Lucid Culture


Quiet Drama: the Quavers and the Snow at Pete’s Candy Store 9/12/07

We had absolutely no intention to see the Quavers. After all, their name begins with a Q. Hurry, how many good bands whose names begin with Q can you name? Umm…Quicksilver Messenger Service did a great live album, and about half of a studio one…then there was that band Quarterflash that had a couple of catchy radio hits in the early 80s…and of course, there’s that band that did the song you hear at every sporting event. But they sucked.


Half of the Quavers’ stuff sounds exactly like Melomane and the other half sounds like Kings County Queens. Which are two very good things. Their orchestrated art-rock is tuneful, haunting and sometimes absolutely hypnotic; their country stuff features soft, gentle male/female harmonies singing pretty, swaying country melodies. Halfway through their weekly Wednesday residency here this month, they didn’t have much of a crowd in the house (residencies will kill your draw), but they will be very popular. You heard it here first.


The Quavers build their songs by laying down a succession of loops. It takes excellent musicianship to be able to pull this off: you have to have split-second timing and know your part exactly, because that’s what the loop will be playing back to you over and over again until you turn it off. There are just three people in this band, the male singer on guitar, the female singer on violin, accompanied by a multi-instrumentalist alternating between vibes, trumpet and lapsteel. With all the loops going, they sound like they have a whole orchestra behind them. A lot of their songs are sweepingly beautiful. They have a political awareness as well as a fixation with shipwrecks – or at least sunken artifacts. One of their best songs was called The Sea Won’t Take Long, a brooding, 6/8 epic. Their country stuff was more lighthearted, including a very funny tune about a one-night stand called Snack (as in “you were just a snack”). Their lyrics are well thought-out, and the melodies are catchy and come around again and again (you have to have a simple underlying pattern if you’re going to add layers and layers of loops on top of it). You should see this band sometime.


The Snow are a Melomane side project. Side projects usually suck: Gorillaz, anyone? How about those awesome Traveling Wilburys? It’s not clear why the Snow even exists at all, since they sound exactly like Melomane. Maybe frontman/guitarist Pierre de Gaillande can’t get his regular band together every time he wants to play, so he assembled this crew, who are every bit as good as his main project, blending smartly crafted, noir 60s inflected pop songs with soaring, majestic art-rock epics. They opened with an artsy pop song showcasing the talents of their clarinetist, along with a good upright bass solo. They also did a couple of slightly oldtimey songs Gaillande wrote for a documentary on Dr. Bronner’s Soap, as well as a surprisingly captivating number about a romance between an octopus and a starfish, “our only math-rock song,” as keyboardist/vocalist Hilary Downes (who provided acerbically funny commentary all night) told the crowd. Their best songs were a swinging, understatedly sultry jazz-inflected number written by Downes, and their eponymous signature song. With Melomane, Gaillande is in the midst of writing a “disaster song cycle,” as he put it recently, and the songs in it are the strongest he’s ever done. This strange, crescendoing tune about the blizzard to literally end all blizzards fits right in. Add the Snow to the shortlist of the half-dozen or so best bands in New York, even if they sound identical to one of the others. 

September 14, 2007 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] at Barbes, 8 PM. Sultry jazz/pop chanteuse Sasha Dobson follows on the bill; Melomane spinoff The Snow (who sound pretty much the same as Melomane except with more harmonies and maybe a little more of a […]

    Pingback by NYC Live Music Calendar - End of Dec 07 and All of Jan 08 « Lucid Culture | December 29, 2007 | Reply

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