Warpaint, gig review: 'R&B-style rhythms come to the fore on stage'
Thursday 23 January 2014
Few artists attempt to get away with ignoring their signature tune and it shows the respect held for this Los Angeles foursome that they suffer no complaints. After all, the highlight of their debut album, 'Undertow', encapsulated Warpaint's fusion of precise musicality and insouciant charm. With their impeccable cool, though, you do wonder if its non-appearance is down to defiance or less thoughtful whim.
2010's The Fool matched the hype for this all-girl gang so well that even with Haim's arrival from the same city as a more endearingly puppyish proposition, the release this week of their eponymous follow-up already feels like one of the most hotly anticipated records of 2014. Critics of their new minimalist direction complain they have mislaid tunes in favour of formless jams, though the ability to improvise is not necessarily a drawback live.
Especially, that is, when you can rely on a rhythm section as commanding as this one. The deceptively slight Jenny Lee Lindberg lays down basslines as sturdy and buoyant as tractor tyres, while Kiwi ex-pat Stella Mozgawa's drums drop in and out with the impeccable taste of a Timbaland backing track. A striking feature of Warpaint's current album, these R&B-style rhythms come to the fore on stage, when the spaces Mozgawa leaves in 'Hi' and 'Love Is To Die' open up.
The crowd's gentle sway grows more excitable as 'Disco//Very' does what it says on the tin with the well-travelled bunch applying some New York dancefloor sass to their femme-fatale warning, while the even newer 'No Way Out' builds from a stark synth drum courtesy of The xx to a four-four groove. What happens over the top evinces more of LA's smoggy haze, often chopped up by Emily Kokal's spindly, New Order-style guitar lines. Her more analytical vocals vary slightly from Theresa Wayman's dreamily romantic delivery, though with both you get that Californian meditative reserve that means the less immediate 'Biggy' shimmers to little lasting effect.
This is frustrating as their use of distance works with added focus, as on 'Billie Holiday' with its Mazzy Star lilt and sepulchral interpolation of 'My Guy'. Material of this vintage allows Warpaint to stretch themselves, as with the extended set-closer 'Elephant', when Mozgawa constantly reshapes the rhythm in an instrumental that is oddly off-kilter but never in danger of collapse.
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