A beast. In the wake of the stateside success of Sigur R�s, with their ’99 masterpiece Ágætis Byrjun, the dulcet tones of instrumental pop have become as ubiquitous as the discordant confusion of its aural cousin, noise rock, and it’s usually as forgettable.
The side project of Tristeza guitarist Jimmy LaValle, The Album Leaf largely succeeds where most bands of their ilk fail. While their multi-layered sound remains subdued and dreamy, LaValle retains much of his post-rock sensibility and peppers his dreamlike musings with enough pop hooks to keep the audience engaged. Perhaps this is The Album Leaf’s greatest success, the ability to remain atmospheric while not boring the pants off the alcohol-drenched hipsters bobbing their heads to the post-rock beats and looped field recordings.
Their show last Thursday at the Doug Fir wasn’t spectacular, but it was more or less engaging. The crowd members weren’t any more distracted by their potential coupling than at any show and a sizable group of hipsters clustered around the stage, mesmerized by the earnestness of the musicians and the plethora of instrument changes. The ability of multi-instrumentalists to remain straight-faced while switching between a glockenspiel and a violin is always an impressive trait.
But while the music was dynamic, layered and pleasant, the cornerstone of The Album Leaf’s live set was their remarkable visual accompaniment. Too often multimedia projections are either scattered and irrelevant or overly synchronized to content and rhythm.
The masterfully composed collages of found footage, CGI dream sequences, and photographs that ebbed and flowed behind the band excellently complemented The Album Leaf and contributed a whole new dimension to the show’s experience.
The videos, from three separate projectors, meandered in and out of rhythmic synchronization and constantly fit the mood and tone of the music.
The Album Leaf never reached the energy and profundity of their Icelandic mentors, but they did stand out amongst their ambient pop peers and tantalized the audience with the promise of a bright future.