As front-runners of a mini dream-pop/ electronic shoegaze renaissance, Brooklyn trioSchool of Seven Bells
specializes in some seriously textured sounds. Narcotized tempos, guitar chords pushed through pedals upon pedals, and echoing vocals all drift in and out to update the sounds of the great ethereal period of the label 4AD.
(Thanks to School of Seven Bells and their few peers, it's safe to let out your inner Victorian post-goth again, as long as he or she can hang with newfangled electronics.)
But when the band arrives in Miami for its show at Grand Central on Saturday, October 16, even they may look downright radio-friendly when compared to their opening act, the Los Angeles-based solo performer known as Active Child.
Similar to his tourmates, Active Child -- born Pat Grossi -- favors a
lush, electronic sound built on the moodiness of the slower strains of
'80s post-punk. Unlike his tourmates, he accomplishes it all by
himself, with some synths, computery stuff ... and his harp.
Proof that some good things do come from compulsory religious participation, Grossi is a former choirboy turned, well, not bad, but a lot more interesting. While his midtempo, gently pulsing tracks would go down quite well with the chillwave kids, what's behind it -- namely, actual trained musical talent -- sets him head and shoulders above the rest of the laptop dream-pop crop.
Thanks to his years spent singing with the Philadelphia Boys' Choir, Grossi boasts a bewitchingly flexible vocal range that he puts to full use. From measure to measure, he can switch from a blackened, Depeche Mode-worthy chant to a soaring, angelic falsetto, and somehow it doesn't sound forced. Then, of course, there's that heavenly harp strumming. (One can only imagine the calories burned as he lugs his setup from gig to gig.)
While this all sounds so very, willfully avant garde, Active Child songs have enough of a pop structure to go down smoothly as pretty music. It's when you pick apart the layers that their complexity is really revealed, which makes his songs so much fun to unpack.
Here are a few free MP3s courtesy of RCRD LBL, but we really suggest you 1) purchase his Curtis Lane EP, which came out this past June and is available through iTunes, and 2) of course, check him out when he opens for School of Seven Bells at Grand Central.
Download, and enjoy the songs, as well as the looks of hipster envy when you tell your friends what you're really into these days is harp-driven choral electronic pop!
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Active Child. With School of Seven Bells. 8 p.m. Saturday, October 16. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $10 in advance from wantickets.com; all ages. 305-377-2277; grandcentralmiami.com
Download: Active Child - "When Your Love is Safe"
Download: Active Child - "Wilderness"