Live Notes: Lo-Fang @ Troubadour, April 3, 2014
Though based here and a frequent performer around town, Tuesday night at the Troubadour marked the proper headline debut for Lo-Fang. The sold out room—-admittedly, the numbers probably skewed a bit with industry types curious to check out the buzz—-though there are burgeoning pockets of wooing early adopter fangirls—-hosted a compact 45-minute 10-song set. Musically tight and set list on point (much of the new LP, Blue Film, plus his two cheeky reconstructions of Ginuwine and Grease soundtrack tunes), clearly the recent stint opening for Lorde has honed their chops.
Performing as a three-piece, Matthew Hemerlein is bolstered by a duo behind him on drums/laptop and keys/percussion, with just the right mix of Ableton backing tracks. The live show imbues the studio versions of Blue Film with warmth and occasional surprising muscle. Live drums in particular give the tunes some vital oomph.
The songcraft and talent on display is rare here. He swaps easily from looping 7-string electric guitar to violin, sometimes both within the same song. But his voice really is the thing here: big, soulful and expressive, ranging from a full bodied baritone to a soulful high falsetto. Names like Andrew Bird, James Blake, Antony enter the mind as his kin, but just as quickly leave as the next twist of arrangement or instrumentation complicates any easy comparison those esteemed acts.
The music of Lo-Fang presents a pile of contradictions that taken together amount to a compelling performance—electronics with soul, artiness with approachability, sexiness with headiness, sparse arrangement with dense buildups, CW-level TV good looks with goofy charm. The genre is ostensibly “electronic pop” but that is hardly helpful in describing it. There is a groove and grind and an overall soul that slinks through much of the music (if not always the lyrics) but some passages are more abstract, even mildly minimalist or classical, with the occasional Eastern melody flourish.
As one of the all-time art record labels, hanging on and outlasting one-time contemporaries such as Creation and Factory, it has been fascinating to watch 4AD evolve and diversify, incorporating more and more U.S. artists and find commercial crossovers over the years. The success they are seeing with their current generation that includes the likes of The National, Bon Iver, Grimes and, most recently, Future Islands, is hard earned and well deserved. Expect to see Lo-Fang soon on that list.
Lo-Fang | lo-fang.com