calm energy. They reminded me a little about VUM, it was the same noir synth and mysterious atmosphere, the same weird mélange of sinister sounds and exotic, almost indigenous noises of an imaginary rainforest. It’s apparently a complete U-turn for Amy Kuney, who used to compose folk-pop music (she released ‘Bird’s Eye View’ in 2008)… but her new pet was totally pleasing the crowd who was asking for ‘one more song’ when they left the stage.
Kan Wakan is headlining these free Monday residencies in February at the Echoplex, and they sure have the stature of headliners. I had seen their grand ensemble once during Echo Park Rising last summer, and they had definitively left an everlasting impression on me. Being seven on stage, you can guess there was a lot going on, all the time, but first there was Kristianne Bautista’s beautiful and deep voice, a sultry and soulful bass that may recall many others but is quite an unique animal that could hypnotize any crowd… then, there was all the rest, and what a rest! A complex, multi layered, cinematic arrangements, a wide-screen western, some truly adventurous, expansive and mesmerizing compositions. They were in game for some epic music, bravado and triumph, and after seeing their set, I got the feeling that Kan Wakan is a bit more than a band, it’s a symphonic orchestra bringing strings (a violin) or even a sax in the middle of multi guitars and multi keyboards,… they were like Ennio Morricone covering Radiohead (or vice-versa?) while fronted by the baby of Sade and Tanita Tikaram, they were a thick and buoyant sound rebounding on a mood change, solemn or windy opening one open space after another and producing quite an headgasm if such a thing exists. The band’s composer and multi-instrumentalist Gueorgui Linev described their sound with such sophistication in an interview, that I can’t resist reposting it: ‘I enjoy refined timbral listening, progressive tonality and recurrent melodic themes that often explore juxtaposition between song and symphony. Many roots of ideas are inspired by moving picture and fiction. Stylistically, I like to think of it as a bricolage of 60’s minimalism, 19th-century Austro-German modernism and 70’s film music. I have always considered Jean-Claude Vannier, the unsung hero of some of my favorite string laden records from the 70’s. A lot of the arrangement ideas usually start with a quick sentiment and develop viscerally, undocumented over some time before I feel comfortable enough writing them down.’ You can have a sample of this emotional and soothing music on their Soundcloud page, and I personally can’t stop listening to ‘Forever Found’, ‘Moving On’ or the cathartic experience of the 11 minutes of ‘Midnight Moon Pt I & II’. The band will release their full-length debut on April 29th via Verve, and then, they will surely explode everywhere.
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – October 1972 (Volume 4, Number 5)
We leap ahead almost a year
A flatout triumph from a major performer
New Wave pop bliss out
I WISH I HADN’T GONE
a time-capsule type of roster
Creem -America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – November 1971 (Volume 3, Number 6)
“Sure, we don’t pay much but then who else do ya know who’ll publish you?”
in the immortal words of Jason Isbell to me at Gov Ball a coupla years ago: “let’s do this…”
one of the great top tens of the 2020
old school Puerto Rican underground sounds
a masterful pop about loving a drug addict