TVD Live: Korallreven, Young Magic, and Stout Cortez at Black Cat, 3/5

I’m usually pretty skeptical about solo artists who perform on stage with just a laptop accompanied by only vocals. It’s a lot to demand from your audience, assuming that they will remain attentive and that the music will stand alone. I find it creates an awkward tension between audience and performer most of the time.

For me, it results in an exchange of awkward body language. Instead of focusing on the performer, I am overly aware of the constant shift of my arms from the crossed position, or their constant search for my cardigan pockets. I might spend an entire song hooking and then rehooking my thumbs in my jeans belt loops, shifting my weight from one foot to another.

The show started off with a bang with “not awkward” solo act Stout Cortez’s passionate opening performance, but headliner Korallreven really took the show to the next level.  I stupidly flaked on seeing Radio Dept. the last time they came through, so seeing Daniel Tjäder on stage was an extra treat. Like good elecro-pop should be, the Swedish duo Larsson and Tjäder make salient songs with instant likability. But unlike An Album by Korallreven, their live performance is anything but chill, causing bodies to sway and bob way more than I’ve ever seen on a Monday night at the Black Cat.

Joining the duo on stage was a guitarist who also played a live drum kit on some songs, thus filling out the sound and adding to the intensity of the performance. My friend leaned over and commented on how strange it was to hear the lovely “Honey Mine” sung by Tjäder, as the LP track features Victoria Bergsman of the Concretes. It would have been a dream if Bergsman surprised us by hopping on the stage for that song; nevertheless, I didn’t much mind because the track stands alone anyway, but I could understand my friend’s slight dissapointment.

Korallreven’s most raved about song “As Young as Yesterday” was played early on in their set and was surprisingly the least dance-y of all the songs played that evening, “The Truest Faith” being the most “Radio Dept.”-like song on the album and translating similarly live. Korallreven is full of Peter Gabriel’s worldly charm coupled with the dramatic intensity of New Order or Cut Copy, especially the unreleased track they played, which had a very “Blue Monday” feel to it.

Young Magic is the brainchild of Isaac Emmanuel, who, along with singer Melati Malay and drummer Michael Italia, make primal and visceral dream pop. Italia manically bangs the drum machine, Malay’s head is bent as she plays a huge red guitar, and Emmanuel is turning knobs and buttons. Emmanuel describes the process of creating music as “Sometimes you just sink into it for a moment, like dipping your head into a cold stream, and everything comes out naturally in these little bursts.” You can’t help but sink into the magic of their live performance, especially “You with Air,” the threesome’s catchiest and most addictive song.

A performance by a solo artist that can transport someone on a journey through time and space, pontificating on recent life experiences along to a techno beat, is a performance worth paying attention to. Stout Cortez’s “space jams” are otherworldly with pop immediacy, his vocal stylings somewhat similar to indie act Wolf Gang, and are backed by the infectious beats for which Com Truise has been getting recognition.

Quite frankly, Stout Cortez will continue to get mad respect for the jam “Berliner,” which was, as expected, lovely to hear live. I do think it would have been neat if he had a chorus of people singing the backing track to some of his songs, Polyphonic Spree-style, but again, that could be my clouded aversion to solo laptop performances needing more than themselves to keep me transfixed. This is not to say that his tracks didn’t hold the same kind of hugeness that a chorus of live singers might offer. This is why he’s so damn good!

Photos: Alex Lee

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