Last Saturday evening I had a bit of a music festival in sleepy, downtown Asheville. Apothecary, is a new arts venue downtown near the YMI Cultural Center that is run by an arts collective including Christian Church, a member of Asheville’s own, top Post-Post-Punk duo Alligator Indian. So I was there! It pays to read your freekly before Monday morning. It had been too long since I had caught AI playing and I saw that they were also featuring a singer on the bill from Sweden by way of Germany, one Molly Nilsson. What’s that? Her music was described in print as “synth pop?” Well, that’s one more reason to drag my aging carcass out for a show, and I’m so glad that I did. Ms. Nilsson is doing some delightful work and if I get to see her again, I expect it will be at The Orange Peel instead of an intimate space like Apothecary, which hosted about 60-70 people in a comfortable, contemplative room. The lighting was so minimal, they could have been using candles. It was all very easy on the eyes even as it rendered non-flash photography moot.
First on the bill were Thai Food. These gents were a duo on laptop and heavily effected guitar with vocals. They reminded me of Fripp and Eno but with nearly abstract vocals. They’re still seedlings as it were, but they’ve been planted with good fertilizer. I’ll be interested to catch them in about a year to see how much they’ve grown. The second band on the bill were Sin Kitty, the only “rock music” band of the night. So they served up actual guitars and drums! They featured a bit of a Paisley Underground feel. They describe themselves as shoegaze meets psychedelic surf and they sported male and female vocals that were definitely of the shoegaze variety, even as the music strove for a more crisp rock form. They were very agreeable but I have to admit, that at age 48, the sight of just one band in a lineup of four who played conventional rock instruments was a sight I thought I’d never see in the places I live. I spent the whole of the 90s listening to retro garage rock/rockabilly/instro surf and other primal rock and roll forms that thrived in Orlando largely for the lack of anything that I liked better…namely, arty synth rock! It just didn’t exist at my local level. Well, it beat grunge, metal and techno, didn’t it?
Next came Alligator Indian. The last time I saw them, they had cut the bass player loose and this time synthesist/vocalist Church had even deep sixed the drums he used to play. Now both members sang and played synths with a drum machine and samples that looked like they were being triggered by an iPad. They are now better than ever, even as they are trading off some of their left-field experimentalism for fatter melodic hooks and rhythms. They called to mind the Crépuscule sound ca. 1982 – perhaps like Nyam Nyam on their “Fate Hate” single. It thrills me that there is a band making this kind of music in my home town, even 30 years too late! Better late than never!
After AI broke down their keyboard stands, Ms. Nilsson, who had been sitting at the window seat watching the show, in between the occasional puff outside, jacked her Mac Book Pro into the PA, tested mike levels for about 30 seconds and was ready to “rock” in about as much time as it took to write this this sentence! Her lush, atmospheric music is like Enya minus the pomposity; salvaging the melodic hooks but dumping the overkill. Ms. Nilsson’s vocals are delightfully sonorous and she gamely avoids sounding excessively girlish, opting instead for a less sepulchral Nico. There’s an overriding melancholy at work, but there’s definitely a light at the end of her tunnel. Maybe even at the middle. Another female singer who is perhaps closer to the mark of comparison is Susan Ottaviano of Book Of Love. But Ms. Nilsson’s music sounds nothing like the nursery rhymes for adults that BOL specialized in.
She has some excellent new material from her “History” album, which I was happy to buy at the merch table following the show. “Hotel Home” is a plaintive ode to an artist’s life in travel and quite frankly “I Hope You Die” is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year! The paradoxical lyrics are a stellar example of a love song that I can really get behind! Her material has a monochrome feel, with a deliberately restricted sonic palette which brings focus on the strong material and singing. I can’t wait to get some of her earlier music but until then, please enjoy the video from 2010’s “Follow The Light” as placed on Vimeo by the clip’s director, Fjodor Donderer, as seen at the end of this post. Why not see Ms. Nilsson perform when she hits your town? She’s offering music full of melody, dignity, and slightly insular melancholy. The next time she’s in your town you’ll be paying a lot more to see her. Here’s her immediate trajectory below.
Molly Nilsson Fall 2012 Tourdates
17 September 2012 | Savannah, GA | The Sparetime
18 September 2012 | Atlanta, GA | 529
19 September 2012 | Miami, FL | Churchill’s Pub
21 September 2012 | Orlando, FL | Will’s Pub
26 September 2012 | Lawrence, KS | SeedCo Studios
27 September 2012 | Kansas City, MO | KAW Collective
29 September 2012 | Minneapolis, MN | First Avenue & the 7th Street Entry
1 October 2012 | Chicago, IL | Empty Bottle
2 October 2012 | Detroit, MI | M.U.G.
3 October 2012 | Lakewood, OH | Mahall’s
5 October 2012 | Toronto, ON | Double Double Land
6 October 2012 | Montreal, QC | La Elastica
11 October 2012 | Vancouver, BC | The Waldorf
13 October 2012 | Seattle, WA | Fantagraphics Bookstore
14 October 2012 | Portland, OR | Rottture
15 October 2012 | San Francisco, CA | Brick and Mortar
18 October 2012 | Costa Mesa, CA | Detroit Bar
19 October 2012 | Los Angeles, CA | Punky Reggae
21 October 2012 | San Diego, CA | Soda Bar
28 October 2012 | NYC, NY | Glasslands
21 November 2012 | Zürich, | Switzerland Zukunft
22 November 2012 | Düdingen, | Switzerland TBA
23 November 2012 | Lausanne, | Switzerland Le Bourg
1 December 2012 | Moscow, Russian Federation | Scandinavian Wave
– 30 –