Mouse on Mars at Summit Music Hall, 2/23/13
Tom Murphy RUMTUM at Summit Music Hall
Earlier in the evening, RUMTUM played a set, featuring John Hastings singing, playing guitar and two sets of electronic devices -- which he managed to pull off with an impressive level of confidence and aplomb. At times he would sing while manipulating the electronics with both hands, and then he'd go back into bringing in guitar. Sure, that's a matter of practice, but it does require being able to use your brain in an unconventional way.
Hastings's vocals were reminiscent of that of Travis Egedy from Pictureplane circa Dark Rift. The way he assembled the tracks, especially the electronic bass, had shades J Dilla and Flying Lotus. The guitar work was comprised of intricate yet breezy melodies that showed that this guy isn't just using the instrument to create simple sounds and give an added layer of the physical. Overall the set also recalled what High Places was doing when it transitioned between the early tropical pop sound to what it has done since but far more grounded in experimental hip-hop in the beats, dream pop in the melodies.
Tom Murphy Flashlights at Summit Music Hall
Flashlights had a new live line-up this show. Of course Ethan Converse was still on vocals, but Elliott Baker pitched in on the synth and beats. The set started off with a kind of just synth and R&B inflected vocals song that it looked like the band was using to gauge the levels for when the heavy bass frequencies came in later in the set starting with the dreamlike yet plaintive "New Hampshire."
By the third song in, it looked like some kinks had been worked out, and Converse was able to get back to his usual knack for being caught up in the music and he translated that energy to the audience even through the thick haze of fog that rolled off the stage. Halfway through the set, Flashlights performed a new song that sounded like a sonic translation of sunrise and sunset in the flow of sound.
Second to last, the band performed a song that really conveyed a sense of place near a large body of water -- an impression you got before Converse's lyrics made it clear that the narrative, as it were, was taking place near a lake. Flashlights closed with a song that had the heaviest, most driving bass of the set with ethereal synth melodies that, taken together, had the same kind of otherworldly but grounded quality that heard in pre-Technique period New Order.
Personal Bias: I've been into Mouse on Mars for a handful of years and feel fortunate to see the duo at a small show like this.
Random Detail: Ran into Charles Ballas of Gemini Trajectory and artist Whitney Stephens at the show.
By the Way: Vinyl 12-inches of Flashlights' So Close to Midnight were available at the show.