Small Black played the Media Club back in April with Washed Out, just off the release of their five song debut EP. They now have a full lengh called New Chain, and I was thrilled to see the band coming back to the Media Club so soon after seeing them last.
Opener was Young Prisms, starting well after 10 in a chilled-out Media Club last night, Local Natives playing in the background. Young Prisms was, in a word, noisy. Playing lo-fi shoegaze, something in their work strikes a familiar chord, but I can’t quite place it. A more energetic My Bloody Valentine, perhaps, or a less energetic No Age or Times New Viking. Band members cycled on and off the stage, layering drawn out vocals with driving, hazy guitar work, dripping with echo and reverb.
Young Prisms are from the San Francisco area, and you could almost hear the music filtered through sun and salt drenched air. While here in Vancouver, in the cold November air and with the coming rain, Young Prisms guitars became something you could almost curl up and fall asleep to, If you don’t go deaf first. The Media Club is a small, small low room which gets very, very loud. As a side note, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen was the Thermals playing the Media Club, but it actually hurt near the end of the set, and my ears were ringing for days. Lesson learned: this time I came with ear plugs.
Next up was Class Actress, 80‘s synth dance sounds behind the singing of Elizabeth Harper. Elizabeth reminded me of Emily Haines from Metric, if not in looks then certainly in attitude. A more sultry Emily, a glamorous La Roux. If you’re a fan of La Roux, in fact, you will probably enjoy the stripped down electro dance of Class Actress. It wasn’t my style, but give her a bigger production budget, and I think Class Actress could become a force to be reckoned with.
Small Black’s New Chain hasn’t captured the hearts of indie fans as much as the EP, but the secret is in the live show. The Brooklyn four-piece injected electric energy into the album material, which while not sleepy, is certainly more controlled and toned down. I couldn’t help but grin at the slam of the bass beat in my chest (and I couldn’t stop staring at keyboardist Ryan Heyner’s tiger t-shirt). The songs took on an energetic, danceable beat, and the room responded in kind. The band played through choice tracks off New Chain, as well as the favourites from the EP, and gave each song a new spin. I missed the ear-piercing treble guitar from Weird Machines, but the new bass lines definitely made me move.
Despicable Dogs, from the EP, was the highlight song of the show and the crowd favourite. There were no misses, either. Encore song Photojournalist, the first single from New Chain, was a great cap to the evening, dreamy and setting a lasting mood for the ride home. It looks like even with a four-piece lineup rather than the five of last show, Small Black have stepped up their live game.
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