If the opening slot is the short stick of the live music world, it’s also, on occasion, the place where surprises happen and gems are discovered — as was the case at Emerald Lounge last Friday. Local solo act E8 électronique (the project of Rebecca Smith-Finlay) opened for Stereospread and Sonen with a short but very sweet showcase of original synthesizer compositions.
Smith-Finlay recently completed her graduate studies in piano performance, but her Emerald Lounge set seemed miles away from the concert hall image that credential conjures. Instead, illuminated balloons floated around the keyboard and the first song launched with the kind of deep bass that shakes the furniture. The soundscape seemed of two minds: organic but also futuristic, stitched together with a jaunty melody.
The next song, a spacy offering with an almost-dance beat built in layers of ascending minor scales and a spooky whisper track. Smith-Finlay interjected her own vocals, more textural than lyrical, adding to the glass house-like sonic strata.
But, even though the lyrics (if they are lyrics; they might be sounds) weren’t decipherable, they still seemed to tell a story. Each of Smith-Finlay’s songs possessed a narrative arc. Each was evocative of a mood. One nodded toward Asian motifs — hints of water and wind chimes — underscored by heavy bass and synth-y drums.
Taking things even farther into that organic / natural world direction, the musician launched into something akin to an electronic pastorale, imbued with a quality of lightness. Girls with hula hoops and tutus passed through the room; day-glow accessories warmed the dark corners and people clung to their drinks at the bar as if drawn like moths to the one spot of semi-brightness. In Smith-Finlay’s song, high notes sparked, flint-like, against the thrumming bass. Those melodic hits seemed to flash into the opaque diapason.
That piece was followed by a swift directional shift: A march or a slowed-down fight song. Think the Chariots of Fire theme, minus the weird white jogging suits. The introduction of a boom-chicka-boom rhythm shifted the storyline ever farther: It could have scored a video game for people who would rather be reading graphic novels. (That’s meant as a complement.) In fact, throughout her set, Smith-Finlay offered up interesting and unusual threads of melodies and instrumental textures that managed to be both experimental and accessible.
So, what could E8 électronique do with the expansive time frame of a headlining spot? Hopefully we’ll get to find out soon.
Image by (sic) Photo.