Photos By Katherine Gaines, Words By Kollin Bliss
I hadn’t heard of Au Revoir Simone until Move In Spectrums, the latest release from the Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based, dreampop trio, found its way into my Spotify Suggestions, where it quickly graduated to repeat play. What I discovered was a gloss of perfectly crystallized, old school, synth-pop, rock-candy overlaying a deep, pulsing, warm, synthetic and modern heart. Airy and effervescent melodies waft, glide and slide over and under shimmering shapes created by an expert confectioner, while the delicate yet distinct vocals mix in and twirl together like a lattice of drizzled sugar. Yet, tucked in between the pure-pop-chorded thrusting can also be found introspective, spacy, and occasionally powerful — sometimes even almost elegiac — instrumentals, hinting at a band starting to discover and own their new found depth and maturity.
Having temporarily taken over my music player, I was excited for the opportunity to see the band live and in concert at the U Street Music Hall in Washington, DC. The small and intimate venue with a low stage affords the opportunity for an audience member to feel as if they are right there in the middle of the creative cauldron, almost in the band.
The house lights went dark, and deep blue lighting illuminated the stage. The band walked on, their three synth and sampler stations surrounded by chains of effect units standing blinking and winking like fireflies in space. Each of the girls seemed to embody, in the way they dressed, a different side of the band’s personality: Erika Forster wore loose, flowy pants and a tie, Annie Hart a tight fitting, glittery dress and black tights, and Heather D’Angelo a white, macrame sweater, and a red skirt. All three had long straight hair, cut in bangs — an effect which visually tied together the trio as being part of one band.
The Simones’ song Just Like A Tree is one that calls immediate attention to itself with a strong drum machine when it plays on the album, so it was a good choice to open the show. The big clapping beat pushes you forward and lifts you to the top of a hill where a wistful voice pleads with you to ‘stay away’ — while seeming to beg you to stay.
All three band members share the vocal duties and they work together, expertly creating cadences and harmonies woven as if from thin air. Musically, they go everywhere from sending the starship out on exploratory expeditions into interstellar space – and in doing so, combine hints of the French duo Air with pitch-bending, soaring guitar samples ala My Bloody Valentine – to channeling the perfect 80s/60s beach pop vibe like The Go Go’s on their live performance of “Crazy,” where Annie put aside her electronic instruments and rocked an electric bass guitar through a Fender amp.
Other high points included when Annie and Heather switched keyboards and Heather played the gorgeous sparkly keyboard figure from “Let the Night Win” — one of my favorite tunes on the album, and feels like a waking dream taking place deep under the surface of a bioluminescent plankton-filled ocean; when Annie took off her heels but then stood on her tiptoes in her stockings through the entire song; all of Erika’s ethereal singing; and the disco ball at U Street Music Hall that came alive and gave the last song that ‘best prom of my life’ feel. Closing with a sped-up cover of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You,” the band said good night.
Although I had to say ‘au revoir’ to the Simones tonight, I’m not saying goodbye.