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Sunset Rubdown, Elfin Saddle, Witchies

6/20 - Mohawk - Austin, TX

Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer (jagjaguwar)
Elfin Saddle - Ringing for the Begin Again (Constellation)
Witchies - Tour CDR (unsigned)

Sunset Rubdown brought their own support this time, fellow Montreal, Canadians Witchies and Elfin Saddle.

First off, fuck Austin for these early shows that mean that even getting to the club at 8:30 means I missed most of Witchies set, but the three songs I did catch were full of dramatic indie goodness, Chad Jones' voice and guitar are clean and emotive, and Nadia Moss' (sister to A Silver Mt. Zion's Jessica Moss) keys keep everything from sounding same-y. They nail their stated genre of Melodramatic Popular Song, and I'll be first in line for their first release.

Elfin Saddle are an experimental, avant-garde, neo-psych-folk three piece, and that list would usually have me looking for somewhere else to be, quick-like. Instead, Elfin Saddle throw everything at making a set of songs that are head-nod catchy, beautiful, and difficult to ignore. And I do mean everything. Found percussion, tuba, contrabass, accordion, singing saw, banjo, guitars, xylophone, and who-knows-what-else, all crafted into lovely, poppy songs.

Nathan Gage provides the dream of low-end, playing the contrabass both bowed and fingered, tuba, and contributing some background vox. Partners Jordan McKenzie and Emi Honda share duties on everything else, with McKenzie singing in English and Honda in Japanese. Despite the language barrier, Honda's The Ocean manages to be haunting and stunning, living with me days after the show. Handily, her lyrics are translated in the liner notes, and the longing becomes that much clearer. I have a hammer, I'll smash it in, smash it in, smash it in McKenzie pleads on The Hammer Song, an excellent example of what happens when simple, plaintive singing turns into a dancable, nearly anthemic track.

Finally, Sunset Rubdown brought down the house yet again, ripping through most of the excellent new Dragonslayer with a few old favorites for good measure, including a rocking good reworking of Random Spirit Lover's opener, The Mending of the Gown.

Wunderkind Jordan Robson-Cramer makes rhythmic lock-down look easy, whether behind the trap set, or a few tracks on guitar. I can't wait to see what he's got on his own, as long as that doesn't mean leaving Sunset Rubdown. Jane-of-all-trades Camilla Wynne Ingr (formerly of Pony Up!) adds synth, xylophone, and background vocals, with Mark 'nuc' Nicol rounding out the rhythm section, trading between bass and a second kit. Michael Doerksen adds home-made synth and electric guitar skills.

All of this phenomenal musician ship is in service to the songs of Spencer Krug. Krug ranks as one of the greatest talents in rock music today, at once inscrutable and transparent, mundane and trancendent. Filling a musical idea, tapping some collective unconscious, or simply pulling tricks from his sleeve, it all requires and deserves close attention. Crafting rock narratives with shifting points of view and rich metaphor, he brings superb musicianship to each of his acts; from Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, and Swan Lake to the classical instrumental Fifths of Seven. Krug is Serious Talent.

Dragonslayer feels like it has something to prove, even overtly. Their live show reflects this well, as the entire band falls into and all over each single song, even improv-ing through technical difficulties. If anything, they prove that in a just world none of them would need day jobs.

--Ian Quinn

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