American Analog Set
Her Space Holiday
For me, Texas band American Analog Set put out one of the most affecting records of last year with their Know By Heart. The album’s excellence was doubly surprising to me, since I had never been terribly impressed with the band’s efforts up until that point. Sure, it was pretty stuff, but it didn’t seem to have much more depth than that. However, Know By Heart introduced a much more song-oriented Analog Set, and the conversion was, frankly, stunning. Here were instantly fetching pieces of shimmering pop, like “Punk as Fuck” and “The Postman”, rubbing up against more driving, bass-led songs like “Million Young”, which were simultaneously having tea with Eno-esque ambience, as exhibited in such songs as “We’re Computerizing and We Don’t Need You Anymore”. The whole record was quite stunning, and has been on frequent repeat in my house ever since its release.
So, understandably, I was pretty excited to see them play live (especially since I had missed their last performance for some stupid reason that I can’t recall at the moment). Local band Neo was meant to be opening the show, but they were replaced at the last minute by singer/songwriter Jen Wood. While I was slightly distressed because I’ve been meaning to check out Neo for something like a year now, Jen Wood was just fine. Although I tend to find her performances a bit more interesting when she has a live band behind her, she still has a fine, clear voice, and is a creative guitar player and songwriter.
Next up was boy/girl duo Her Space Holiday, who represent a very interesting facet of the indie rock world. The duo’s principals, Marc Bianchi and Keely Chanteloup, are boyfriend and girlfriend, and virtually all of the band’s songs are written by him about her. It sounds kind of strange, and sometimes it is, but on their latest effort, Manic Expressive, they managed to make it work better than anyone could have predicted. That release found the duo following a similar path that American Analog Set did, in eschewing their earlier longer, more ambient songs for more focused, pop-oriented material.
The last time I saw Her Space Holiday play live, they were opening for Bright Eyes, and was a dreadfully dull experience—all they presented to their audience was a boy and a girl, sitting in chairs in front of laptops, occasionally singing dispassionately into the mics in front of them. Although the music was nice enough, the effect, as a whole, was enough to put one into a coma.
Thankfully, Her Space Holiday seems to have gotten over that hump. For one thing, their new material is much more catchy and insistent than their older, more ambient stuff: at the moment, they resemble nothing more than an indie-rock version of New Order. Bianchi and Chanteloup also, thankfully, saw fit to stand up and move with the music a little bit rather than acting like a couple of mannequins. Although it’s got to be tough for a laptop-based duo to conjure up any kind of convincing stage presence, Her Space Holiday seems to have figured out how to make it work.
Adding some intrigue to Her Space Holiday’s set was the presence of various members of American Analog Set popping onstage and lending a hand here and there. This collaboration is mainly due to the presence of Her Space Holiday on the Analog Set’s latest release, the remix EP Updates. While I can’t say that I was terribly pleased with the results of Her Space Holiday’s monkeying with American Analog Set songs on record, in a live setting, the results were much more satisfying, with American Analog Set frontman Andrew Kenny stepping up to sing his part in HSH’s version of “Aaron and Maria”. Somehow the combination of Kenny’s winsome, boyish vocals and Her Space Holiday’s almost techno-like reworking of the song worked much better live than it did on record.
Soon after this collaboration, Bianchi and Chantaloup vacated the stage, to be replaced by the rest of the tall, skinny boys of American Analog Set. Although they hail from Austin, you’ve probably never seen a less prototypically Texan bunch than these guys. Absolutely nothing in their demeanor or in their music pegs them as hailing from the Lone Star State—if I had to guess, I’d probably guess that they came from Madison, Wisconsin or someplace equally innocuous.
Despite this fact, AmAnSet aquitted themselves admirably this evening, delivering a thoroughly enjoyable set, drawn mainly from Know By Heart, with a few new songs and a few older ones thrown in the mix for variety’s sake. Live, the band is a marvel of space and dynamics. You can hear every single instrument with remarkable clarity, and they all intertwine with each other in a fantastically gorgeous quilt of sound.
In my experience, many bands who ply the quieter side of the rock ‘n’ roll spectrum have a hard time translating their songs from their studio form into a live setting. Said songs may be gorgeous, and just what you’d want to hear after a long day’s work—however, when you’re tired, standing in a crowded, smoky club, watching the band perform, you very well might find your attention starting to wander. However, American Analog Set did not suffer from this problem at all. Although most of their songs are fairly slow and quiet, they nevertheless kept the capacity crowd’s rapt attention from the moment they picked up their instruments to the minute they set them down, at which point, of course, the crowd only screamed for more.
I heard rumors before the show that the Analog Set may be calling it quits fairly soon, due to the fact that singer/guitarist Kenny will soon be entering graduate school. If this is actually the case, it’s quite the bummer, because over the past few years, they have transformed themselves into one of the most unique, ear-grabbing bands on the indie rock horizon, and it will be sad to see them go. In the meantime, go out and buy Know By Heart if you haven’t already, and make the effort to go see the nice boys from Texas when they come to your town. You won’t be disappointed.