Solar Year / Bad Tits / Phantogram

by • December 20, 2010 • MusicComments (0)210

Il Motore, Dec. 10

A no-frills bar and venue which makes its token number of tables magically disappear when it’s time to get a floor moving, Il Motore boasts ample stage space and a sound system that’s powerful but not overwhelming when you’re slurring at the bartender for your eighth pint. It’s very nearly ideal. First onstage was Montreal’s own Solar Year, a duo who played to a growing, pensive crowd. As Solar Year plays havoc with looping, reverb and choral vocals by way of doubling and re-doubling, their sonic similarities to a certain Pitchfork-famous indie group will not go unnoticed, but Solar Year differentiate themselves from the Collective with an icier, introspective approach that’s hard to pin down. Based in synths and ethereally distorted male vocals, Solar Year’s sound hints at Enya, darkwave groups such as Lycia, and the black-clad dream-pop of M83. And you thought Solar Year‘s ‘gothic’ label on MySpace was just being droll? At any rate, these guys displayed a minimalist act with a polished sound, serving as poster-boys for the wild talent bubbling up from the Montreal underground. It’s hard enough to get a crowd of urban hipsters moving (even if you pull a fire alarm or a gun, both of which have occurred to me), but getting people moving isn’t the aim of Solar Year. They want you to listen and think, and maybe brood if the mood takes you. And it might.

Bad Tits, besides having the best band name of the night and perhaps of all time, also had an excellent act. Also a duo, Bad Tits comprises Sebastien Grainger and Josh Reichmann (of Death From Above 1979 and Tangiers, respectively), and with that kind of pedigree I’m surprised there isn’t more buzz on these guys and their brand of garage-band power-pop. Above all, Bad Tits offers groove, either hypnotic or repetitive at your preference, with occasional vocals (quite capable) and a wide variety of sounds via guitars, effects, keyboards, mixers and a wonderfully ’80s electronic drum kit. Bad Tits‘ thundering beats are simple and seemingly ideal for four-on-the-floor flailing — but the crowd didn’t seem to agree. At a dance-rock show, Bad Tits would’ve torn the house down doing the exact same act, but the crowd, sadly, gave them the gargoyle stare, save for a front row of wildmen who shamed us all with their energy.

That energy seemed to spread only during the cheering adulation that greeted Phantogram‘s ascent to the stage. Phantogram — whose name is also excellent for a reason I can’t quite pin down — call themselves “street beat, psych pop”. What this actually means is trip-hop in the manner of Massive Attack and Portishead, inflected with a bit of experimental grit. Phantogram is yet another duo, comprising Sarah Barthel and Joshua Carter, with a live act featuring a drummer and an intriguing melange of organic and synthetic elements. I have an affection for the genre, though I get the feeling that as with most trip-hop, Phantogram really shines when you let their deep dark atmosphere wash over you undisturbed on album. When it comes to achieving that Zen state at a venue like Il Motore your mileage may vary. In any case, Phantogram played more than capably and Barthel’s voice was angelic, playing the crowd like a snake charmer. Phantogram‘s BPM rarely exceeded those of a coma patient’s heart monitor, but you wouldn’t know it from the hopping, howling crowd. For lush atmosphere and hard beats, Il Motore was the only game in town, and everyone knew it.

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