Live Concert Photography: Communion at Rockwood Music Hall 2/6/18 feat. Cloud Castle Lake Adrian Underhill and Ren with the Mane
Communion is a monthly, carefully curated night of music hosted in small venues across both the European Union and United States featuring local, national and internationally renowned acts performing in rather intimate settings. Interestingly, Rockwood Music Hall has hosted a monthly Communion residency over the past few years that has a number of acts playing on the venue’s three stages, including the Dublin, Ireland-based experimental pop act Cloud Castle Lake, the Vancouver, BC-born, Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter Adrian Underhill and New York-based pop artist Ren with the Mane, among others. Unfortunately, because of a professional obligation involving my day job, I had to leave after Cloud Castle Lake’s set; but check out photos from the first three sets below.
Deriving their name from a Vladimir Nabokov short story about a voyager, who finds a please so beautiful that he wants to spent his life there, before being cruelly dragged back to reality, the Dublin, Ireland-based act Cloud Castle Lake, currently comprised of Daniel McAuley (vocals, synths), Brendan William Jenkinson (guitar, piano), Rory O’Connor (bass), Brendan Doherty (drums), and a rotating cast of collaborators, friends and associates received attention with their 2014 self-released debut EP Dandelion, an effort that found the act juxtaposed dark, despairing lyrics with a euphoric catharsis and soaring post-rock crescendos; however, the band has cited the work of Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders as being major influences on their unique sound and compositional approach. Adding to a growing profile, the band has opened for touring acts such as Glasser, Lisa Hanningan and Ultraisa.
Now, as you may recall, late last year, I wrote about their breathtakingly gorgeous Amnesiac-era Radiohead-like single “Bonfire,” and the cinematic, Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp and Ennio Morricone soundtrack-like “Twins” off the band’s forthcoming Rob Kirwan-produced debut album, both of which prominently feature McAuley’s achingly tender falsetto. Their Communion set earlier this month revealed that their material draws from jazz, pop, soul, indie rock and Irish folk in a seamless — and in an awe-inspiring, transcendent fashion.
Adrian Underhill is a Vancouver, British Columbia-born, Toronto, Ontario-based singer/songwriter, who has a number of stints in indie rock bands in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, before the low-key release of his solo debut EP in 2012; however, sometime after that, Underhill completely revamped his songwriting process, employing keyboards, synths and drum machines, which found him gravitating towards a slinky R&B-inspired pop sound but paired with a simple and very direct, earnest lyricism.
Describing the writing process for his forthcoming album, CU Again, Underhill says “I sat with a keyboard and one drum machine and tried not play much with production ideas. The tunes have a classic, 70s songwriter vibe, even though we ultimately pushed the production into a very different realm. This simple, direct way of songwriting is me at my best.”
The recording sessions for CU Again found the up-and-coming Canadian singer/songwriter collaborating with British electronic production Kindness (also known as Adam Bainbridge), best known for his work with Robyn, Solange and Blood Orange with the renowned producer and Underhill working on electronic elements in Montreal before they went to Los Angeles for a three-day session with a live, funk supergroup that included JOVM mainstay Dam-Funk (drums) Keith Eaddy (bass) and Brandon Coleman (keys). And the end result finds the material being a seamless blend of Kindness’ electronic production with warm, organic instrumentation as you’ll hear on CU Again‘s swooning “Weather,” which pairs a looped and chopped keyboard sample with stuttering and skittering drum programming, arpeggiated synths and Underhill’s plaintive vocals singing lyrics on how time changes people and their moods, like the weather. What makes the song interesting to me is that it walks a careful tightrope between sincerity and playfulness, familiarity and complete strangeness.
Interestingly, Underhill’s Communion set was a much more stripped down affair, which featured a backing vocalist, a drummer and his own accompaniment with keyboards — and unsurprisingly, the Canadian singer/songwriter’s set revealed material that can be simultaneously quirky and earnest.