Baths and Braids Last Night at Chop Suey

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Baths: Who'd expect such twee singing from Mr. Puppies and facepaint here?
Apparently sometime after I turned in this preview of last night's show, Star Slinger dropped off the opening slot, which is too bad. Replacing him was SF-via-Edmonton's Gobble Gobble. I caught their last couple of songs, and what I saw was on some "Andrew WK goes to the rave"-type shit. Blame Dan Deacon. A pair of LED light rigs flashed rainbow patterns, ridiculous 4/4 beats and triumphalist synths pumped out of the sound system, and a guy hopped up and down and shouted at the surprisingly packed crowd, who, at least in the front, seemed to be totally eating it up, hands in the air and dancing around at just a little before 10 p.m.

Whatever you made of it (not my tab of E, particularly) Gobble Gobble's momentum was pretty well squandered by the nearly hour-long changeover between them and Braids' set. Braids were the odd ones out on this bill anyway, a guitar-and-vocals band amid electronic acts, and one whose slow building, gently pulsing songs don't instantly grab you so much as gradually swell over you. Singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston vocals sounded at times like the ladies of Dirty Projectors'--clean, clear "oh-oh-oh-oh"s doing acrobatic jumps; other times she opened into more of a Bjork-ish growl. Everything they do--long, looping songs; idiosyncratic female vocals--makes me want to like Braids. On paper, they could fill an Electrelane-shaped hole in my heart (pending Electrelane announcing some US reunion dates, that is). In practice, though, nothing really stuck.

Baths came on at almost midnight (a friend said he'd heard the L.A.-based producer had been "stuck in traffic"), saying, "Thanks for sticking around, I know it's late, let's have some fun," and proceeding to rock a still very game, very full crowd. Listening to Baths' recent full-length, Cerulean, it was hard to imagine how/why this guy was supposedly embraced at L.A. bass-and-beats club Low End Theory--sure, there are beats and bass on that album, but it's pretty wispy, airy stuff--headphone music, maybe. Seeing him at the club last night, though, revealed another side or spectrum to Baths' music. The chubby, fresh-faced, mutton-chopped, and bespectacled producer stood behind a mike and a sampler, thumping pads with his thumbs and leaning forward to croon the occasional lyric (about which more in a second). And in this setting, as opposed to on headphones, Baths' beats knocked deep, choppy, and crunching underneath waves of smeared choral samples and aqueous synths, bass rumbling below it all.

Then there were those vocals--nasal, sub-Gibbardian schmaltz about "I'll find the love of my life" and "Things'll get so good." Baths does interesting stuff with vocals when he's sampling or processing them, but he's at his weakest when he's leaning on them to be loud and clear, front and center. Suddenly the crowd made sense, though: Combine Postal Service singing with Glitch Mob beats, and of course you're going to fill a room in Seattle.

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