In a welcome bit of respite from an increasingly noisy, mad world, young Icelandic composer/pianist Ólafur Arnalds performed his meditative piano-led modern ambient/classical instrumental work at Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian Church this past Friday evening. The sold-out show was his first in the city in five years, the iconic Gothic church serving as an apt venue for his delicate soundscapes, making good use of its vaulted ceiling and natural reverb. Now just over ten years into his solo career, he’s built a devoted audience in Los Angeles, their reverence evidenced by relatively little talking or camera phone usage, waiting until song breaks before entering and leaving the main room, and pausing until a song’s reverb tails completely extinguish until applauding.
On the brief eight-date North American tour, dubbed the “All Strings Attached” tour, he is augmented for the first time by an able string quartet as well a percussionist to bolster the sound as needed. An equally key component of the performance is his unique “Player Pianos” set up with three pianos on stage: sound from his primary baby grand is routed out through software to two self-playing upright pianos that interpret the input and randomly output notes which he then reacts to in real time. It’s telling that he is incorporating technology to induce an unpredictable, idiosyncratic element, rather than any mechanized perfection. These are tunes that breathe, that feel organic and alive.
Ólafur Arnalds | olafurarnalds.com
These are boom times for singer-songwriters, almost all of them ladies, young, wise beyond their years, armed with electric guitars and rafts of rich, personal, insightful, often moving lyrics. Enter Lucy Dacus, inching up to the front of the class with an engaging full band performance to a fairly packed Teragram Ballroom this past drizzly Thursday.
Backed tightly by able players–Sadie Powers, holding down a steady low end on the rare fretless electric bass; Jacob Blizzard, on tastefully effected atmospheric electric guitar; Ricardo Lagomasino, providing restraint and punch behind the drum kit–the Richmond 22-year-old presented Historian, her excellent new sophomore LP, with a large continuous chunk making up the first half of the set list.
Lucy Dacus | lucydacus.com
Bananarama, the iconic British female pop trio formed in the 80’s, performed at The Novo downtown this past Tuesday, their first show in Los Angeles since 1989, impossibly. (A comically curmudgeonly LA Times review of that gig at the Universal Amphitheater survives online; a live bootleg recording of that show, a nice curio artifact, recently turned up online.)
The occasion of the tour is the reunion of all three original band members–Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey, who left the group in ‘88, four albums in, on the cusp of their first tour. Fahey later went on to release music as Shakespeare’s Sister, while Dallin and Woodward have kept Bananarama continuously active as a duo over the years. Fahey came back into the fold for well-received U.K. shows last year and they look poised to repeat that with a quick jaunt of four U.S. dates. (A nice Guardian piece talking to the ladies on the occasion of their reunion last year is here.)
The house was packed with a fun, motley audience–middle aged suburban couples, old school KROQ heads (whose ex-DJ Richard Blade, a local legend, served as opening act, his recent autobiography conveniently available at the merch table), sprinklings of younger hipsters, and the expected strong gay contingent.
The three ladies, backed by an able four-piece band serving the songs well, worked through a winning, high energy greatest hits set…
Bananarama | bananarama.co.uk
The second of back-to-back nights at Moroccan Lounge, Luna, the longtime literate guitar pop outfit, once identified with New York cool in the 90’s, now mostly LA-based, delivered a treat of a live show at the intimate venue, kicking off a quick eight date West Coast jaunt (they pick it up again January 23 in Seattle).
The sold-out smaller room, intentionally or not, gave the band–Dean Wareham, of course, vocals/guitar, alongside the current lineup, steady since the turn of the millennium–Sean Eden, lead guitar; Britta Phillips, bass/vocals; Lee Wall, drums–a bit of a garage-y feel, coming across at times louder and rawer than usual for them. It worked, particularly on longer, louder jams like “Friendly Advice” and “Freakin’ and Peakin’” (from Penthouse, probably most widely considered their classic LP, is well represented with five cuts tonight).
After a decade long hiatus, Luna reactivated in 2015 for a well received live tour and have been active since. Last summer they delivered their first new recordings in thirteen years: an eclectic collection of cover versions, A Sentimental Education (smart covers long being a key component of the Luna catalog) and an e.p. of new original instrumentals, A Place Of Greater Safety.
Luna | lunamusic.com
Photo by Sung. Full set here.
The first of a pair of intimate warm up gigs (the second tonight in Oakland) in advance of his Day For Night festival headlining set this weekend, Thom Yorke treated the Fonda Theatre with his solo electronic live show, the first headline presentation of his beat-based music in the U.S.
A minimalist stage setup of three podiums of gear, backed by three projection screens, Yorke was flanked by the familiar Nigel Godrich, producer extraordinaire, seemingly managing the bulk of the electronic foundation from his station (occasionally handling some groovy bass), and the less familiar Tarik Barri, a Dutch audiovisual composer, creating live, generative visuals. The all-black-clad three-piece ran through a 90-minute set of Yorke’s dark, punchy electronica, backed by Barri’s engrossing colors and shapes projections. The combination of bass heavy, groove-based tunes, constantly evolving imagery, and, of course, Yorke’s stage presence made for a compelling performance.