Brooklyn chillwave collective Small Black paid a visit to Club Underground at The Echo in Los Angeles last Friday. The band delivered their blend of organized chaos to a packed house of Friday-night musical thrill seekers, rightfully amped after solid sets from unsung heroes of the eve Young Prisms and Class Actress.
Small Black are a thought provoking band. To me they seemed the type of band who’s live show could make or break the way you perceive their vision. After several listens through their New Chain LP, their live experience only seemed to become more relevant to me. I had already fallen in love with the endless overtones which ring throughout “Weird Machines” with its clever melody complementing a simple syncopated rhythm. There was a vision here and I needed to experience it live.
These New Yorkers had a full sound, both bold and ambitious. There was plenty energy, but this was, after all, chillwave… and leave it to any LA crowd to acknowledge that. While listening I’d noticed that like many acts who use an album’s recording to paint a picture, the live experience felt different. This is what I was looking for. Stripped down and raw… what’s the statement? On tape, a layered sound of airy synths echoing to all-hell, melodic vocal buried in, became two live synths, bass and a full drum kit. As were my impressions of the album, moments lacked genuineness; But also like the album, certain musical ideas were translated into significant statements. Next enter the irony of their ‘chillwave’ label, these dudes were a rock band playing on different equipment.
There was among the gathered masses a genuine sense of excitement to see Small Black. Their timely LP and enthusiastic performance says a lot for other bands on the scene. “Camouflage” felt even more reminiscent of an abstract take on The Cure’s “Pictures of You”, and it became clear “Search Party” ordered for dancing. “Weird Machines” remains a standout even with it’s stripped down sound live. It’s a song of true writing substance. Set closer “Photojournalist” was no doubt a pleaser and half the audience had dispersed by the time the band came out for an encore.
Small black had left me with a new perspective on their vision. Which is what I wanted. I’d recalled one of their banterings about between songs. “LA is the most realist shit on the west coast.” Right. Now, where’s that New Chain LP?Small Black – Camouflage