Live Performances 2 Featured Image

Live Performances We Recommend #3: HANA. Qrion. Soccer Mommy. Daniela Andrade. Caroline Polachek. Ringo Deathstarr.

Following our original live performances post back when we started this site, here are six more awesome performances for you to enjoy from the comfort of your home:

HANA for Femme House Livestream (March 13, 2021)

HANA might be best known for collaborating with Grimes on her We Appreciate Power track, and for being one half of the AC!D Reign Chronicles, but these are not her greatest achievements in our eyes. She is also an awesome musician and DJ in her own right, and we would like to take today to shine on those talents in particular. Although associated with the Anjunadeep label (one that specializes in house, especially deep house music), she has released her album, Hanadriel, on her own. This 2021 performance is a great balance of progressive and vocal house (it’s actually okay to say it has “trance vibes” too), all adding up to a nostalgic, soul-stealing mix.

The first signature ethereal vocal takeover occurs around the 14:00 mark, with Delerium and Sarah MacLachlan’s Silence (an absolute classic). At 19:00 you can hear We Appreciate Power, and from 25:00 onwards, HANA takes it even further and introduces her own vocals, followed by sick beats and sweet transitions. The whole portion from 28:30 to 44:30 is nothing if not blissful, and once you listen to her Tchami collaboration, Ghosts, you’ll notice that HANA has a habit of making her original songs feel like lost dancefloor classics.

Qrion – DJ Set (Anjunadeep Japan Takeover) (2021)

Qrion finally made it big in 2019, receiving nods from major DJs from around the world and distilling her sound to reflect both her Sapporo roots and her move to San Francisco. Her music uses, “the noise of the world around her to create intimate songs anchored by energetic beats and lush synth textures.”

I haven’t been as enamored with a house/techno/electronic mix as much since Laurel Halo’s Hour Logic EP: every song flows into one another and it will take you wherever you wanna go, whether you’re listening while at work, kicking it back at home or in a crowded club. A great house mix should have one tenet: to make a moment last forever, leaving you in a state of withdrawal once it’s over. Qrion’s mix is luminous, although filled with contrasts, culminating in an energetic finale which manages to freeze time.

Her newest album, coincidentally named I Hope It Lasts Forever, has recently been available as a continuous mix on Youtube.

Soccer Mommy, Audiotree 2017 & KEXP 2021

Because the Soccer Mommy sound is really too complex to be grasped in a single performance, and because the band has had line-up changes over the years – we included two performances instead of one.

Soccer Mommy has a shoegaze/nugaze sound without using a lot of the usual reverb/delayed vocals, and Sophie Allison is, in short, a real rock-star, having toured with – yes, really – Slowdive. The last half of the Audiotree performance is heavenly, but even more interesting is the 2021 KEXP one: until that last song outro (Crawling In My Skin), the band doesn’t really achieve synergy, while managing to keep listeners intrigued, in a Pygmalion sort of way (the Slowdive album which probably required the most getting used to). After hearing the studio versions of the Color Theory songs, the difference is that the album uses a lot more effects, while the KEXP performance has more cool instrumental portions.

That being said, Soccer Mommy just isn’t “easy” music. The sadness imbued in the lyrics goes even further than projects like Daughter. Listen to Yellow Is The Color Of Her Eyes, for example: Sophie is a self-professed lover of emo (and many of her song titles seemingly contain nods to early 00s emo and alternative rock), but perhaps the fact that some of her newer songs are in B minor of F# minor – with the chord progressions to boot is what leaves one feeling blue. In contrast, Your Dog IS in B minor, but sounds positively chipper (it’s actually extra sad if you pay close attention to it). If you want “happier” material from Allison, do check out her Collection songs – Benadryl Dreams at least seems to be in E major.

Daniela Andrade – Live

Andrade’s live performance is a short one, clocking at just twelve minutes, but walking the line between Latin, chill and alternative R&B is an impressive mission. I was one of the hundreds of thousands of followers of Andrade’s Youtube channel back in the days when she was only doing covers. Naturally, some of those covers went viral and she was featured in TV shows (like Umbrella Academy), but what makes her a success story (and a DIY one at that) are her original songs and the music videos for which she has won many awards.

Andrade mixes alternative R&B with funk and a bit of jazz. “Chill R&B” would be a better description, although she tries to shed it in many of her music videos, falling somewhere between Lauren Desberg and Kitty Pryde, with a bit of Ravyn Lenae thrown in. It feels wise from a production perspective that she experiments with autotune and pitched-down vocals in some songs, because she can sound just too…perfect and clean, and that’s not always a good thing with modern R&B.

This performance actually has a lot of the charm of one of my favorite concerts seen in 2021, Billie Eilish’s “love letter to Paris,” as Daniela changes sets and moods, leaving the viewer feeling immersed and wanting more. Her voice is perfect, the atmosphere is dreamy, and she only needs more songs like my favorites K.L.F.G, Tamale, Polly Pocket, and Nothing Much Has Changed, I Don’t Feel The Same to explode as an alternative R&B artist. With an amazing grasp on cadence and harmonies, she already has a legion of fans and is a major source of inspiration for Honduran-Canadians.

Caroline Polachek – Live at The Studio at The Factory, Deep Ellum, Dallas, TX 11/20/2021

I believe Caroline Polachek is one of those artists who will never ever run out of things to say or musical avenues to explore. Her experience as lead singer and songwriter of a genre-defying band (Chairlift), as well as that of composing an electronic-pastoral album (Ramona Lisa – Arcadia) and just being a huge fan of synth-driven music shines through in this unmissable performance. Her sound can be (playfully) described as “Enya and Dolores O’Riordan performing as an electronic/alternative r&b duo.”

Since her KEXP performance, Polachek decided on using live instruments, and the gig sounds better as a result – the strong drumming enhances many of her tunes, and there’s still the “person in charge of the laptop” right next to the bass player to take care of the synth portions. Caroline’s falsetto is also spot-on, never missing a note – and her songs do require the extreme vocal range!

It has to be said: the fan-favorite Ocean of Tears sounds amazing with live drumming. There’s a great cover of Breathless, the Corrs song which will delight ’90s kids, and a lot of unreleased songs which might come as a surprise – including a country song and a pure r&b one. Caroline uses fluid movements that remind us of her ballet background and her interpretative dance performances with Chairlift. The visuals work too, in an intimate kind of way, with the lights stealing the show and greatly enhancing the mood.

Caroline’s Pang live performances are always heading towards a MASSIVE surprise near the end: a Massive…Attack…surprise. The cover sung together with Oklou gave me goosebumps and is just something I would listen to on repeat all day long – Liz Fraser would definitely approve. If you don’t have time for anything else, just fast-forward to the last ten minutes of the show and enjoy.

Closing the concert is Door, one of those songs that is so magical it might come from a different dimension altogether. Polachek is a tireless musician, and if you’re looking forward to seeing how she surprised audiences following this tour, look no further than her 2022 Coachella performance.

Ringo Deathstarr – LEVITATION Sessions (2021)

Ringo Deathstarr’s 2021 Levitation Sessions were a serious contender for best performance of the year, dead-set on proving those who say “they don’t make ’em like they used to” wrong.

I first listened to Ringo Deathstarr just around the time the anime Mawaru Penguindrum came out, and I remember them covering Coaltar of the Deepers’s song, Dear Future. At first, they didn’t seem like a band that took itself too seriously, their videos were lo-fi, but the sound…it took me back to the day where I first listened to Slowdive’s Shine and declared it the best thing ever.

Everything changed in 2013-2014, with the band releasing God’s Dream, their best album in my opinion. Listening to Flower Power and just looking at that awesome album cover, it was clear that the band had evolved. Everything was now MORE – the drumming, the guitar, Alex and Elliot’s voices, and the post-punk and noise-rock influences. In addition, they started to include interludes that completely changed the structure of the songs.

In this finely-tuned performance, Once Upon a Freak is when the magic starts to show, and Cotton Candy Clouds is just one of the best shoegaze songs ever, on the level with the best of MBV and Slowdive. If you think the reformed Slowdive’s concerts just aren’t the same now because they’ve mellowed down (not always true, by the way), there’s always Ringo Deathstarr for you.

To me, the shoegaze “genre” is musicians admitting that sound is both a force and a technique to be mastered. The “wall of sound” that defines this music is a result of heavy reverb (vocals, guitar) and distortion, meaning that often a new sound clashes with a lot of remnants from older sounds. These musicians, in my view, are “noise-makers” first and “melody-makers” second. That’s not a bad thing, and rock music definitely isn’t all about guitar-solos and power stances either. But doing a shoegaze album and playing shoegaze live, in 2021, are completely different things. Shoegaze, to some, sounds like a cloud formation (which is why Cloud Formations is actually the name of a shoegaze album and Air Formation the name of a band), while, to others, it sounds like a rock song put through a blender (which is why Whirr is also the name of another shoegaze band). The technique required to achieve the sound a band like Ringo Deathstarr employs in a live gig borders on insane. Just look at Alex’s hands sometimes and see how complex her bass section is, or at what Elliot does with his guitar at times.

To be fair, because this is 2021 and not 1994, I don’t know how much of the sound here is actually “live” and how much of what we end up listening is a result of careful mastering. The camera doesn’t linger at the musicians’ feet too much, and we don’t see them shifting pedals or bending down.

Still, when the band is at its high, it sounds like the genre in its hey-day. Guilt is one of their best songs, Gazin’ seems like a tribute, Lazy Lane has Alex’s and Elliot’s vocals meshing extremely well (to be fair, they almost mesh well, and remind me of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell a lot – with the difference being that Alex is possibly one of the coolest bass-players ever). Everything after Cotton Candy is just pure A-level material.

Just one extra thing to mention: one might not always be ready to listen to such a concert on the get-go, because shoegaze is a genre that seems to take from the listener as much as it gives back. As a warm-up, I listen to three or four of my favorite songs (Dear Future, Two Girls, Guilt and Flower Power). That being said, this is the band at its best, and the collaboration with an actual visual artist (Astral Violet) brings the band’s trippy aesthetics to a new level.

Featured Artist: Astral Violet

About Astral Violet (source: weekinpop.com, austinchronicle.com)

“I don’t really premake any content or plan stuff out, so it’s all influenced in the moment by what I’m hearing and my environment” – Sydney Quezada

“Quezada’s visual matches the electrically charged energy of the track where the audience is practically taken inside the television tube to a world flashing letters, vibrant colors, animation and an endless array of lights.”

The VCR vernacular is a compliment to (…) ever expanding sound that takes on the titans, institutions, pop pantheons and pillars of electronically inspired styles past and present — adding to the pages and anecdotes of history with a chapter of their own design.

*

Reading Material: The Visual Artists Behind the Levitation Festival’s Trippy Light Shows

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s