Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

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Amanda Farah - page 10

Amanda Farah has 100 articles published.

LIVE REVIEW: Sam Amidon, Lille Vega, 24.11.2013

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For a solo artist, little additions can make worlds of difference. As a folk singer with a belter of a voice, he could easily carry himself through a set alone. He proves this quickly when he swaps his guitar for a violin on the outro of “Short Life,” and when he manages to lead the audience in a sing along on “Way Go Lily” (whereas opener Rebecca Collins failed to get people to join her on a cover of “My Favorite Things”) — and these are only his opening two songs.

But Amidon isn’t alone. He has drums, bass, and assorted noise provided by Chris Vatalaro, and these additions do make a difference, sometimes by just filling in the bottom and sometimes by making a startling racket. And it allows for a sense of preservation of what — besides Amidon’s somewhat solemn delivery — is so alluring about the music in the first place.

Sam Amidon

Aside from being a talented singer-songwriter, aside from him having that clear, crisp voice (with or without the countrified warble), much of Amidon’s performance hinges on an unexpected humor. There’s chatter about his latest album being inspired by Jimi Hendrix contacting him from the grave and telling him to make round music (what that means Jimi never qualified — which Amidon considers to be “an asshole move”). There’s a digression about Chet Baker’s “Do It the Hard Way” that turns into a further digression of scat. There’s a story about taking a nap and dreaming about using a tiny, fuzzy donkey as a pillow that lasts several minutes.

The humor is in the music, too: “My Old Friend” ends in a shrill scat following the Chet Baker musings. A jig played on the violin devolves into the sort of choked scratching any parent with a child learning to play the violin has heard a hundred times over — but Amidon is making eye contact with a laughing crowd as if wondering for how long he can get away with it. And it’s in a perfectly earnest cover of R. Kelly’s “Relief,” in which he leads another success sing along, but still finds time to mention that he is thankful that R. Kelly has “written a song with a shifting relationship to reality.” Much like Amidon doesn’t need Vatalaro assisting him with the music, he doesn’t really need this bizarre humor either. But his performance is certainly more special for both of these features.

LIVE REVIEW: Trentemøller, Store Vega, 22.11.2013

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Whatever the opposite of a cult of personality is, that’s what Anders Trentemøller is. Seeing him lined up with his band in a perfect row, it is not immediately apparent that the man behind the keyboards is at the helm of this dark, almost ambient rock.

It’s not until 40 minutes into the set when Trentemøller’s bandmates have fallen away and he is left alone on stage with his synths and a glockenspiel to play “Miss You” that it’s really clear who is at the center of the project creatively and not just physically.

In fact, Marie Fisker, who provides all of the lead vocals for the evening (she also sings the vocal on “Candy Tongue” on Lost) as well as playing guitar, could easily be mistaken for the band’s frontwoman. She spends more time playing to the crowd than Trentemøller himself, who only occasionally stalks out from around his keyboards to contort his wiry frame.

Trentemøller (Photo by James Hjertholm)

But Trentemøller’s set is much more about atmosphere than rock star performances. There is something restrained in the entire band’s performance. The energy is evident, but everyone keeps him and herself relatively confined to their respective spaces, though maybe that’s because there’s just too much gear to worry about knocking over. Trentemøller himself attacks his synths as though he’s longing for a more mobile instrument to allow him to get some of that energy out.

Which may sound surprising if what you were expecting was the delicate, introspective beauty of Lost. When some songs are three guitars deep, it’s inevitable that those instruments will overtake the nuance of some of the composition, but no one seems disappointed. Judging by the vibe in the room, people are here to dance in their own similarly restrained ways. They’re ready to accept loud guitars and glockenspiels in equal turn. They are pleased with their un-rock rockstar.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Fuck Buttons, Pumpehuset, 16.11.2013

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The opening to Fuck Buttons’ third album, Slow Focus, is the punishing drum sample of “Brainfreeze.” When they open their set at Pumpehuset with “Brainfreeze,” the immediate impression is that something is lacking. That something is volume.

Despite this initial disappointment, they do build up to the anticipated decibel level, though it takes nearly half an hour of their 75 minute set. That lack of initial impact doesn’t prove to be a deal breaker. Fuck Buttons are one of those electronic acts that give you a sense of creation as they play, rather than just twiddling knobs. Watching Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power make wordless noises into microphones that are fed back to create new, different noise, or the brief, live drumming, during which Power knocks his floor tom off of its platform, are unexpected moments of humanity that take them away from their places hunched over their table.

