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Concert Report: I am the Architect & Kovlo & Joyfalds

img  Tobias

Drinks are cheap, the air smells agreably of Pizza and your concert ticket buys you free admission to the „Electric Ballroom“ party afterwards – the cozy living room mood of the Sputnik Cafe is the perfect escape from the biting cold outside and its promise of a triple bill of Experimental Rock easily beats the prospect of a night in front of the TV. We take a seat on one of the fleecy & fluffy red couches in the far right corner of the somewhat roundly shaped room, sip on our coke and watch the innards of the cafe slowly swell with people. Until the party  officially starts at eleven, the audience will remain reduced to an enthusiastic crowd of about 30 people, familiarly bunched together in front of the podium, but the ambiance is one of expectation nonetheless: Has the time come for these bands to break through?

Italo-Swiss fourpiece Kovlo should know all about the recent surge in relative importance of concerts over studio recordings. For them, the evening is the last of their European tour, which has taken them to clubs in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany. Establishing contacts where there seemed to be none, they have managed to present their music to international audiences on the strength of nothing but a well-maintained MySpace profile and a self-released debut album. If anything, the adrenalin kick of these gigs has only made them even more eager and greedy to spread their message: The long and winding tracks of „I'm so happy on this Boat“ – brimming with suprising arrangements and appearing intricately interlaced rather than complex – are at the heart of their performance tonight and the band delivers them with enthusiasm and dedication.

For most of the time, this translates to a concentrated stage act, with the instrumentalists either tenderly fondling their instruments or intensely leaning into them. The exception is Giona Mattei, who has established himself as a frontman of sorts and delivers unintelligible prose in a combination of beatneck coolness and relentless gruffiness while emitting deep Dub echoes from his supercharged Bass. Especially in the darker passages and thanks to the absence of their Keyboard player, this lends them the appearance of an instrumental HardCore outfit with romantic inclinations. As the set continues, more mellow and lightfilled moments slowly gain in importance, as Kovlo work on defining a sound capable of going the distance without relying on mantric repetition and the typical dynamic swellings. Even though the buildups to some climaxes are somewhat predictable and not every Riff hits the spot, these occasionaly 15-minute long gloomy Post Rock symphonies prove that there is plenty of potential for future development.

Dutch band Joyfalds therefore have anything but an easy job in following up on this performance. Compared to the other two acts, their sound is definitely the odd duck tonight, leaning towards a moody blend of autumnal Indierock, apocalyptic yet melodic Postfolk, acoustic Gothic Pop and long, atmospheric instrumental sections. The band wisely takes their time in getting the balance right between the musicians during the soundcheck phase, with especially the Keyboard's lush, associative textures and the delicate Guitar ornamentations taking centre stage. Vocalist Martinus is remarkably quiet in the mix, all but drowned out by the force of his colleagues and his own Bass, which almost transforms the band into a surreal Post Rock outfit on this occasion.

Song structures are anything but predictable and chord schemes broken and experimental, which lends a depressively floating, otherworldy touch to these otherwhise approachably melodic and uptempo songs. Music for undaunting ears, therefore, which Joyfald seem to thoroughly enjoy and which the audience appreciates in almost static stillness and with utmost attention. Only closer „Twofold“, with its recognisably chunky Leitriff breaks the trance, ending an uneasy performance which nonetheless raises curiosity on how the band will translate their uncompromsing sound to the album format.

After that, the wait for the headliner begins. Since I last saw them as the support act of current Post Rock sensation This Will Destroy You, the band has turned even more determined, writting and recording gritty and emotionally uplifting new material – of which showstopper „Walk in Regret“ is the first and possibly most direct harbinger. The formation takes a lot of time getting the technical aspects of their setup right, fumbling with cables and discussing details for over half an hour, before finally deciding to initiate the celebrations. It turns out to be a smart move, as the sound is transparent, edgey and powerful all at the same time right from the first second, allowing them to take various directions and deliver the full spectrum of their multidirectional approach.

Endowed with a full hour of playing time, the Quintet has been granted an equal chance of proving themselves or of getting lost in the sideways and back alleys of their epic storytelling style. As it turns out, they have gained both in aggression and grooviness, with the combo of Drums and Bass laying a forcefully magnetic foundation for Matthias' anthemic Guitar themes and Jakob's dreamy layers of autumnal ambient washes. Even though the references of their script are clear for anyone to see, there is neither space for puberescent idolatry nor bland imitation here: These are cinematic, epic compositions with sweeping motives and swooning harmonies and the group is ready to deliver them with unashamed passion and the courage to juxtapose different approaches and genres.

Everything sounds bigger and more grandiose tonight, with a sudden and completely unexpected passage of Bass madness almost blowing the audience away. „Silence Silence“, meanwhile, turns into a mesmorising hymn, the live rendition of „Quit“ brings out the progressive edge of the band and aforementioned new piece „Walk in Regret“ makes for an irrestible moment of soulful songwriting. The tension arch they errect is compelling, even though not all element seamlessly connect yet – or maybe they're not supposed to either.

When the last note of the evening has sounded out, the applause is not one of politeness but of true appreciation. What I am the Architect need now is more gigs like this one and a Studio album capable of doing justice to their live energy. Other than that, their time seems to have come.

By Tobias Fischer

Picture  by Susanne Kober

Homepage: I am the Architect at MySpace
Homepage: Kovlo
Homepage: Joyfalds
Homepage: Sputnik Cafe

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