by / October 24th, 2013 /

Festival: CMJ Music Marathon….What State Saw

They don’t call it a marathon for nothing. Last week what seemed like the majority of the American music industry for five days of live music, panels and business meetings. Spread out across the Lower East Side, Manhattan and Brooklyn, the festival element has a strangely disconnected feel – consisting of individual showcases and parties rather than a coherently programmed event. Nevertheless there was much to see, as reported by the State team…

Absolutely Free – Mercury Lounge, Friday

The dimly lit Mercury Lounge is the perfect venue to compliment Absolutely Free’s dark and gloomy sounds. A sparse crowd greets the Toronto four piece as they take to the stage to build out their complicated looking set up. Drums are up front to the left, while multiple synths and keyboards are organised around the small space. Each of the members are comfortable playing different roles, jumping between instruments throughout the set. Although not overly accessible, their polyrhythmic slow building and intense sounds prove to be pretty mesmerising once you focus in. Closing track ‘UFO’ kicks off with looping operatic vocals building piece by piece to a cataclysmic end which leaves us walking out of the venue, ears ringing, a little dizzy and very impressed.(Lucia Orlandi)

Blood Orange – Le Bain / The Standard, Friday

This may be a last minute announced show but it’s most definitely one of the busiest of the festival. At 1.30am, eighteen floors high a-top of The Standard Hotel, Blood Orange (aka one time Lightspeed Champion Dev Hynes) and his band take to the impressively large makeshift stage housed inside Le Bain – decked out with white and purple faux flowers. Kicking things off with ‘Champagne Coast’ it isn’t long before the crowd, who are all pretty close due to a severe lack of elbow room, are doing their best of move along to Dev’s own retro inspired moves. The set is a mixture of old and new tracks – two of which featured Friends’ Samatha Urbani who joins the band on stage. A nice surprise is the inclusion of Solange’s ‘Bad Girls’ and Sky Ferreria’s ‘Everything Is Embrassing’, both of which Dev Hynes co-wrote and produced. Channeling one part Michael Jackson and one part Prince the vibe of the whole night is completely unexpected. Closing out the night on a seven minute improvised jam, Blood Orange absolutely kill it. (LO)

Born Gold – The Delancy, Thursday

It’s late and stage times at The Delancy seem to have become a work on fiction, so we can forgive the rather downbeat atmosphere from those present. Apart from Canadians Born Gold that is, who are very much in the high energy electronic field. In truth their music – sort of Erasure meets Skrillex – isn’t all that but they give it so much conviction that State soon finds ourselves getting more into them then we expected. With the stage lights turned off in favour of strobes and a flip-flop and very short shorts wearing, high kicking frontman giving his all, half an hour is plenty but we’re strangely glad we came across them. (Phil Udell)

Coin – Brooklyn Bowl, Wednesday

A Nashville four-piece, Coin provide one of the most energetic sets for the All Things Go showcase at Brooklyn Bowl. Honest to goodness light hearted indie pop, it’s all smiles for the duration of the set. Their sound isn’t exactly something new, but they perform with such enthusiasm you couldn’t help but find yourself moving along and frontman Chase Lawrence has that ’50s americana charm down to a tee, unlike a few CMJ acts we could mention. (LO)

Courtney Barnett -Pianos Upstairs, Friday

Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett flits through CMJ week performing with a band or solo, depending on the venue or the hour. At this overstuffed late afternoon outing — the more Barnett performs, the bigger the crowds get — she is alone, accompanied only by a growling electric guitar and a novel’s worth of clever lyrics. Her low-key demeanor and dry, deadpan delivery — like Liz Phair meets Lucinda Williams — adds to the real delight of Barnett’s witty words, delicately dissecting ordinary life, lamenting an asthma attack (‘Avant Gardener’) or drolly describing, via a brand new song, the perils of house hunting in the decried Melbourne suburb of Preston. (Kara Manning)

Duologue – Rockwood Music Hall, Tuesday

There’s a distant Thom Yorke echo to Tim Digby-Bell’s worried croon, but Duologue are no Radiohead knockoff. The London band execute an impressive set at the Communion Records showcase, motoring through songs like ‘Underworld’ and ‘Push It’, the winding, yearning six-minute-plus centrepiece of their debut album Song & Dance, with agile precision and assurance. (KM)

Ex-Cult – Death By Audio, Saturday

This is hardcore. A relentless cacophonic juggernaut. But one you want to jump on. You know where it’s going. There’s no surprises from Ex-Cult here – all the usual hardcore tropes are in check and the singer is sensationally angry, but it’s a fun ride nonetheless. However, you might end up vomiting afterwards. And the chances are, come six months time, you’re more likely to remember the puking than the journey. (Shane Galvin)

Folding Legs – Arlene’s Grocery, Thursday

You need to make an impression to stand out amongst 1400 bands and Folding Legs certainly grab our attention from the start – it’s hard to ignore a singer with her head wrapped in muslin and a lit up heart in a box hanging round her neck. Such props are discarded early on yet Folding Legs never settle for the run of the mill. A feature on the NY scene for some while, there are definitely elements of art rock to their alternative guitar rock – not least in the form of Katharina Stenbeck, who moves around the stage like an interpretive dancer – while the band move through in all sorts of twists and turns. A real find. (PU)

Ghost Wave – Judson Memorial Church, Friday

The Auckland, New Zealand band might lean on the past like so many of their psychedelic-leaning compadres, from Temples to Tame Impala, but Ghost Wave‘s hazy, jangling guitar pop, drawn from their album Ages, manages to distinguish itself from the fray. Singer and songwriter Matthew Paul has sleepy appeal as a vocalist, although the recently added tambourine-playing Andy Frost is confusingly placed front and centre like an ersatz Davy Jones, shaking his long blond ringlets but uttering nary a note. (KM)

Ginger and the Ghost – Pianos Upstairs, Friday

The Sydney, Australia pair recently released their debut EP One Type of Dark and onstage Ginger and the Ghost expand their new-age pop with quirky visual excess; singer Missy twirls and sings, leaping around a paper-maché glacier, wearing sequined hot pants and buoyed by what seemed to be 500 yards of marshmallow tulle. Her partner Dan stoically maintains synth bleats, beeps and beats. There’s something charming, if excessive, about the set, but given the duo’s DIY effort (how did the glacier make it through customs?), catchy songs and charm, worth investigating. (KM)

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