Given that Khaela Maricich, one-half of Portland, Oregon’s electro-pop duo the Blow, tends to see sex as essentially a consumer transaction beholden to the cold logic of supply and demand, it’s remarkable that her show at NYU last week was free. The band’s twitchy, postmodern love songs mix personal melodrama with technological alienation and economic necessity—”All the girls, they’re sitting on a pile of gold,” she sang, “and the boys, you know they want it.” In summation: “It’s economic/They need the warmth that we export.” Her consumer-driven view of intimacy makes sense: She tends to write songs about people she desires but can’t have, and that doesn’t just make her feel disempowered and helpless, but also suspicious about what made her want them in the first place. (“Maybe I just want them cause I know they’ll reject me,” she suggested.)
Meanwhile, her musical partner, Jona Bechtolt, cued up the scuttling laptop pop that populates their latest full-length, Paper Television, from the balcony, leaving Maricich alone in the spotlight and turning the show almost into performance art. “This is the silly sax bridge,” she announced when the time came. “No big deal, you dance through it.” And she did, whipping out the Lawnmower, the Sprinkler, the Shovel, the Lasso, the Robot, and the Carlton Banks. Later, as she worried a boy might pawn off her heart for cheap on “Hock It,” she proffered up an imaginary one in her hand, twitching her fingers along with its pulse.
Beneath these boy-girl allegories, though, there’s another drama playing out here, between the human voice and white noise. It’s a classic tale of the individual’s struggle against technology: Even as Bechtolt’s electro-kitsch props up Maricich’s lyrics, it’s so chintzy it calls her honesty into question. Fortunately, that’s exactly what she’s after—Paper Television is more or less the byproduct of that tension. “I still believe in the phrases that we breathed,” she sang, before being drowned out by a storm of squiggles, blips, and snares.