Angry Robot

Jessy Lanza / Caribou, Live Nov 24 2014

Jessy Lanza looks like she is fourteen. She is slight, short and wearing a short skirt, with a mane of long wavy hair. She is dwarfed by the massive synth in front of her. She nods her head quickly, stoops to tweak the synth or the computer, and then lifts up the mic.

I recall someone’s review of Lanza’s album in which they say her slow jams work well, but the fast songs are duds. The opposite is the case tonight. Unfortunately, she has many more slow jams than fast; her relative immobility makes the slow tempo less effective at getting the crowd into it. But the fast ones really kick. I had actually rated the song “Fuck Diamond” two stars in iTunes, and I make a mental note to raise that to at least three. I make a second mental note that I could dance around with my daughter to this song, provided I tell her that Lanza is singing “fun dad”, not “fuck diamond”.

Lanza’s voice is amazing though; sweet and misty. Her production and palpable love of vintage synths are also great. Plus, did I mention she’s from Hamilton? How awesome is that?

Rating: three stars, would see again.

Lanza has been touring with Caribou for a month or two. It strikes me as Caribou begin playing: if Dan Snaith gave her such an opportunity, he should have gone all the way and given her access to his light show.

An aside about LED lighting. I had been looking into smart bulbs for a pair of lights we have in our living room and have been impressed by the capabilities of these little LED bulbs. Much more light from less power, dimmable, adjustable colour temperature, and controllable from a smartphone app. Sounds like fun! And when we were doing a colour correction session earlier that day, I was speaking to our director of photography about LED lights on film shoots. Big lights on film sets often require big power sources, so you might need a generator or a genny truck, which is massive and expensive. Plus, you have to worry about different colour temperatures; mixing light types can lead to nightmares of different shades of colour that you try vainly to get out in the colour correct. Sure enough, they are starting to use LED lights to great effect.

So when Caribou comes on, and suddenly there is a blasting throbbing temple of light in the air, made out of smoke, supported by pillars of photons, sweeping one way and the next, changing colour, timed to the music, silhouetting the band – I think, yes! LED lights. LET’S DO THIS!

Visually it looks a lot like an iTunes visualizer, except far more badass. (Far badasser, far badderass, far worseass?) Come to think of it, the silhouetted-band look is also reminiscent of mid-2000s iTunes ads. But again, badder-ass.

Dan Snaith himself looks a lot more like a tech mogul than a rock star: balding, white jeans, tight shirt. He could sing developers developers so softly into that mic instead of sun sun sun. He had Lanza back on stage to do the song “Second Chance”, which I have played 22 times in iTunes (make that 23 now, damn), and afterwards the stage lights came up a bit for him to thank her, as this was the last date on the tour and could be the last time they do that song together. We said to each other, “he’s so nice!” He used to be a math professor, and he probably was a very good professor – the sort of professor you could talk to about your problems.

So imagine, then, Mr Rogers popping a couple pills, firing up the smoke machines and the light beams, and taking you on a swirling light-tunnel journey of sound into the deepest corners of your soul. Musically this is some next level shit. Caribou sits somewhere at the intersection of rock, dance and singer-songwriter music. He’s playing with a guitarist, bassist and drummer. He’s singing in his wispy, meek falsetto songs of love. And underneath he is marshalling a tsunami of sound, all the thundering sonics that modern electro-acoustic science can bring to bear upon affairs of the heart.

He is master above all of the rise and fall. Mostly rise, not much fall. Songs start quietly and mount until you think they can’t mount any further and then they mount further and further. It’s present on the album from the first song on, but it’s all the more present live, where he – I should say they, it does seem like his fellow white-outfitted silhouette people have a say in the ups and downs of the songs – where they turn an arpeggio loop that lasts maybe four bars on the album version of “Sun” into a four-minute escalating odyssey. And those damn LED lights and smoke machine make you think you are a giant space robot from the future finally connecting to the Motherdome through your Lightcord.

Or maybe that’s just the drugs talking.

Rating: 10 to the power of 26 Lightcords