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Posts Tagged ‘atmospheric rock’

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By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

Sigur Ros’ performance at Starlight on Thursday night felt more like being cast under a spell for nearly two hours than seeing a rock show.

The Icelandic trio rarely spoke to the crowd and preferred to sing Hopelandic, an imagined language. Carried by singer Jonsi Birgisson’s angelic falsetto, the linguistic structure only enhanced the trance. Unencumbered by English, the songs could be about whatever you wanted them to be.  Augmented by three piece horn and string sections and a pair of multi-instrumentalists, the group created heavenly textures that juxtaposed near operatic beauty with stains of hard rock.

The M. Night Shyamalan of ensembles, Sigur Ros patiently builds layers and moods before suddenly whisking the listener around in another direction. This was especially true on “Hrafntinna” which build tension from discordant horns before ending with a lush brass coda that wouldn’t have been out of place at the Kauffman Center.

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Arrangements are designed so that each part complements without drawing attention until suddenly the key instrument emerges at the perfect moment. Despite the presence of so many musicians, the mix was pristine. On “Festival” I could hear bass player Georg Holm’s pick hitting the string on each heavy downstroke.

Sigur Ros ended a three-year hiatus with the release of their sixth album, “Valtari,” last year, the band has already moved on. One quarter of the setlist drew from the new record “Kveikur,” which is scheduled for release in June. The material blended well with the older songs, but also showed a new, darker dimension. The title track featured digital textures, exotic percussion and heavy drums. “Brennisteinn” opened with a nasty, distorted synth bassline and sounded like a musical wrestling match between good and evil.

The setting was nearly as expansive as the sound. The first two numbers were delivered behind a trio of sheer veils, which cast wild shadows and broad colors. When the curtains fell, a video screen spanned the width of the stage, projecting images of nature. The slow pan of craggy rocks gradually revealing a mountain range on “E-bow” made the stage seem like it was moving. The low-50s temperature reinforced the mood cast by pictures of rainstorms, bleak landscapes, flashlights in fog and other monochromatic patterns.

Starlight was three-quarters full, optimistically, and the audience soaked up every moment in reverie. There was very little talking and most applause was held until the end of a piece. The big exceptions were the one-two of “Hoppípolla” and “Með Blóðnasir” which spontaneously had the crowd on its feet with evangelistic fervor. The joyous horns at the end of “Festival” rang out like church bells on Christmas Day and inspired a few pockets of dancing.

Setlist: Yfirborð (new song); Ný Batterí; Vaka; Hrafntinna (new song); Sæglópur; Fljótavík; E-bow; Varúð; Hoppípolla ->Með Blóðnasir; Kveikur (new song); Olsen Olsen; Festival; Brennisteinn (new song). Encore: Glósóli ; Popplagið.

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(Above: Mutemath drummer Darren King does the monkey at the Beaumont Club on Oct. 16, 2009.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

The Beaumont Club has had many colorful adjectives hurled its way through the years, but “percussive” has probably never been one of them. It’s puzzling, then, that Mutemath drummer Darren King decided to rap his drumsticks on the rafters near the conclusion of Mutemath’s 100-minute show on Friday night.

Balanced on a bass drum held aloft by the crowd, King beat on the metal beams before swinging back onstage like a primate and joining half the band at his proper drum kit to conclude the night.

It took both the quartet and the crowd a while to reach that point, though. For the first half of its show, Mutemath was restrained to a fault, drawing warm applause but little dancing or movement. The audience seemed content to stand and take in the spectacle and see where the music would lead them.

And what a spectacle it was. With the drums set off at extreme stage left, a huge semicircle video screen and bank of lights dominated the setting, the stage looked like Pink Floyd and band sounded like an angular U2, heavy on the Eno.

Mutemath were at their atmospheric best on “Stare at the Sun,” a hypnotic number from their 2006 debut. Like many of their songs, it deals with the search for greater meaning and the uncertainty in those discoveries.

“You Are Mine” made great use of the screen by playing grainy black-and-white film loops behind the band. As singer and keyboard player Paul Meany sang about love, the images blurred the lines between devotion and obsession. On “No Response,” King stood in front of the screen a played a set of illuminated electronic drum pads that set off light cues.

King had the flashiest role, but bass player Roy Mitchell-Cardenas was the band’s secret weapon. Switching between electric and upright bass, his instrument was the only one that consistently carried the melody and existed beyond adding texture. Utility man Greg Hill was the jack of all trades, alternated between guitar – his primary instrument – keyboards and percussion.

After about 30 minutes of foreplay, the band slowly started gaining speed. It started during “Noticed,” when Meany abruptly quit singing and the crowd picked up the song on cue. That led into the bright pop of “Typical,” and a sea of smiles. The main set ended with an insistent reading of “Burden” that found the band stretching out. The powerful performance sounded like it somehow morphed from the single into the 12-inch remix before wrapping back up with the chorus.

After a break and the slight “Pins and Needles,” the band picked back up where it left off with “Spotlight,” which found Meany spontaneously jump up from behind his keyboard and dancing around the stage. “Reset” featured a long instrumental introduction and had been going for nearly 10 minutes when King started dancing on the ceiling. By then, no one wanted to come down.

Setlist: The Nerve, Backfire, Chaos, Clipping, No Response, (unknown song), Stare at the Sun, Electrifying, Armstice, You Are Mine, Peculiar People, Noticed, Typical, Burden. Encore: Pins and Needles, Spotlight, Reset.

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