There are lots of reasons for two bands to tour with each other. For example, they might have a similar fanbase. Or, they might have a similar sound, and can cater to a single collaborative night of music fairly easily. Or, in the case of Los Angeles pairing Gardens & Villa and De Lux, they might have written their newest album with the same dystopian thoughts stewing in their minds. While the synthesizer may link these two from a distance, it's the motifs that really put them hand in hand with each other on this six date west coast tour leg. In June, De Lux dropped their second LP, Generation, on Innovative Leisure, an album that explores the weird world of modern communication with the backdrop of increasingly intelligent technology creeping up behind. In August, Gardens & Villa released their third LP Music For Dogs on Secretly Canadian, and told the story of how a similar world to that of De Lux has changed their lives and their loves in every way. Where De Lux tackle communication and perception, Gardens tackle culture and disposition, but in both, we see a weird modern world where the givens of yesterday seem to be misplaced among our increasingly complicated world of wires. De Lux supports Gardens into the last of the year for their lengthy touring behind the new record, and Gardens couldn't have picked a better band to finish out with. Together, Gardens & Villa and De Lux put on a fantastic Monday night show, full of startling conclusions and plenty of whimsical charm.De Lux's Sean Guerin and Isaac Franco can transport you like none other. Within a minute of the band's opening, Generation opener "LA Threshold" has Seattle a world away, nearly a thousand miles down the coast in a weird, wacky Hollywoodland where "selfie" is an acceptable form of daily speech for anyone and everyone. The frantic, bombastic sound of the band helps gives the mental picture some skin. De Lux take hints from Talking Heads, Modern Lovers, and LCD Soundsystem, mixing explosive dance music with erratic songwriting and direction. "It All Works All The Time" from the first record, Voyage, takes a tongue in cheek approach to expectation over a melodic, danceable rock track, where Generation's "Simba Simba Simba" goes balearic with the rhythm and ventures fully into a groove realm. But nothing about De Lux causes the listener to become disenchanted. Goofy video game visuals, including classic arcade Star Wars and Super Nintendo The Lion King (for "Simba"), help cushion the heaviness of the disenchanted urban living in the lyrics. The band ends with "Oh Man The Future", their own dystopian take on LCD's "Pow Pow". Sean drops the guitar to dance like a madman and the resulting chaos is well appreciated. The stage definitely needed to cool before it was a safe temperature for Gardens & Villa to keep the night going forward.
Gardens & Villa have seen some serious changes since Seattle last saw them. When they played Barboza last May in support of second LP, Dunes, they were five men strong and living in Santa Barbara. Since then, the band have established themselves in Los Angeles and slimmed down to four in the live setting. The story behind their move is kind of nuts - art commune warehouses and technophobic freak-outs abiding. And yet, it's all only fed a sense of immediacy to the band's sound, both in the studio and on the stage. Gardens are more ferocious than ever, and with their tour in support of Music For Dogs, they've definitely opted for bite over bark, and it's wonderful.
While Chris Lynch plays guitar for solos and shimmer, the slimmed down setup puts the driving force of the band's sound in the capable hands of Shane McKillop and Dustin Ineman. The bass and drum collaboration in Gardens' sound has never been stronger than it is now, so it's a good thing that the both of them put forth some pretty ferocious stuff (see: the bridge on "Maximize Results"). Adam Rasmussen, the band's primary songwriter alongside Lynch, gives texture and fills wherever necessary on the synthesizers, but more so than ever before, the keys have been toned down to more natural, intentional sounds. The result is a strong but effective use of space that the band doesn't back away from - a far cry from the Dunes setup in every way. But the space also makes every taste of real brightness all the more sweet. Gardens' cover of Cleaners From Venus classic "Only A Shadow" was one of these moments, where Chris's reverberated guitars filled The Crocodile with enough sound to great glass. Gardens & Villa continue to pioneer their way through a paradoxical genre, finding time to surprise us along the way. It is truly excellent to see them continue to grow into great songwriters and captivating live musicians.
Gardens & Villa:
Music For Dogs is out now on Secretly Canadian. Generation is out now on Innovative Leisure. Grab both at your local record store on CD or vinyl.
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