April 12th, 2010
The Ruby Suns almost didn’t make it to their show at Chop Suey last Thursday (4/8). I think the high/happy/hippie crowd was glad they did. Using warm music to offset a chilly spring evening, the three bands who played each incorporate a varying degree of synthetics to their sound, and on this night the level and the lineup graduated from most to least.
Young local duo U.S.F. (Kyle Hargus and Jason Baxter) are primarily laptop jockeys augmented with a few other knobby devices for creative tinkering. As their self-description goes, “Kyle’s a Mac, Jason’s a PC”, and sure enough, there was Hargus standing behind his silver Mac and Baxter planted behind his white HP (I honestly thought it was illegal for musicians to use PCs until I saw this). Hargus does embellish their tropical tidal swells of obliquely washed out electro-waves with quiet and pretty guitar lines. There were no vocals. I don’t see a lot of electronic music live, but I was in the right mood this night. U.S.F.’s continual stream of watery, beat-centric, sand-in-your-toes tribal pop had me hypnotized. I picked up a copy of their album Ocean Sunbirds at the end of the night and am really glad I did. It’s neon new age with a psychedelic sun-baked laissez-faire twist. Here’s a video I shot of one of their mellower tunes.
The one-man-band of Chaz Bundick—a boat-shoe-and-dirty-hat-wearing bespectacled little guy with a sweet voice—is the buzz band known as Toro Y Moi. I really like this name, but it just doesn’t roll off the tongue very well. I’ve only sparingly heard his hype-heavy debut Causers Of This, so most of his set was new to me. I really enjoyed the first half, which was a bubbly font of electrified disco-soul and cheerful chillwave, mixed and smeared with deep bass and smooth R&B. The kids and I were all groovin’ pretty good, not to mention Bundick himself. He reminded me at times of Mos Def when the rapper utilizes his underrated singing voice (YOU know how he do). The second half, however, kinda bored me as he played a more chopped up and less focused electro-dub sound that fell a bit flat (his production style has been compared to that of J. Dilla). The guitar-only songs didn’t quite stand up either. One thumb up and one thumb down, I guess.
You probably realized from my preview of this show that the Ruby Suns were the big draw for me. Fight Softly is part new wave, part reggae, part ambient, part folk and a big heap of electro-pop. It’s a captivating, starry-eyed positive vibration of a record straight from New Zealand. Ryan McPhun and his two mates were the most conventional “band” on the bill, despite their ability to spice it up with a little wo’ pop, some off-balance songwriting and blissful electronics, and I thought they sounded great. Maybe not as detailed or full as on record—save for McPhun’s voice, which is really a thing of beauty—but they got the eclectic crowd moving. They started off with “Two Humans” (the song that wins the award for most times stuck in my head) and went into “Mingus and Pike”, which McPhun said was about Seattle (wooooo). They played “Cinco” and “Cranberry” and “Dusty Fruit”, regrettably skipping “Closet Astrologer” and “How Kids Fail”. Major bummer dude. The set was too short, but Chaz Bundick came out on stage for a one-song, two-man encore rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”. It was a nice finishing touch.