Popscene @330 Ritch
June 10, 2010
Better than: Listening to the oonce-oonce-oonce of Euro house music blast through your hostel room wall
This is the part of the review where I insist that, while yes, Delorean has steamrolled the blogosphere this year, and yes, Pitchfork did give its album an 8.4 and a Best New Music tag, the Spanish quartet is really much more than just another buzz band. Reasons for this, I'm supposed to explain, include 1) That the members have been playing together as Delorean for a decade and 2) ... well, I'm not sure what else. Let's not bother: Delorean is a buzz band. The reason it's a buzz band is that the album it dropped earlier this year, Subiza, sounds like driving through Costa Brava in a convertible on ecstasy. It sounds like hazy, late-oughts indie pop bolstered by the positive vibes of oonce-oonce-oonce house music: Nonstop rhythms and ribbons of bliss with vocals that never quite take their sunglasses off. If you've ever lost yourself in trancelike bass -- and who hasn't? -- Subiza offers that plus glowing melodies rendered in gleaming synths, glittery guitars and smoothed-out vocals.
Last night, however, Delorean's sound offered little ecstasy, no trancelike bass and only a small chance to lose yourself, although not for the band's lack of trying. From the minute the Barcelonans began building the ecstatic layers of opener "Simple Graces," something sounded very, very wrong. The bass -- that unrelenting, molten core of bass that underpins this band's club-derived sound -- was nowhere to be heard. Now, vocalist/bassist Ekhi Lopetegi played a real Fender bass onstage. The other members of the band twiddled knobs and hit triggers that were intended to make bass happen to 330 Ritch's sweaty mix of hipsters and club kids. We just couldn't hear it. Instead, what we heard was drummer Igor Escudeo's blisteringly dry kit bouncing off the brick wall behind him, fighting with Lopetegi's squinty vocal delivery for our attention. The layers of synths, samples and bass languished low in the mix, and Delorean sounded like a brittle blare.
Lopetegi complained through the entire set about the band's monitor mix, so we're pretty sure whatever happened last night wasn't the band's fault. You could tell that Delorean is used to inciting a positive riot from their audiences, and to some extent it did last night. Those toward the front of 330 Ritch's oddly compartmentalized room writhed, twirled and got down to the music, feeding off the band's energetic presence. (Many in the back looked bored.) Keyboardist Unai Lazcano spearheaded the we're-gonna-get-you-pumped project by bouncing like an gravity-defying rubber ball behind his synth. Lopetegi perched like a flustered bird behind the microphone, looking kinda cutely irritated at some moments, and lost in his music at others.
Delorean's members like to insist that they've evolved past the point of being a conventional band by having added samplers and drum machines to their setup, and by allowing their love for club music to come through in their once rock-derived sound. To some extent that's accurate -- yet they still carry the gear of a straight-up rock band. This shouldn't be a problem in a live situation. When Neon Indian played its beat-heavy music with a live drummer and drum machines at Mezzanine in March, the bass was so thick you could barely breathe. There was no escaping the music. By contrast, the elements that make up Delorean's much-buzzed-about sound could barely be heard last night. Here's hoping they make it back soon -- to another venue -- for a show that will let us hear whether they're worth all the hype.
Personal Bias: Opener Teengirl Fantasy failed to enliven the crowd as much as the house DJ last night. But after Delorean's set confirmed the cardboard-y sound of the venue, I'm not sure it was their fault. The duo had some choice moments during the more minimalist beats later in their set. And one of the two (male) members was wearing short, cut-off shorts with black tights underneath. "Dude, I love your shorts," one crowd member yelled.
By The Way: I ran into an up-and-coming local show promoter last night who gestured around at Popscene's slick setup and flashy crowd and said, "this is exactly what I don't want my shows to be."