The Toff in Town
To gently parting drapes, sporadic cheers and a smattering of applause Oliver Tank arrives on stage, a single tone lingering in the air. Soon, his heavily processed guitar and echoed vocals stretch over it mellifluously. Loops and samples don't repeat and build the way other delay-pedal-loving artists favour, rather they come and go with a slow-motion compositional intelligence. His Ben Gibbard/James Blake style of serious sweetness manifests as mantra-like lyrics whose meaning shifts as the music behind them swells, disappears and returns, fighting against glitchy beats and sparse deep bass - the structural repercussions of which often drown out the tones themselves. Lyrics like music is like air to me and I just want to help you breathe could act as a manifesto for tonight’s double-bill; the role of music in the life of Youth Lagoon has been well-documented and it seems Tank has a similar need for survivalist emotional expression. The songs themselves are an intoxicating and emotionally unfiltered blend of heavily processed signals and stark, pure intentions. Though most of his sounds are reused in different songs and his repeated bashful proclamations of love are amplified by looks of shy embarrassment at his own candidness that accompany the end of each song, it’s a safe bet that many of tonight’s skinny, immobile and reverent crowd are new converts.
The talking, texting and drinking amongst the crowd – now at a stifling capacity - is transformed into a near-deafening cheer as the curtain parts again, this time to the sight of two shy yet focused guys staring at a guitar and electric piano respectively. With Bobby, taken from his album The Year of Hibernation (as are all of tonight’s songs), Youth Lagoon aka Trevor Powers, sets about casting a spell from which we are only sporadically released. His strange, strained voice pierces the air above our heads, pushing us into silence, and allow the tones of his piano, sparse percussion and the crisp sound of Logan Hyde’s white Jaguar to fill his songs. Cannons follows, as does a brief awkward interlude of conversation about the beauty of Melbourne, the unfortunately heavy shirt he bought from Lost and Found and how this is his first ever show overseas; all things guaranteed to make us even fonder of him. Versions of Montana and Posters show just how well considered the live interpretations of these songs have been. Hyde’s brittle and unaffected sound offsets the heavy processed warmth of Powers’ voice and the presence of his synthesized sounds, all of which replace the organic techniques and atmospheric production of his album. There is something unsettling about the sweet lullabye-esque tones of the electric piano and synthesized glockenspiel played boldly and loudly.
Cheers emerge from the crowd at the opening bars of 17, which has people dancing as much as a sold-out Toff will allow, even when there is no beat. The set-closing July sees the most energetic playing of the night, and it’s a version that leaves us ecstatic. Still, it takes a lot of cheering to bring him out for an encore of Daydream and its cathartic singalong vocalizations send home a very satisfied crowd.