The Evolution of Tunng

November 12th, 2010

Tunng- Mercury Lounge – November 11, 2010

Tunng began their tour in front of a packed house last night at Mercury Lounge. The band, based in the UK, last made an appearance in New York City more than three years ago in support of their third album, Good Arrows. A lot has changed since then. Founder Sam Genders, never having been a fan of performing live, has since stepped aside to allow Becky Jacobs and Mike Lindsay to take more of a role in their shows and latest album, …And Then We Saw Land. From the beginning, the band’s unique way of combining organic instrumentation with the exaggerated accidents of malfunctioning electronics actually earned them their own genre—folktronica.

The songs basically originate from Lindsay’s picked acoustic melodies, backed by Martin Smith’s extensive unconventional percussion section, which mostly hangs on a clothesline between two high-hat stands. The sparse, glitchy electronics are still present in their latest material, but the group has inevitably evolved beyond the straightforward contradiction of sound, and the tracks are headed in a decidedly pop direction, including the huge-sounding vocal harmonies from Jacobs and Lindsay. Most of the new album was represented, but even classics like “Tale from Black” and “Bullets” were given heightened reinterpretations.

Their laptop folk is technical to create, but Tunng’s members still find the time to enjoy themselves: Jacobs stomped across the stage, playing melodica and gesturing for the crowd to join. Lindsay even switched to an electric guitar and managed to put on giant sunglasses for an extended finger-tapping ’80s metal jam over the Casio beats. The variety of rhythm and melody they conjured out of a simple acoustic guitar-track foundation is impressive. It seemed to ground the eccentricities of their live instrumentation and keep Tunng in their own uncharted territory. —Jason Dean