Fuck Buttons (Photo by Tom Spray)The visuals, however, leave something to be desired. Throughout the show, Hung and Power were silhouetted in real time over myriad kaleidoscopic visuals — a neat trick, but not necessarily one that needed to be carried through the entire show.

Then again, Hung and Powers are themselves entertaining to watch. They both often adopt zen-like expressions and sway very gently while playing. At times, Hung glances over the audience with look of satisfaction that suggests he’s thinking, “Yes, I am responsible for this.” As the pair are separated by a long table, unable to communicate with each other directly, they can be seen making eye contact with one another, and a nod here and there seems to be responsible for new movements in songs.

And if that tires, there is a sea of people dancing, and most amusingly, dancing to different elements of the songs, every individual latching on to some different rhythm. It’s good that they’re into the music, because other than a quick “Thanks” from Power at the end of their main set, no other words are spoken during the entire show. The evening ends in an understated way when Hung raises his drink to the crowd and walks off stage, leaving Power to twist everything into a metallic distortion. But it is only another minute before he, too, faces the crowd and departs with a small wave, leaving us with a fading feedback loop. You can get away with that sort of limited interaction — when the music’s loud enough.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

INTRODUCING: We draw A

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Polish electro outfit We draw A deal with a soft palette of electronica. Their multi-faceted project loops chill wavy sounds and ambient warmth only to mix up their programmed work with live guitars and bass. Their songs also have identifiable parts that are progressed into, rather than ambling on in one repetitive, blissed out circle. Though they’re not above a bit of cooing, most the vocals are clear and crisp, which means you can understand their sometimes sombre lyrics without straining.

The duo, from Wroclaw, have only been around for a year and a half, but already have an EP out and another on the way.

Listen to the Glimpse EP, and hear a track from their forth coming Whirls EP on Soundcloud.

LIVE REVIEW: Daughter, Store Vega, 8.11.2013

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It’s only seven months since Daughter last played Copenhagen. In that time, they’ve not only been bumped up from Lille Vega to Store Vega, but they’ve managed to sell out the big room as well. It’s pretty impressive for a band that’s only existed for three years.

But there’s an odd vibe throughout the show. The band take a few songs to warm up, but even then the energy is low. The vocals are swallowed up by the guitars, which, on the one hand works in a seamless, wall-of-sound way, but on the other drowns out all of Elena Tonra’s lyrics.

It is interesting to see how much of their sound is achieved by bowing guitars, what’s played lived and what’s sampled, and to watch Tonra and Igor Haefeli swap between guitar and bass. Haefeli is the more energetic of the two guitarists; not being saddled with as many vocal duties, he moves around the stage more, and seems more in the moment. Tonra, to her credit, maintains good eye contact with the crowd, which does go a long way to making a big room feel smaller.

But there is still the incessant chatter of the crowd to bring the mood down. Though ready enough with their applause, conversations can be heard through every song, and voices shout over every quiet part where Tonra’s hushed vocals should finally be clear. Maybe this is the downside of Daughter not playing at an ear-splitting volume. There are a few songs, such as “Human” and “Youth,” where the music and  lights coalesce perfectly, and everyone is taken in.

Which is why it’s depressing that the biggest reaction of the evening comes during the encore when Daughter announce that they’re going to play a cover. Everyone in the room knows they’re going to play their broody version of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and it feels unfair that a novelty cover of this year’s biggest song is what people really seem to want to hear. Tonra has thanked the crowd with a nervous laugh more than once during the set for being so nice. Are we really?

Photo from Daugher’s April show at Lille Vega.

LIVE REVIEW: Julia Holter, Jazzhouse, 05.11.2013

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Julia Holter’s set at Jazzhouse was one of those demystifying performances. To see her songs performed by her at the keyboard, a violinist, a cellist, a saxophonist, and a drummer connects all the dots scattered by her dense albums. From the first notes of opener “Maxim’s 1,” there is clarity. Suddenly every sound is easy to identify, though every musician has several pedals laid out in front of him.

While the mystery is gone, the beauty remains. Holter’s voice is strong and dynamic, whether she’s bellowing over the din of her backing band or whispering over her keys. She is the constant element, the reliable figure at her microphone, while the other variables in the form of jazzy compositions, fairytale soundtracks, and avant garde noise build and recede around her.

