White Poppy debuts new line-up at free Lido show

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Vancouver “psych pub” the Lido capped off its recent string of free shows last Monday with the 24th installment of the Quiet City “deep listening” series. These intimate events feature artists who focus on exploring electronics-based sounds. Monday’s performance marked both White Poppy’s European tour kick-off as well as the tape release of her second album Natural Phenomena. (The original vinyl edition came out last year.)

Many artists of opener Strangling Fruit‘s ilk tend to play amorphous, unfamiliar material live, possibly music that needs work before ending up on future releases. Perhaps those artists play new material to keep things fresh, as much for themselves as for their audiences who are usually a select group of regulars.

So I was thrilled – even comforted – that not only did Strangling Fruit’s music take definite forms, but I recognized the songs too. I was too far away to see him, Amos Hertzman, play, but I was content taking in the blissful live beats of songs including “Raft Without Paddle” minus visual distractions. The most important thing is that one hears and feels Strangling Fruit’s music live.

The Lido’s main seating area was cleared of tables, but the chairs remained, facing the stage. A degree of physical comfort is essential for the “deep listening” experience Quiet City advocates.

A degree of physical comfort is essential for the “deep listening” experience Quiet City advocates.

The normally solo White Poppy, real name Crystal Dorval, ultimately failed to get a new band together in time for last year’s Levitation Vancouver. But at her kick-off/tape release, she was finally able to debut her new configuration, a line-up that will also accompany her on her European tryst.

When I hear “band,” I instinctively think “live drumming.” So I was slightly underwhelmed when only a bassist and a synth player followed Dorval onstage. Bass and synthesizer, to my ears, often blend into washes of effects-laden drone with too much ease, a disservice to the respective players. But each of the auxiliary musicians added another dimension to Dorval’s blankets of sound which can often come off flat or uneven by their backtracked nature, like trying to prop up a tent with only one stake.

The glitchy, grainy video effects on the live footage of the band broadcasted behind the band, a regular feature at the Lido, looked appropriate given White Poppy’s colourful psychedelia. (The vibe is never as consistent when bands rock out in front of the same visuals.)

The Lido was Quiet City’s most conventional setting yet to my knowledge. Thus, this particular show might not have been most representative of the series’ atmosphere or overall ethos. But I imagine that musically, White Poppy’s European tour kick-off/tape release was more than adequate as an introduction to Quiet City. Hopefully, upon returning from their overseas excursion, White Poppy will treat Vancouver to another performance sounding even more practiced and robust. Free or not, the new incarnation of White Poppy is not to be missed for sound-lovers seeking to get lost.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu

Contributor