Sped-Up Music on a Sunday Night

October 12th, 2009

Le Loup – Mercury Lounge – October 11, 2009

Le Loup
Last night at Mercury Lounge, the Washington, D.C.-quintet Le Loup kept the stage very dark, with a stream of smoke from lit incense wafting toward the ceiling. Before the show began, clearly, a mood was being created. Illuminated only by a hazy yellow light, the band opened with “Saddle Mountain,” the first track on their new record, Family. A bit folksy and a bit drone-y, the song cemented the sort of blissed-out, hazy atmosphere that was tangible inside the club.

Lest we settle too comfortably into this mellow Le Loup headspace, bit by bit, the group began to shake us out of it. As the set progressed, singer Sam Simkoff joyfully bounced around the stage. The band added layer upon layer of vocals, spun the tempo into a frenetic pace and punctuated it all with some heavy drumbeats. If you’d come to the show looking for the Le Loup of their haunting 2007 debut album, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly, you would be hard pressed to find them here. Sure, the new songs employed some similar elements—hushed harmonies and a delicate banjo riff here and there—but for the most part, everything had been given the aforementioned treatment: sped-up, tripped out and underscored with some powerful bass.

The band’s final number, “Go East,” was perhaps the most winning synthesis of these differing styles. While they sang harmonies the likes of which Grizzly Bear would envy, a driving, yet restrained beat added a sense of urgency to the song. It was a nice crystallization of Le Loup’s multiple musical personalities. —Alena Kastin