Here We Go Magic @ Le Poisson Rouge

When: January 17th, 2013 

     Luke Temple, the heart of Here We Go Magic, is a spirited artist who creates mesmerizing psychedelic folk with hints of everything from afrobeat to electronica.  I first got into his stuff in 2009 when Here We Go Magic, his self titled album, was released.  After reading that he'd created it on a four track with a guitar, a tom drum, a synth, and a mic, I was intrigued.  Many tracks on the album were hypnotizing with deep grooves and unique soundscapes that had my brain in a haze.  As someone who has made music independently with limited equipment, his ability to make something so enthralling with so little was impressive.
     Fast forward to the other night.  I hadn't really kept up with HWGM, but saw they were playing and thought, "Oh yeah. I forgot about them. Thursday night? I'm in." Then, thanks to Spotify, I checked out the last two albums, which I hadn't heard.  The first one, Pigeons, from 2010, seemed a bit cleaner and more organized than the debut album.  Still, I liked his playfulness.  Layered loops of swirling guitars and an expanding palette of emotions. The latest, A Different Ship, released in 2012, immediately struck me as aptly named.  It sounded expensive and glossy and different.  Some of the songs really got me, but overall it felt like something was missing.  It struck me that it seemed more digital than analog, to use an overused analogy.  With the exception of a couple songs, it wasn't holding my interest like the other two.  Many tracks started great, but just never seemed to go anywhere.  I wondered how the show would pan out. 

     As they got the first song rolling, I knew I'd made a good call.  Their sound was much more open and engaging than I'd expected.  The grooves seemed deeper.  The layers of sound built beautifully, often reaching noisy climaxes that elicited dancing and screams of "I love you!" from the crowd.  There were many moments that brought to mind Remain In Light, rhythmically.  A couple of times the chugging guitar reminded me of early Dire Straits when Mark Knopfler would get it cooking. Nearly every song had a moment when the band was circled up, communicating with their eyes and subtle head nods, driving the songs further and taking them places never even hinted at by the album versions.  There's something special about seeing a band make music on stage, as opposed to just playing their songs. 

      Researching on the train home I got to the bottom of the HWGM story.  Turns out, their stellar performance at Glastonbury in 2010 caught the attention of Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich.  So much so that Nigel sought them out and asked if he could produce an album of theirs.  Obviously, they took him up on it.  Which album did he produce? Their latest. Where Nigel's clean and polished sound works wonders for Radiohead, it sanded down a bit too much of HWGM's magic.  This band is clearly at their best when not overthinking things, thus the jump to genius when performing live.  That being the case, I'll be seeing them for the second time in the near future.

Want to see some of their videos? Here ya go: