Tuesday, February 16, 2010

You Missed Out: Phantogram and Junk Culture


Now that Animal Collective is actually influencing new bands, I'm a little bit freaked out. So much can happen in a few years. It's funny when the outcome of an experimental project turns out to be successful. I suppose it's better than an unsuccessful experiment, but I guess I always thought that Animal Collective would just have their own little exclusive tree fort club that would forever refrain from expansion. I mean, I never really heard any other music five years ago that made me say "Oh this sounds like Animal Collective." But in 2010, it's a weekly occurrence.

I saw Junk Culture and Phantogram at Schubas tonight. On Animal Collective coattails, but flirting with their own unique style as well, both acts proved to be much more engaging with accompanying video projections than they are on record.

Junk Culture felt a lot like a combination of Panda Bear and Avey Tare, sometimes putting an effect on his voice full of dreamy reverb, and other times yelping and growling like a wildcat. He opened with the title track that kicks off his first full length, West Coast. It might have been the coolest song played all night, but unfortunately only a handful of the audience had arrived at this point.

Released on Illegal Art (Girl Talk), West Coast continues the label's tradition of creating original music through heavy sampling (without permission), while letting buyers pay what they want for albums. It's a great model for artists who want to advertise their more important product--the live show. And in this sense, Junk Culture is successful. The album is like a movie trailer that gives you an idea, but not the whole story. Once we turn the volume up, throw on some projections of old school skateboarders and kaleidoscopic computer graphics, and actually see the man twisting the knobs that make the sounds, then we get full package.

As is the case with most opening acts, they're good for setting a mood for the headliner. Phantogram left the same projection screen up that Junk Culture was using, but as soon as Phantogram started it was clear to see why one act preceded had the other. It was like switching a youtube video from its regular resolution to high definition. Phantogram's images were crisp and stunning, a high step above the things Junk Culture was projecting.

One particularly surreal video accomplished something I've never seen before. You know those spots you see after you look away from a light you've been staring at? You can try it now. Stare into a light bulb for about 10 seconds, then close your eyes and look away. See that? Well, somehow Phantogram recorded them, and projected them back to us. Orange, purple and green spots danced around images of a POV drive through a city street, making us all wonder if this was a part of the video or just our eyes responding to the strobe lights. Maybe this is what they meant by naming their debut full-length "Eyelid Movies."

Phantogram's live show is a lot better than what one would expect from Eyelid Movies, which is more aesthetically ambient than it is pop. Two performers, one male and one female, said very little to the audience between songs. They didn't need to though, their lush rhythms spoke to the crowd clearly. Schubas was packed on a Wednesday night for this duo. I don't know if all of these people just love Barsuk bands, or if Phantogram opened for a more popular band before or what, but I usually don't see such big crowds for new bands. I was happy to see the full house though. Phantogram made the evening worth everyone's time.

And maybe they have already, but Phantogram needs to go on tour with School of Seven Bells. At times, I thought I was just watching/hearing one half of School of Seven Bells up there. But what's great about a new band who can put on a better live show than what's expected based on the album is how it points to potential. They may have only just released their first full-length, but Phantogram's next one is going to be a lot better. The band is better than what you hear on the internet. But come 2011, you won't have to see them live for proof.

1 comment:

ilikewrpi said...

Hey thanks for the comment on the phantogram projection! I was actually the video artist for their set, and I'm glad to see people are liking it on the road. It's my first try at sending stuff out in the wild.
I posted a video from one of the songs here:
http://vimeo.com/9283680