Friday, October 10, 2008

Brasstronaut @ Criminal Records.

I’ve been lying in bed for nearly two hours, attempting to sleep. This is unhelpful. So, rather than continue to be annoyed by my inability to sleep, I figured I’d get up and do something potentially useful: tell you about the band I saw today.

Criminal Records played host to a Vancouver jazz-pop group called Brasstronaut. They played Pop Montreal last week, and I heard good things about their performance. On Wednesday they were at the Drake for their first ever Toronto show, which also featured two local indie favourites, Invasions and the Two Koreas. Being good, I didn’t go, but decided to hit up the in-store on Thursday to get a sense of what I’d missed.

The foursome—joined here in Toronto by a friend on bass clarinet (I think that's what it was)—offer up soulful, jazz-infused music. They sound like nothing I’ve heard in the indie scene recently, but if I had to explain them to a friend, I’d say they are like a more thoughtful, calmer Will Currie & the Country French. Less pop, more jazz, and with better vocals and a wicked trumpet. But maybe it’s just the prominence of the piano in the songs that makes me think this.

The band played about 45 minutes in the intimate back end of Criminal Records, a small shop on Queen West that you'd miss unless you were looking for it between American Apparel and the new Urban Outfitters. The crowd was sparse at first, but more young indie-hipster music fans filled in as the band played. I really appreciated hearing an indie band make such good, permanent use of non-standard (for indie) instruments. Just an electric upright double-bass, keyboard, trumpet, and drum kit, with some xylophone and other percussion; no guitar or bass, and no rock 'n' roll antics. The recorded tunes on their EP feature some strings, but I gotta say that I prefer the pared down, less jammy live versions. I would happily go see them again, next time they come to Toronto.

(Photo from Brasstronaut's MySpace page, and not from Thursday's in-store.)

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