Force Field PR CMJ Showcase | 10.23.08

cmj_force-field_sm.jpgNeedless to say, Force Field PR is definitely doing it.







Piano’s, New York

cmj_force-field.jpgOctober in New York City: The autumn leaves are reaching their colorful peak as toasted shades of apricot and auburn will soon flurry about the crowded streets of this ever-bustling mecca of madness. Equally colorful is the cast of characters crawling about every crevice of Brooklyn and Manhattan at all hours of the night during CMJ, tirelessly talking business while taking in performances from most every blog-hyped band in recent memory.

Being a virgin to this whole CMJ thing, I hadn’t the slightest idea what to expect of the week. I learned very quickly that without your name on a list or a pricey badge in your possession, the average attendee could look forward to a long night of listlessly standing in line at every turn. Lucky for me, I managed to find my way onto the list for the Force Field PR showcase at Piano’s on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Based out of Los Angeles, Force Field has worked with an impressively eclectic array of acts the likes of Dirty Projectors, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Panda Bear, Sebadoh, Beach House; the list goes on and on. Given their roster, I was eagerly anticipating what was sure to be, at the very least, an evening of interesting sounds.

I arrived just after 9 as Bell (Olga, yes Olga Bell) let out the first echoing notes of her set. This Brooklyn beauty plays—pardon the obligatory reference—Björk meets Yorke-style pop with all the elegance of the aforementioned experts. I’d just settled into my first PBR when Bell launched into the aptly applause-laden "Echinea," softly announcing, "This one’s a clapper."

The song casts a spell over listeners with twinkling piano sweeps and light jazzy percussion that eventually explodes alongside a soaring vocal melody. If you listen to one song by Bell, "Echinea" should be it. Well at least start there, inevitably fall in love, and then dive into her self-released, self-titled EP. Live, she definitely nails every bit of it.

Portland, Ore.’s own Au took the stage next. I have to admit I am late catching on to this band, having completely missed out on their self-titled debut. However, their 2008 follow up Verbs has served as a warm welcome to an immensely talented individual. On the album, Luke Wyland creates an opus of swelling vocal harmonies over trembling pianos, tremolo guitars, swoons of pedal steel, and waves of wind instruments. Sound like a lot? Wyland invites almost 30 friends to contribute their talents to the work.

Given the sound described above, I expected to see at least five or six people take the stage to recreate it. I wondered where everyone was going to fit on the venue’s small stage. To my surprise, up walked Luke Wyland, all by his lonesome save for an amazing drummer, John Sielaff, who flailed seemingly nonstop during the set, keeping up with every crescendo.

The set’s highlight for me came four songs in, when Wyland and Sielaff filled the room with the ambient sound of tiny chiming bells and pedal steel guitar. The two did well to communicate every rise and fall in the epic "All My Friends," before bursting into the carnival chaos and tribal yelping of "Are Animals." I was surprised and impressed at Wyland’s ability to recreate so much of Verbs on his own. Well done.

For the 11 o’ clock hour, I split my time between the stages on both levels, catching bits and pieces of sets from caUSE co-MOTION! and PWRFL Power. Again, I’ll admit to not knowing much about either of these bands, yet what I heard from the back of both rooms was far from offensive. I will make note that the bass player from caUSE co-MOTION! should be commended for his chaotic careening in the corner of the stage. Both he and the drummer for Au were probably due for power naps in the van after their much-appreciated energetic performances.

Just before midnight, I made my way back downstairs and crammed into a much more crowded room than I had left to catch a set from heavily hyped, Brooklyn-based garage rockers Crystal Stilts. Earlier on in the week, a certain radio promoter casually asked me, "Can you tell me why anybody cares about that band?" I was hoping that, after seeing their set, I would have an answer for him.

Crystal Stilts floated through their set as though they weren’t even being watched by the ever-evaluative eyes of New Yorkers, a testament to the ice in their veins and one of the only advantages of their I-will-not-acknowledge-you stage aesthetic. While I love their music—their newest effort, "Alight of Night," is drenched in reverb to the point of sounding both completely hollow and altogether huge—I am sorry to say that I was bored by their live set. I stayed in the packed room for four or so songs before claiming claustrophobia and heading upstairs to sit down for a bit.

I watched from above as a herd of seemingly entertained individuals emptied out of the main space, leaving the room bare, save for those of us who planned to hang around to catch the last set of the night from Tobacco, who you may know from his work with Black Moth Super Rainbow. Similar to BMSR, Tobacco uses a lush array of analog accoutrements to produce the sounds found on "Fucked Up Friends," an album that obviously will not be found on the shelves of your local Wal-Mart.

This all-out dance party of a closer began with a completely creeped-out still frame of Lionel Richie displayed in the background, followed up by the equally awkward pelvic thrusts of early ’80s spandex-clad women working out. With the head-nodding rhythm and distorted low-end elasticity of "Truck Sweat," I couldn’t help but slide around the floor. I was happy to breathe the now unpretentious air—the room felt more than a little stuffy during Crystal Stilts—and end my night dancing alongside the drummer from Au, who was nice enough to give me one of his drink tickets; much obliged, kind sir.

Tobacco stood hunched over electronics for the better part of an hour, playing through a great deal of "Fucked Up Friends," totally selling me on the awesome album full of bouncing melodies, fuzzy auto-tuned vocal harmonies, and downright dirty synth explosions. The set was an absolute party and the perfect ending to an overwhelmingly entertaining evening.

Needless to say, Force Field PR is definitely doing it. Music consumers bored with the monotony of now would do well to give their entire roster a once over. My only regret for the night is my inability to be in two places at once, as I’m sure I missed some great acts on the second floor. | Carl Hines

Full Lineup:
Faunts, Bell, caUSE co-MOTION!, Fight Bite, PWRFL Power, Donovan Quinn and the 13th Month, Physics of Meaning, Crystal Stilts, Pity Party, Stars Like Fleas, Tobacco, Au

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