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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Popular and creative, electronica draws crowds to Chums

Published: November 9, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc.

On Nov. 2, WBRS brought the inimitable Holy F*ck to campus, opened by Bearstronaut in their second appearance at Chum’s. Attendance was middling but filled out by the time Holy F*ck took the stage. Both bands performed some phenomenal electronic music in different styles.

Bearstronaut consists of a quartet of Lowell men who have been together only a short time. Although the band has been making music since 2007, 2011 saw a lineup change. This didn’t affect Bearstronaut’s brand of whimsical synth-pop. Taking influence from a range of bands including, Hot Chip and Talking Heads, early Bearstronaut relied more on their guitars and bass than their electronics, resulting in a more aggressive sound. The band that came to Chum’s, however, saw more of a reliance on synth sounds and keyboards, giving the show a sound that combined New Wave with R&B.

The four members call their style “dance music” but admit that the term is used loosely, at best. “Moniker,” a single off of their most recent album, “Satisfied Violence,” epitomizes this trend, featuring ephemeral sounds and percussion trends that date back to the 80s. Lead singer Dave Martineau’s vocals are down-to-earth, which prevents the band’s overall sound from becoming too abstract or pretentious. The crowd certainly approved, as most people near the front of the stage danced with fervor. Bearstronaut kept them well entertained, joking with the audience and expressing thanks for being able to play at Chum’s again. As they came to the end of their performance, they obliged WBRS and Punk Rock and Roll Club to call them for a show at any time.

After Bearstronaut finished their energetic set, Holy F*ck prepared to mystify the crowd with their unique, percussive electronic rock. Hailing from Toronto, Holy F*ck is the project of Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh, the band’s two keyboard players. Borcherdt, in particular, appears in various other Canadian indie bands and as a solo performer with the moniker, The Remains of Brian Borcherdt. Holy F*ck is well known both in the U.S. and Canada, with their debut album ranking among the top 10 of 2005 in a well-known Montreal culture magazine and their most recent album reaching No. 14 on the Billboard dance charts. They have played everywhere from Coachella to Lollapalooza, with such acts as M.I.A. and Wolf Parade and their music appears in such media as Scott Pilgrim and Breaking Bad.

Holy F*ck achieved this level of fame partly due to their name, but mostly for their desire to create electronic music without the use of any commonplace techniques currently used to make such sounds. Hence, the band relies on toy keyboards, phaser guns and other ephemera such as a 35mm film synchronizer. This was highly evident in their performance as one keyboardist pecked buttons on a console while the other blew into a melodica. The result is a synergy of noise. Holy F*ck is well known by the Brandeis campus, as evidenced by the incredible turnout that the band garnered. The band plays instrumental tunes that are meant to be danced to; their shows are parties, and you are meant to socialize and have fun. The stage was lit from below by strips of lights, casting an electronic glow on the performers and further enhancing the mentality of a party or rave. Through the expression of their sounds, it is clear that they are fully aware of their status as makers of beats. Holy F*ck is not afraid of dissonance-as-noisemaker, as several of their songs can attest. All told, WBRS put on another successful show with a pair of lovely electronic bands.

Bearstronaut’s new EP “Paradice” is preceded by a release party Nov. 14 at T.T. the Bear’s in Cambridge. This Friday and Saturday, Chum’s will host South By South Brandeis, featuring the talents of Callers, Delicate Steve, Plume Giant and Hospitality.