I was at The Handsome Daughter again.
This time for a line up I’d nearly never seen before.
I’ve never seen these guys play before. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Their first song struck me with serious King Crimson vibes. My mind went immediately to Matte Kudasai. I texted my friend and said man, I might really be into this. But they quickly changed it up, moving away from that dreamy guitar tone into a gutsier electric tone.
The prog influence stayed, though. They played pretty full songs. Songs with many moving parts, high energy and bright tones. The composition felt a bit typical but in a skilled way, like they knew what they were doing and they had a lot of fun doing it and they’ve probably all been playing instruments for like at least 10 years, but there’s nothing too risky.
They really fill the space, both in the room and in the song. I’ve been thinking recently about how music works physically, and I’ve determined it’s a really direct manipulation of space and time. And these guys, they really fill it up. They keep quick time, high energy songs with layers of instruments filling out each corner. There may be a moment of space here or there, but it’s only on one layer at a time. I didn’t hear much of a collective breath at any point.
It was Jordan Hart’s last show with the band. He’s the guy with the horn. I was happy to see him play this set, mostly because he’s one of the better trumpet players I’ve ever experienced, but also because I remember hanging out with him and my older brother when they were in high school.
They’re one of the most energetic bands I’ve seen in a while (only competition in these past two weeks was Heinrichs Maneuver at the Daughter — which I didn’t choose to review, instead just DANCED and had a blast) and it really got into my bones. I’m usually a fan of sneaky use of space in songs, like when a tune comes to a sudden stop on all layers, and then comes back up (example: this song) and pulls you around with that space. These guys didn’t have much space, but they still pulled me forward and up and down.
They’re the kind of band that plays with such joy and intensity that I can’t help but dig in with them. The guitar tone rips through in places. It’s got a slightly metal tone, like metal music, that thin riffy feel that you could hear being abused with power chords. But they don’t abuse it. They treat it right.
I was mighty impressed with their keys player. Maybe my standards are low. My biggest experience with like, legit keys (not synth, not samples, etc) players is Shaun McDonald who I think went to school for that stuff. But Apollo Suns keys player had some great solos. He’s got a nice authentic tone, reminiscent a little of old bluesy jazz tunes back when the distinction wasn’t so clear. It reminded me almost a little of an organ. But not actually, that’s just my inexperience with keys coming through I think.
The keys added a lot. When you have a lot of skilled musicians on stage rippin’ it up, having the light touch and delicacy and intentional motions of a good keys player brings in a sense of comfort and embrace. It’s not just music coming at you, full speed, full energy, dance and all, it’s that PLUS someone opening the door for you, offering you earplugs if you want them, and sitting down with you when you need to give your feet a break. It’s a kinder feel that rounded out the whole experience for me.
Apollo Suns are going on tour soon or something. They’re doing something, for sure. Keep an eye out. Oh, and I’ll miss seeing Jordan play… Have fun at the big boy job!
This was my third time seeing Black Cloud. I first heard them on Beach Station Blues, and I really dug their style. They’re all instrumental, and they have rolling tunes that carry you through whole landscapes. They play stuff that really fills the room too, but with more of a prog bent, or something lending to a story. They create little journeys in their song, where the leading melody is a vehicle pulling you through this soundscape of tones and rhythms and a sense of rustic nature tones, tall grasses or gray cliff faces or grody brown abandoned buildings rushing past like you’re low-hovering but fast-moving your way through Canadian countryside.
Some of the songs slow it down, too. But there’s always this sense of progression, of movement through vast landscapes.
I was surprised to see 3 guitars up there. Though I saw them play with Umami in January? I guess I didn’t notice that night for reasons (it was my birthday…). It makes sense, though. They have a variety of guitar tones that they manage to blend nicely. I noticed a math-ier feel to some of their tunes this night. They have a post-rock sound that seems carefully orchestrated at times. Like a really nice recipe, like making pastry or a fucking delicious casserole with spices and herbs and all that stuff I don’t know how to use yet. Each tone brings its own presence to the song.
Gentle riffing wahs define some atmosphere, offer an environment for the main driving melody, which has a cleaner tone. Something with more of a rock sound. Like the colour of aluminum. And then the dreamy notes come through overtop, finishing off the layers, tying the story together.
They have a grasp on dynamics that I don’t often find. It’s especially noticeable live. Three guitars and a bass is a lot to listen to. It’s thick. They keep it under tight control, though. They bring you up slowly, bring you down when it’s right, carry you along through each journey with a sense of purpose. What that purpose is… I can’t say. Maybe the sort of purpose you feel when you’re compelled to do something good for yourself but you’re not sure how or why.
The drums guide that dynamic without taking too much space.
Their overall tone hits me as a little sad, but in the most intellectual and explorative way. Not the acceptance of sad because it’s okay vibe, like with iansucks. But the touch of sad because the universe is so vast and complex and unknown and it’s miraculous and scary and confusing and just so huge. So you can think it out. And it’s a little sad, cause there’s a lot going on there, and we just don’t get it sometimes. But that sad is eclipsed by this sense of wonder, like at least we’re here seeing this now.
I might be projecting a bit. That’s just the sense I get.
I also saw these guys at Real Love. It was funny, they started their set by explaining it had rained the past 2 years they played there. And then said they hope it doesn’t rain. And then they started playing. And it started raining. And I had a good laugh. Like, you’re called Black Cloud, of course it’ll rain! I loved it.