It’s difficult for me to appreciate the U turn that occurred in Night Beds’ career because I didn’t know anything about them before seeing them at the Echoplex on Tuesday night… but since their press release mentions a debut release ‘Country Sleep’ recorded at Johnny Cash’s Nashville Home, I can have a good idea of what this means. Is the band which produced this breezy folk-country Ramona song the same one that I have seen last night? Honestly, I would not be able to tell, because their set was all rap-electronica-R&B and their dance spectacular could have been inspired by rap and EDM,…
Before Night Beds, a Russian band named Pompeya played, and I had no idea they were from Russia, because they were singing in English, and sounded like a pop-synth band of the 80’s,… plus it is not that often that we get to see such an exotic group. They qualify themselves of new wave but they were not really Depeche Mode, although they installed a sort of dance floor, more or less obvious from song to song. Above everything they sounded quite poppy with a dance flavor, a bit strident, very present synth and a touch a funk in the bass on certain songs…Despite the fact I had of course never heard about them, it was funny how certain songs sounded familiar while another one started a bit like the English band’s Dexys Midnight Runners’ ‘Come On Eileen’ without the big chorus and the over the top dancing… but it was the idea, they inspired that kind of happy and bright synth pop, just coming straight from Moscow.
Dark Waves played second, and I don’t see any reasons why girls would not go totally crazy for frontman Nick Long, he was dark and handsome, and sang partly romantic tunes with a deep voice which could have gone from The National’s Matt Berninger to James Blake… The crowd was very friendly with him, a person kept asking for the song ‘I don’t wanna be in love’ (a song featured in an episode of Vampire Diaries) which he finally sang to end his set. His sound was expansive, often solemn while staying on a poppy side with some explosive and cathartic developments, but predictable enough he could well be the opener for Taylor Swift one day? Nick Long had a strong presence, he was playing a music to sweep you away and looks like the type of guy able to save you from the eye of a tempest.
Night Beds, the sibling duo consisting of Winston and Abe Yellen, took the stage after 11 pm to support their new release Ivywild (out on Dead Oceans), and immediately, it was an intense spectacle which had nothing to do with folk or country, at the exception of the last song that Winston played in the middle of the crowd with an acoustic guitar during the encore. The rest was an electrifying electronica assault with one brother behind computers and the other one singing and jumping all over the place, beating his chest or his face in a sort of soft violence expression, with a rap-inspired gesture accompanying his soft and breathy R&B vocals. He almost sounded like a very expressive James Blake having watched too many Kanye West’s gigs.
‘IdyWild’ is Night Beds’ second album and the songs are what Yellen called ‘sad sex jams’ as they were ‘inspired by a long-term love and a break-up’…. According to their bio… ‘Its genesis can be found in the stoned night in Nashville when Wiston Yellen first heard Yeezus. Lying on the floor, Yellen blared the album at top volume.’ They even have the same initial and I am sure Yellen has done more than just listening to Kanye West.
They kept it very mysterious first, keeping their hoods in the dark, then getting more expressive, revealing faces and interacting a lot with the crowd, it got stormy and unpredictable but Wiston stayed very humble, explaining that anyone could do this kind of music if two Colorado Springs natives were able to do it… May be this part was a bit too much!
The amps in front of me were vibrating from the electronic beats, and the guy was like a dark phantom vision moving in all directions, singing with an intense sincerity while his serious and melancholic tone was all about R&B-tainted and layered vocals… If the making of the album involved 25 people, they were only two on stage, letting all the dense and complex music coming from computers.
May be this new album is the story of a guy who found his true voice, as a matter of fact, he has admitted that, while folk and country earned him an audience, that sound was actually ill-fitting, misrepresenting the music he grew up with or the artists he listens to now. Who can blame a 25 something year-old preferring to listen to West, D’Angelo, Burial, Flaying Lotus, Death Grips and James Blake over Johnny Cash or even Ryan Adams? The result may remind you of The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Miguel, but I must admit I got easily lost inside the multitude of sonic layers and the chaos created by Yellen’s angst and vocals soaring above electronic textures wrapped around looping and booming beats. However, he sure knew how to make the right connection with his audience, as all the people in the crowd were very attentive and serene, drinking Yellen’s thunderous number or closing their eyes during the most intense moments. I bet he sang an old song during the encore, and all the people gathered around were singing along, quietly, almost religiously making quite a scene. May be Night Beds are the bridge between these two worlds of folk and neo R&B, but you just have to accept to cross that bridge.
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