While much of her set is taken from her latest album, Loud City Song, she ends the evening with both versions of “Goddess Eyes,” from Ekstasis. She tells the audience it’s about Aphrodite getting her revenge on a mortal before confessing that she doesn’t expect anyone to know the songs.

Holter is chatty and personable between songs, even if she’s just talking about the curry she had for dinner. After watching her perform with a serious face, lost in her work and  sometimes dramatically posed, her banter between sets, whether with the audience or her bandmates, feels like she’s breaking character. And it’s rather endearing.

LucreciaDalt-5340

Finally, it’s worth mentioning opener Lucrecia Dalt. If there is an organic, demystifying element to Holter’s performance, Dalt’s is exactly the opposite. Alone on stage with a bass, samplers, and pedals galore, she’s like the evil twin of Julianna Barwick, slowly building tracks based on loops and probably taking pleasure in audience members who cover their ears at the high frequency noises.  Then again, the girl who pauses her set to ask why her banana-scented smoke machine isn’t working can’t be all darkness, can she?

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Biffy Clyro, Den Grå Hal, 1.11.13

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Biffy Clyro by Jen Tse

When Biffy Clyro walk on stage to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” all of them already stripped to the waist (barring their touring guitarist, branded an outsider by virtue of his shirt and tie), there is something a bit cheeky in their attitude. It only takes a few minutes, however, to realize that this seasoned touring band know how to keep things light, and know how to be prepared. Indeed, throughout the show, there is so much sweat dripping off of frontman Simon Neil that it’s a wonder he doesn’t miss any notes.

The Scots trio pride themselves on being a strong live band, and their sense of pride is well earned. Four men on a large stage in a large room have a lot of space to fill with just their presence. But the audience is ready to respond to them, ready to mirror their jumping, and there are times when the crowd looks like it will spill into a mosh pit — thought it never does.

Early in the show they give, according to Neil, the live premiere of “Accident Without Emergency,” and follow it up by each grabbing a strobe light to hoist over their heads (to which those in the audience not made motion sick by strobe lights showed tremendous enthusiasm). By the time the band kicks into “Bubbles,” several men in the audience have followed the band’s lead and taken off their own shirts, one of which eventually makes its way onto the stage.

Biffy Clyro by Jen Tse

Neil gets a chance to catch his breath with the obligatory slowdown of the set, in this case him alone on stage with his acoustic guitar. While his bandmates towel off backstage, he leads the audience in a singalong of “Folding Stars.” It’s a moment that probably should be intimate, but the space, the people, and the sweaty, shirtless, tattooed man on stage make for a somewhat odd spectacle.

What Biffy Clyro do well is keep their setlist varied, spanning their entire catalogue. But there is a notable difference in how they perform their earlier, crunchier songs — the ones that have them climbing monitors and jumping off the drum riser — and their more recent, more anthemic material. And having this broad spectrum traversed in just shy of two hours does leave one wondering how a once borderline hardcore band has ended up in musically tamer territory.

VIEW ALL THE PHOTOS BY JEN TSE HERE

 

LIVE REVIEW: Julianna Barwick, Jazzhouse, 20.10.2013

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There was a question looming of how Julianna Barwick’s atmospheric music would translate as a live performance. Her ethereal voice, largely wordless lyrics, and airy songs are so unobtrusive that it never seemed likely that Barwick would overwhelm a room with the force of her personality. And standing behind her keyboard, reaching across to twist knobs on her sampler and occasionally swaying behind her microphone, this is the case. Her accompanist for most of her set, guitarist Scott Bell, is equally benign.

It is interesting to watch Barwick build a track, looping layer upon layer of her own voice, and how effective her sporadic piano playing is. What is evident is her overwhelming vocal control, and the strength and clarity of her voice, which is necessary for her loops to work at all. But the fascination wears off before too long.

Julianna Barwick (Photo by Tom Spray)

It is not unreasonable to believe that her voice is compelling enough to make her live show worth seeing, in spite of her physically stagnant performance. What is achieved is a sort zen-like state, conducive to meditation — or truthfully, were the chairs more comfortable, to sleep. It’s very peaceful and very pretty, but there is a limit to how engaging it can be.

With this in mind, Barwick has video rolling on a screen behind her. The images — of a seagull, of waves crashing, of a woman (possibly Barwick herself) clad in a lace dress, floating in water, tangled up in tulle — though intriguing, are incidental. The footage keeps rolling even between songs, and begins to repeat itself three quarters of the way through her set.

