Show Review: Beeps in Wolves' Clothing (Part 1)

Yeah, we blew it when we didn't go. But who knew Wolf Parade would announce they were going on indefinite hiatus only four days after they played the Crofoot last November?

As fate would have it, we did end up seeing Wolf Parade this summer. Sort of. Well, two members of Wolf Parade, and their personal projects that helped precipitate the WP hiatus: Moonface (Spencer Krug) with Flow Child and Phantasmagoria on Jul. 15 and Handsome Furs (Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry) with Parlovr on Jul. 30, at PJ's Lager House.

Flow Child

Except for Parlovr, all of these artists, either solo acts or duos, rely on a variety of computer-driven electronics for their sound, with quite different results. Flow Child (Montreal) was the most abstract, presenting improvisational compositions reflective of his stage name. Detroit-based Phantasmagoria (Lianna Vanicelli and Christopher Jarvis) easily earned this year's "best band we'd never heard of" nod. Their sound is generally spare, combining both space-odyssey and tribal elements, tempered with appealing vocals, harmony and melodies. They've been playing a lot around Detroit; we definitely recommend checking them out.

Spencer Krug's wiki is like reading a who's who of Canadian indie. So it didn't surprise us to discover that the gentleman providing percussion was Mike Bigelow, most recently the bassist with Wintersleep. "I started the tour solo, but it just wasn't working," said Krug. Solo if you don't count the stark white screen at the front of the stage that ran a video for the entire set of a lone, somewhat autistic man (wearing a Detroit Tigers cap!) dancing languidly.

"Like eating a small, heavy piece of cheesecake" is how Krug describes his second EP (although it clocks in at 37 minutes) as Moonface, Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped. Yes, the music is dense, but there's nothing ponderous about these baroque journeys. Why? We'll let Krug tell you (from his artist profile on Jagjaguwar):

"You see, I have a little dude who lives inside me that loves pop music, and he sometimes finds his way into my hands. When this happens, my fingers move toward the catchiest melodies they can, like bees to flowers with the most pollen. It can't be helped. The little pop-dude inside me turns a few notes into a melody and I say, 'Okay, that's nice little dude, a little poppy maybe, but nice, maybe we can use that once, somewhere in the song.' And he says, 'But wouldn't you rather hear it over and over again? Maybe throw it in a few times now, and then a few times again towards the end of the song? And maybe that 'drone' in your left hand would sound better if you moved it up and down the keyboard a little bit.' But then I say, 'Come on little dude, I'm no fool, that's just a chord progression you're trying to get out of me.' Next thing you know we'll be repeating it over and over again, the melody will be a hook, and I'll have made another random half-pop song... It's music played with an organ, organ beats, organ beeps and bloops, and some digital drums. Music based on layers and loops, the hypnotizing sound of a leslie speaker, and the onslaught of melody." Listen.

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images