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Darlingside Embrace Four-Part Harmonies at Rough Trade NYC

March 29th, 2018

Darlingside – Rough Trade NYC – March 28, 2018


The power of multiples was on display last night in Williamsburg. Instead of playing just one show, Boston quartet Darlingside decided two would be better and so we found ourselves at a late set at Rough Trade NYC on Wednesday night. Because it was the later show, they announced it would be the “loose” one, and the crowd definitely did their best to lighten the mood with plenty of whoops and call-outs. Still, with the way the band played, sharp and composed, the music felt anything but loose. The group employed multiple permutations of sounds and instruments over a variety of genres and influences to deliver a set that could best be described as harmonious.

Early on, “Eschaton”—off their new album, Extralife—combined violin and guitar with a harrowing synthesizer to create a cool room-filling effect. But it was the vocal harmonies of the group’s four voices that enraptured the audience, almost unnaturally pure, if you didn’t see them singing, engaging as a group around a single microphone, you might not even believe it was real. Those voices echoed a multitude of influences, evoking the past and the present, the Beach Boys, the Postal Service, Sufjan Stevens.

The combinations of instruments worked different moods and feels into the set. “Hold Your Head Up High” pulsed with violin and kick drum into ethereal spaces, while “Harrison Ford” felt light and limber on a mandolin melody and “Orion” was pensive in cello, violin, bass and banjo. While the band stayed loose, the music was tight, instruments and voices locked in like the perfect studio take. This extended even to the lights, the band bringing their own rig. When they sang about “white horses,” the stage was awash in the brightest white, and when they sang about the “yellow sun,” well-timed rays of yellow streamed between their faces. At times, the lights cast patterns on the ceiling, flowers and squiggles, transforming the room into an otherworldly place to match the voices resonating off the walls, a harmonious multiplicity of sight and sound. —A. Stein | @Neddyo