Jagwar Ma Make a Great First Impression

October 1st, 2013

Jagwar Ma – Mercury Lounge – September 30, 2013

If it’s true what they say about first impressions, then Australia’s Jagwar Ma have a pretty bright future. In their first ever gig in the USA, a sold-out, early set Monday night dance party at Mercury Lounge, the Aussie duo of Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield (rounded out to a trio with a bass player) did plenty to impress with songs off their debut, Howlin’. Their sound is a seamless fusion of psych rock and electronica, half Tame Impala, half LCD Soundsystem and, live, the music explored both genres equally: fuzzy, tripped-out swirls of guitar and synthesizer overlaid perfectly on supergroovy preprogrammed beats.

The set opened with Ma synthesizing some electronic magic alone onstage, the audience starting to buzz in anticipation before they began their opening track, “What Love,” with vertical-stripe basslines and Winterfield layering his vocals with a multitude of reverberating effects. Working almost straight through the album, the pair maintained the spirit of their songs while adding a live-remix feel: space-rock excursions and fractal vocal jams pushed the material to the edge. For all its brain candy, this was still music to dance to, and despite the early workday hour, those in attendance did their best to move to the beats. After all, this was Jagwar Ma’s first show in America, and we only had one shot at a first impression. —A. Stein

(Jagwar Ma play The Bowery Ballroom on 12/3.)