Thursday, October 29, 2009

Le Loup at The Echo (10/28/09)

I'd been looking forward to this show for a long time, ever since last April (2008) to be exact. That was the first time Le Loup played L.A. and I was a new fan who was thrilled by the energy and quirky creativity Sam Simkoff and his band displayed.

The songs off the first album were mighty strange and yet hypnotically enticing. Not unlike Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear, it seems Sam Simkoff first recorded his material all by himself and the need for a band came later, and like Grizzly Bear, he surrounded himself with equally gifted musicians, forming a collaborate effort.

That show was also at The Echo and I think there were seven members of the band then. But however many, it was a celebration of music and tribal beats and dancing. Sam is one of the best dancer/singers I've seen. And when four or so members of the band circle around the second drum set (up front) and bang away, well, it just goes right through you.

The band was quiet for over a year while they worked on their second album, Family, which was released September 22, and what a revelation that was. The band, whose current lineup includes Christian Ervin, Michael Ferguson, Robert Sahm and Jim Thomson, has congealed and is now writing songs that are tightly structured gems with an astonishing array of influences and lyrics that are intelligent and thought-provoking . Nothing, it seems, is off limits.

The first song, "Saddle Mountain" starts off like a Gregorian chant and moves into the rhythm and pattern of Renaissance dance music. Unbelievable. Layering on drums and a variety of percussion, the whole thing suddenly makes you want to dance.

Another song, "Morning Song" begins like a Muslim call to prayer and segues into an African tribal chant, or a jug band, but always the top priority is melody and these song stick in your head like they won't let go. Sometimes the vocal choir effects remind me of Grizzly Bear or even Fleet Foxes, but then banjo picking or a tribal beat starts up and they're in a territory all their own. The music is nothing if not unpredictable, constantly keeping you guessing. I think it's brilliant songwriting.

The whole interior of The Echo just melted away the minute they began as they played many of the best songs from Family and a couple of the most amazing songs from the first CD, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly like "Outside of This Car, the End of the World" and "We Are Gods! We Are Wolves!".

Apart from Sam's vocals occasionally not being loud enough, generally the sound was excellent, especially on the vocal patterns and harmonies when everybody was singing. Using pre-recorded samples for some of the more complex numbers made the band seem larger than they are.

A modest crowd was, nonetheless hugely enthusiastic and demanded an encore, which I was grateful for. I could have listened to them for three hours.


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