Brooklyn indie synth rock band Small Black stopped by Seattle this past weekend in support of their great new record Limits of Desire (you can grab the lead single “Free At Dawn” from our Song of the Day podcast here). With Limits of Desire, Small Black grow the fuzzy enveloped psychedelia of their well-loved 2010 LP New Chain into an expansive, emotionally engrossing world. As we witnessed Saturday, with it comes a new chapter in Small Black’s live show, shooting towards the sunrise on the horizon more than dancing in a small club. But for what its worth, Small Black made Barboza feel like an arena show and brought their massive new sound at its fullest for an excellent show. Together with Captured Tracks act Heavenly Beat, Small Black and friends gave us a wonderfully warm, danceable night.
Just last year, Heavenly Beat was still a one man show. Beach Fossils’ bassist John Pena has been making music solo as Heavenly Beat for a couple years. Blending electronic drums with clever guitar and bass interplay, his airy sound makes for a great addition to Captured Tracks’ stellar roster. Live, John brought along two buddies (Christian and Derek) to take a bit of focus off the backing track and more on the front of the stage. Heavenly Beat’s live show is still cutting its teeth - Pena expressed a bit of frustration up front. But once the three got into a groove, the crowds packed in and dancing began. Heavenly Beat opened the night up well with a chilled out, harmony heavy set that made more than a few curious to check out Pena’s material after the show.
As Small Black entered, the lights went down almost completely and drummer Jeff Curtin queued up the track for New Chain single “Photojournalist”. While the spacey synth was still there, the hazy atmosphere was gone. Josh Kolenik’s vocals weren’t buried behind reverb and doublers. Rather, much more akin to the Limits of Desire sound, the track had a forward momentum that it never had before, making it a brand new experience for fans that had heard the track dozens of times. Much more instrumentally driven and powerful, it was immediately evident that this was Small Black 2.0 - all of the quirks and small genius of the old, but with a much more mature, apparent presence than that of their past selves. New tunes like “No Stranger” and “Free At Dawn” were gorgeous live, bringing all the danceable energy of the record to massive arena-worthy presence reminiscent of golden age 80s U2. While they were almost entirely business on stage, Small Black brought it Saturday night and made a perfect picture of what they intend their next chapter to look like.
Check out the new Small Black record Limits of Desire, out now on Jagjaguwar Records.