Wednesday, February 24, 2010

El Perro Del Mar, Taken By Trees @ The Mod Club, Toronto (February 21, 2010)

El Perro Del Mar @ The Mod Club: photo by Michael Ligon
  El Perro Del Mar: photo by Michael Ligon

It was a female Swedish double bill which took over The Mod Club in Toronto this past Sunday with Taken By Trees and El Perro Del Mar. Having not heard the most recent material from both artists - Taken By Trees (the solo project of Victoria Bergsman ex of The Concretes) whose most recent album is 2009's "East of Eden" and El Perro Del Mar's mini-album "Love Is Not Pop" also released in 2009 - the unexpected diversion from their past sonic pop palettes took me off guard at first but in the end it was refreshing. In retrospect I'm more compelled now to want to listen to their respective albums if only for their uniqueness and sense of adventurism, both opener and headliner utilizing rhthym and bass (and in the case of Taken By Trees some world music influences) much more strongly than I'd ever anticipated.

During her days with the more conventional indiepop-based band The Concretes, Victoria Bergman's vocals were of a nature, to put it mildly, non-descript, so Taken By Tree's most recent album's dressings in rhythm and world music instrumentation are intriguing. Such world music influences from what I've read may have been a product of her recording her most recent album in Pakistan. She manages to do the world music influences justice at the same her pop sensibilities still, for the most part intact. Victoria does not have the most engaging stage presence, although she did ask the audience for a lighter which an audience member graciously lent her so that she could light some incense laid out on the stage in front of her. The bottom-end of their live set was particularly strong with some good distinctive drumming, and heavy bass grooves.

I can't think of anyone in recent in recent memory who's gone through a transformation both physically and musically from the first time I'd seen them live to seing them live currently as El Perro Del Mar has. El Perro Del Mar's Sarah Assbring has transformed herself from a modest, twee-folk-pop chanteuse (as I'd seen her back at the same venue in March 2007) and has now grown out her hair to lengthier, blonder(?) strands, with a slightly more glammed up look and striving towards a more extroverted rhythmic pop approach - think Cocteau Twins filtered through "Avalon"-era Roxy Music and fitted with a rhythmic step. Sarah was just so much more emotive on stage this time around, swaying and dancing for most of the set, when she wasn't playing acoustic guitar. With a song like "Heavenly Arms" her physical gestures were a very literal expression of the song title as Sarah outstretched her arms to the audience and swayed for most of the song, even persuading a select few members of the audience to double-clap on beat. Another highlight was her much applauded cover of The xx's "Shelter", a generally favourable cover adding some urgency to the song with a faster tempo and a solid drum beat although on the downside perhaps loosing some of the original's tension. I should note that Sarah's backing band was 3/4 of Victoria's band, apparently a very efficient way for an opener and headliner to tour(although technically, I believe this was more of co-headlining tour). I found the guitarist during El Perro Del Mar's set to be particularly distinctive alternating between strums, subtle riffing and sinewy guitar lines, giving the songs a very good texture. Although, as rhythmic as both Taken By Trees' and El Perro Del Mar's set were, it was still a relatively mellow vibe, the not-quite-sold-out crowd only really expressing moments of enthusiasm between songs. Mellow, yes, but with a dose of refreshingness, it was damn near perfect for a Sunday night.

Melody at chartattack, Bob at It's Not The Band I Hate..., Paul at The Panic Manual, Scott at Exclaim, and Frank at Chromewaves have reviews of the show. aNewCanadian has a 5 min 35 sec video clip from the show.

Photos: El Perro Del Mar, Taken By Trees @ The Mod Club, Toronto (February 21, 2010)
MySpace: Taken By Trees
MySpace: El Perro Del Mar

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