Friday, October 22, 2010

Le Fleur and Lookbook at VAC, Oct. 20

Posted By on Fri, Oct 22, 2010 at 10:13 AM

Le Fleur

There is a moment in a song when all bets are off. When stompboxes are stomped, solos wail and drummers are unleashed. From their first to last notes at VAC on Wednesday, Le Fleur captured that fleeting moment and forced it to endure, taking the layered bursts of chaos that usually hit at a song's bridge and employing them as the foundation of their sound. It was an interesting tactic.

It's too easy to call Le Fleur, a Boise five-piece, simply an indie band, as they bring something rawer, more disparate than the standard act, occasionally pointing their instruments in totally different directions.

From their first to last note at VAC, washes of heavily effected guitars and keys brought strong psychedelic textures. But some of the songs became cluttered with sounds, leaving all systems on go all the time rather than giving the individual parts room to breathe. This left the somewhat straight-ahead vocals sounding almost like they were piped in from another track.

In a way, the band as a whole often sounded like two different bands playing together, or like Le Fleur was performing their own remix. The bass and vocals plugged ahead with a raw, mournful garage vibe, while the keys and guitars layered on the effects and noises. When it didn't work, it felt like drowning in noise, with too many sounds trying to upstage one another to understand any of them clearly. But when it did, it worked well, challenging the audience with a rich, dense sound akin to what The Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows might have sounded like had it been recorded in an basement in Olympia, Wash.


Despite their website listing the band as a trio, Lookbook performed as a solo act, with guitarist Errant Kohl, playing along with a sampler. And while many musicians playing in such circumstances might dress things down a bit, Kohl played with the same energy and grit as if backed by a full band.

The songs had an early '80s darkwave feel to them, with electronic beats, synth bass and heavily echoed vocals. But with Kohl's guitar on top, it sounded a little like a more aggressive Depeche Mode. Had people packed in a little closer, and not clung to the bar like at the edge of a pool at their first swimming lesson, it could have been a killer dance party, something the band lists on their website as a "primary objective."

Aside from putting himself fully into the performance, what stood out most about Lookbook/Kohl, was the clarity of the arrangements. When sequencing, every note, every beat, every sound is intentional with no random extras on top, giving Lookbook's songs clear structure, with clear dramatic movement between sections and a polished, balanced, sound.

The downside of it was that so many of the songs sounded nearly identical. Dance music can get away with similar sounding sounds. But only if people are too busy dancing to care.

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