Downtown Records brought their fest to the Lower East Side over the weekend. As part of this, 4AD’s inc. and Mexican Summer’s Autre Ne Veut played Pianos on Saturday night. Of all the R&B influenced indie over the past few years, these two groups have been responsible for some of the best. It’s so easy for this kind of music to fail, but these two incorporate such precision and due respect to their influences that it works in both cases.
Playing first, Autre Ne Veut’s enthusiasm and excessive movement on stage showed a man unafraid of judgment. He flipped his hat backwards and dove right in, unleashing a thirty minute set mostly focusing on his latest, 2013’s “Anxiety”. To reference one of his songs, he truly seemed “ego-free” which was refreshing in a world of indie-rock where bands often just linger on stage like their feet are duct-taped to one area. The live drummer played along to the recorded synths and a woman contributed vocals that made the sound way stronger whenever she entered. Hearing leader Arthur Ashin talk about Bobby Brown in all those interviews totally makes sense now; he only wants to be perceived as having the energy of New Edition in the ’80s. The indie aspect is introduced with the hints of paranoia and doubt that went lacking in the confident R&B he often rips.
It’s hard to say whether inc.’s music works best recorded or live. One thing I immediately realized is how well the performance complements the album. Watching the two brothers Andrew and Daniel Aged work with a live drummer and keyboardist made me give a greater appreciation to the album, which already ranked as one of my top in 2013. The xx has done it and The Weeknd has done it, but inc. has done it again. Guitarist Andrew Aged blasts his chorus pedal until it can’t possibly moan any more, getting a guitar tone that sounds unique at least held up to their contemporaries. “Desert Rose (War Prayer)” was played first as if they needed to get the festival crowd on their side from the start. The brothers often harmonized on vocals sounding like Sade constrained to a very slim range. It works for them though. The drummer calmed down by the ending, whether due to tiring himself out with all those fills in the first few songs, or because he realized this kind of music doesn’t really lend itself to overplaying. Imagine Buddy Rich going to town over those last two Talk Talk records, it just doesn’t work like that. They played a thirty minute set highlighting most of “No World”, their latest release on 4AD. I was expecting to see the two brothers hunched over synthesizers and drum machines, and instead got a full band set that allowed for the songs to blossom in new arrangements. Either probably would have pleased me, but in a setting where the former is becoming more and more the norm, it’s nice to see a group try a little harder by going back to basics.