Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Show review: Korallreven, Young Magic at Schubas, 3/6

By Andrew Hertzberg

(photo credit: Shannon Aliza)
Sweden, you mysterious little country, you. The entire country has roughly the same population as Chicago’s metro area and roughly 17 times as much land. What do the musicians do with all that space? The obvious answer wouldn’t be to make blissed out Balearic pop tunes to listen to on a beach in the Pacific Islands, but artists like the Tough Alliance, jj and Air France have proven otherwise. Newest in the game is Korallreven (“coral reef” in Swedish), a fitting name given Marcus Joons’ place of inspiration was an extended trip Samoa a few years back. The other half of the duo is the Radio Dept.’s keymaestro Daniel Tj√§der, and his brother Niklas helps on tour on drums and guitar.

The band has only been playing shows since December and their debut LP, An Album by Korallreven, was released last November. But they’ve been dropping mixtapes and singles for a while now and they seem to have reached American shores quicker than many of their aforementioned Swedish counterparts (some of whom, lamentably, won’t make it here at all). Opening up the set was "Sa Sa Samoa," a sample-filled, choral-fueled trance, that focused more on pre-recorded bits than the actual performance. I was feeling a little worried that the set might not live up to my unreasonably high hopes for an amazing show, and the small crowd didn’t help (the show was originally slated for Lincoln Hall, but moved to the smaller sister venue).

The set picked up speed though. "Honey Mine" was a reggae-inflected upstroke jam that blurred the line between chill and chaotic. That seems to be Korallreven’s strongest distinction and it became noticeable throughout the set, between the contrasting live and sampled sounds, acoustic and processed percussion. The three-piece was cloaked in darkness save for a projection running in the back, adding to the same effect: volcanoes inter-spliced with crowded highways, slow motion skateboarding and jungle landscape (I found out later that these visuals were done by Jamie Harley, the same artist who did them for Memoryhouse at Schubas last week). Likewise, the colder and monotone vocals of "The Truest Faith" contrasted the overly sunny melody and laid back tempo.

Even with an album only a couple months old, the band played a new track, a bit more upbeat than the rest of the set and had more of a club feel, complete with drops and breakdowns that bounced back up into a highly energized outro. To maintain the dynamic theme, the set closed out with the dreamy "Keep Your Eyes Shut," the repetitive ending combining with the warmer temperatures of the evening to remind us that spring is here, baby. The crowd was small at Schubas last night, but the band is on their way to SXSW with an extensive schedule that will guarantee them not to suffer another venue change their next time through Chicago.

Opening up the show was NYC via Australia trio Young Magic. You can probably decide pretty quickly if this is the band for you, as their immediate point of reference is Animal Collective. It’s hard to write ‘em off that quickly though. Indonesian born Melati Malay lead with commanding vocals and Michael Italia’s pounding drums complimented the repetition. Like, Korallreven, the three piece had a projection in the background; however, it got cut off on their set closer "Night in the Ocean," rather serendipitously I might say. With complete focus on the musicians, you could tell the band had a tight chemistry and plenty of subtle ideas that were only vying for room to breathe. Looking forward to their next time here and more to come.

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