Her set is brief, coming in under an hour, including the encore. But it’s sufficient. If you missed it, you’ll likely get just as much pleasure out of buying a copy of her latest album, and curling up at home with it, a cup of tea, and a good book.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Foals, Store Vega, 15.10.2013

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Foals are one of those bands that make sense live in a way they never could on their records. Not even on this year’s Mercury Prize-nominated Holy Fire, nor on 2010’s Mercury Prize-nominated Total Life Forever can this band be fully understood without seeing them perform.

A big part of it is the dimension of the music itself. Jimmy Smith’s spindly rhythm guitar weaves into Yannis Philippakis’ heavier leads with the same dynamic as on their albums, but any subtlety they strive for in the mixes on their recordings is lost to sheer power. The synths and backing vocals never fade into the background, the bass is more present than would be expected for a rock band, and Philippakis’ vocals regularly break into screams.

Foals (Photo by Tom Spray)

But mostly it’s the antics of their performance. It isn’t necessary to know their songs to enjoy yourself, because the human energy on and off stage is so easy to lose yourself in. Philippakis struts and pirouettes through every song, pouring water on his head between songs and flinging the remainder on the crowd. He’s matched by Smith’s relentless pogoing, and even drummer Jack Bevan can be seen standing triumphantly on top of his kit at any interval. And the crowd love it. They are dancing and jumping and willing to catch Philippakis on the multiple occasions that he crowd surfs. It’s telling that the band can bust out their single “My Number” early in the set instead of needing to build up to it in the encore.

Foals (Photo by Tom Spray)

But what they build up to is a finale of rock star antics that a man of lesser personality than Philippakis would struggle to pull off. Before “Electric Bloom” he passively suggests, “Let’s fuck this place up,” and then swaps his guitar for a floor tom, and unencumbered by an instrument or mic stand ricochets around the stage and audience. Back on stage for “Inhaler,” Philippakis’ intentions become clear when stares up agog at a stack of speakers. He restrains himself until the interlude of the final song, “Two Steps, Twice,” before scaling the stack, abandoning his guitar there, and then climbing up into the balcony. He takes the long route through the balcony to the other side of the stage, jumping down on to another stack of speakers and teasing the crowd before taking a final jump on stage. By the time he has his guitar back, a majority of the audience is crouched on their knees, ready to jump up as the final chorus comes in. It’s baffling and thrilling, and overwhelms in the best possible way.

Foals (Photo by Tom Spray)

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: James Blake, Falconer Salen, Copenhagen, 06.10.2013

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It’s difficult to know what the right setting for James Blake would be. His show at Falconer Salen — bumped up from Store Vega because of demand — feels like it should have been shifted to a seated theatre rather than an open ballroom. Wouldn’t that be more suitable for Blake’s gentle, moody compositions?

But once the electronics of opening song “I Never Learnt to Share” kicked in, it’s immediately apparent that live, Blake’s music is less delicate than on his albums. Most notably, the beats are a lot bigger, and fill every inch of the room. Not that anyone is dancing; the audience mostly stands rapt, hanging on Blake’s every bobbing, slinking movement, but rarely moving their own feet.

James Blake (Photo by James Hjertholm)

The great appeal of Blake’s music is his voice, that smooth, silky falsetto that can melt hearts. And it’s there, and he hits every high note without effort, but it’s often drowned out by the volume of the electronics that surround him (literally and figuratively: he is hemmed in by his keyboards).

He is joined on stage by a guitarist/keyboardist and drummer, and with all due respect to his guitarist/keyboardist, it’s the drummer who is incredible. When the drummer has moments away from his electronic kit, his skill is displayed in furious lashes.

James Blake (Photo by James Hjertholm)

An hour into his set things break down into straight dance music, nothing delicate, just energetic. And the audience is responding by almost dancing. The energy would have dropped with any song that was any slower, except the next song he plays is his single “Retrograde,” and the room erupts in enthusiastic cheers when he hums the opening bars. He rolls this into downtempo set ender “The Wilhelm Scream.”

Coming back alone for his encore, he asks the crowd — which he admits has already been quiet and respectful — to be quieter still. He then sings the bulk of “Measurements” a cappella, looping his voice back with each subsequent verse, before tearing into his keyboards. In these last minutes of the show, he lays out his artistic and technical abilities so plainly, it would be difficult not to be moved. He leaves the stage quietly as his own voice continues looping. It’s a very impressive exit.

VIEW THE LIVE PHOTO GALLERY HERE

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