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Smoke Season At The Echoplex, Monday, August 4th, 2014, Review


Smoke Season

Smoke Season have just kicked off a Monday residency at the Echoplex, and during their first night, I saw the quartet took the audience by surprise with a big entrance  and big music – after a few minutes of technical difficulties.

And all this was especially due to frontgirl Gabrielle Wortman’s impressive, ghostly and sexy presence on stage. Wearing a sparkling short, a long white lace robe-vest, her face surrounded by silver-purple long hair, she looked like an apparition and was singing with vocals which strangely were navigated between ethereal pop, R&B and country. Surrounded by synths and drum machines, guitarist Jason Rosen, a bassist and a drummer, there was a lot of sexy drama happening on stage, as Wortman was dancing and moving while still singing and playing synths, as if she was intensively living her music… she was quite a vision, and a dream for photographers as each of her pauses looked like a perfect photo-op. She was sometimes singing with sultry vocals à la Lana Del Rey – although she had a stage presence a million times more efficient, and I have seen LDR live!– sometimes pushing the high notes like a diva.

The very moody music seemed to explode in many directions, and was totally uncategorizable, leaning toward a reworked Americana fueled by stomping and violent rhythms and polyphonic vocals during a song like ‘Badlands’, then morphing into ethereal dream pop with expansive development during another one (‘Opaque’), or even taking the playful side of an infectious poppy-exotic tune (‘Simmer Down’)… There was so much genre blending and bending in all this that Smoke Season will sure defy people to categorize their music,… It was as if dreamy textures and angry outbursts were collapsing into each other to build songs filled with tempests and dusty roads or meandering tunes losing themselves in eerie soundscapes.

Wortman and Rosen formed Smoke Season in 2012, both coming from two other musical projects, as Wortman was the lead singer and songwriter of electro alt-rock band Tempest, and Rosen was the keyboarder of pop-rock group Honor Society. Rosen has described their songwriting for the new band as ‘a very organic convergence’ and Wortman sees their experimental sound as ‘being smack-dab in the middle’ of their opposite musical styles.

They have released one EP ‘Signals’ in March 2013 and just last month, a second one Hot Coals Cold Souls… despite letting me a bit puzzled after the show – what was I gonna say to describe this ever-expanding sound? – I was sure of one thing: they gave a powerful and stylish performance, full of adventurous detours which didn’t let anyone indifferent.

More pictures of the show here (they were playing with Air Life, Haunted Summer)

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