June 05 # Future Islands + Valleys + Plucky Walker # Casa del Popolo
Too many bands in the era of buzz and the blog are taken before their time. The spotlight hits hard and finds a group who has not yet developed, not yet put in the work to find their sound and hone it and make themselves better, and just as quickly they’re gone. Future Islands are not one of those bands.
J Gerrit Welmers, William Cashion and Samuel T Herring have been making music together since 2003, and as Future Islands since 2006, putting in the work. Formed as college friends in Greenville, NC, Future Islands relocated to Baltimore after becoming friends with Dan Deacon, an early and avid supporter of the band. They’ve released a handful of CD-R’s, tapes and limited vinyl releases, and their debut album “Wave Like Home” came out on UK label Upset the Rhythm in 2008. They’ve toured extensively in the US and Europe, including the Baltimore Round Robin tours and opening for and performing in Dan Deacon’s large ensemble.
For their effort, Future Islands have mastered their style, which Rolling Stone describes as, “adding punishing heft to simple pop melodies, making blippy electropop sound oddly confrontational.” Future Islands calls it “Post-Wave,” taking in part from the emotional fragility of New Wave and coupling it with the power and drive of Post-Punk. Their upcoming Thrill Jockey debut LP, “In Evening Air”, will be their first proper and timely US album release.
Future Islands’ music is spearheaded by Welmers, whose layers of synths and drums create the landscape for Cashion’s punching-strum bass guitar, that pulses and fights, creating noise and bliss. Herring, who has been called “one of the most magnetic frontmen in indie rock,” finds his space in between. Carving through the music, at times, with a whispering croon, and at others, with a deathly wail.
Montreal’s Valleys seem like they make music at night. All three members of the band have an extremely shy stage presence, and one almost gets the feeling while watching them that they’re voyeurs at a starry jam session. Thus, Valleys are humbling to watch, playing so succinctly that they give off the type of aura that only a true collective can, working together through an unexpected juxtaposition of chaos and tranquility. Tranquility is an appropriate word, too – at one point all three members of the band played guitars, getting rid of percussion, their respective finger-picking transforming into a cohesive mass of slow sound that led the crowd out into the night.
Joel Herring has been doing work in freestyle ciphers since 1998. The Plucky Walker project marks his attempt to capture the playfulness and divergent rhythms of his improvisations on record. Raw Story blends a vast array of vocal styles with a keen narrative sense, bringing the Plucky Walker biography to life in stark and moving detail. From the New York-inflected chant of “Snowblind,” to the rapid fire West Coast flash of “Escaping into the Pages,” to the Deep South rhythms and melodies of “Syllable Spill,” Raw Story is a love letter to rap music in its purest form.
Playing in numerous solo projects and live bands over the years, Joel has shared the stage with luminaries such as Blackalicious, Themselves, Mr. Lif, MF DOOM, Electronic Rap Machine, Future Islands, Mr. Invisible, Javelin, Al Lover, Sacred Hoop, and countless others. He’s toured from North Carolina to Northern California, and been up and down the east coast several times. As much as he hungers for the stage, Joel’s most at home brewing up a strong batch of Yerba Maté and retreating to the studio to wrestle with the blank page.