Wax Tailor is a French producer who melds together a wide variety of genres such as downtempo, electronic, trip hop, electro-swing, and turntablism. Building upon a foundation of layered samples, live instrumentation, and original vocals, Wax Tailor creates cinematic soundscapes where songs smoothly transition one into the next, creating cohesive albums with a natural flow. From all the obscure samples, it’s obvious that he’s a bit of an obsessive when it comes to vinyl, and it’s fascinating how he reinterprets these dusty old sounds into something new and entirely different. On a Wax Tailor album, you’re as likely to hear some old-school DJ scratches as you are orchestral strings, or the delicate notes of a flute, sometimes even on the same song.
His latest album, Dusty Rainbow From The Dark, was nominated at the 2013 Victoires de la Musique for Best Electronic Album, which is like the French version of the Grammys. It’s a concept album that tells the story of a young boy’s discovery of the power of music, with a deep voice providing snippets of narrative interwoven between songs, giving the album an almost storybook feel.
DJ Spry Bry was a solid opener, but it wasn’t until 10:15 that the lights dimmed and the main show began with the opening notes of “Exordium”, and the narrator’s booming British baritone…
“There once was a boy who lived in a house with his mother…”
After rocking the intro, Wax Tailor introduced himself, his guitarist and his cellist. He apologized to the crowd because the band was missing their flute player, who couldn’t make it, so he promised that they’d make up for it by giving the show 300%, and they were off to a great start.
Charlotte Savary, a female vocalist and frequent collaborator, joined in for a rendition of “Dusty Rainbow”. It’s a moody track, and with her wispy vocals, she gives the song a vibe similar to trip hop veterans Portishead. A nice surprise was when rapper Mattic jumped onstage to kick some sick lyrics on songs like “The Sound” and “Fireflies”. I actually got a chance to talk to Mattic after the show about hip hop and how lyricism doesn’t seem as important as it used to be. But it was nice to see that he was doing his part to bring it back.
The majority of the set focused on Dusty Rainbow From The Dark, although Wax Tailor did take the time to do older favourites such as “Seize the Day” and “Fireflies”, the latter being a personal favourite of mine from a previous album.
Shockingly, this was his first time in the city; Vancouver was very welcoming. Hearing French that night was also quite common, although I barely understood any of it despite my years of high school French. Ahh… C’est la vie.
One of the strongest parts of the show was how well the visuals complemented the music, following the narrative and really bringing to life the pages of the story. With sequences that ranged from live action, to claymation, to black and white sketch drawings, it was an eclectic mix that was at times psychedelic and surreal. While making the album, Wax Tailor actually collaborated with a group of videographers to come up with videos for all the songs to serve as a visual backdrop. It reminded me of the Gorillaz, in a good way.
As the show drew to a close Wax Tailor turned the tables on all of us wannabe camera-phone photogs by taking a panoramic picture of the crowd on his own phone. I guess Vancouver really was looking good that night. Wax Tailor and his band delivered on their promise to give 300%, as pretty much everyone was on their feet, dancing and cheering along all night. The stage setup at The Rickshaw was also well done as you didn’t have to strain your eyes or stand on your toes just to get a glimpse of the artists. As the crowd filed out, my friend, who had never heard of Wax Tailor before the concert, couldn’t shut up about how awesome it was. I think that’s a sign of a good show.