John Talabot — Music Hall of Williamsburg — May 28, 2013


As John Talabot and his sidekick for the evening, Pional, walked out to the long, gadget filled tables set before them at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, the crowd buzzed. Talabot works best when he has another producer working with him, and his fellow Spaniard Pional presented a muse for the headliner. As an electronic musician, Talabot’s flexibility — which channels the breakable pop of Glasser and wub wub bedroom shyness of the xx — led to the success of 2012’s ƒIN and his subsequent popularity. The rise of EDM, house music, and other electronic-based sonic collectives throughout the US certainly didn’t hurt the renowned reputation of the Spanish producer, DJ and musician, but without that, he holds his own against counterparts like Purity Ring or Disclosure.

At Music Hall last night, fleets of blunt smoke clouds filled the room, pulsing toward the ceiling with the same frenzied motion that kept their puffers earthbound–or, well, at least physically. Between the music and the smoke, the room itself seemed to levitate. Maybe this is why we pursue the elegant violence of electronic music after all: to feel weightless, to feel spiritual, ghostly and angelic. We hear ourselves re-imagined in sounds that would never cross our consciousness in the “real world.”

The velvet-thick beats of John Talabot make listeners feel almost immortal. That might be a slight exaggeration, but his music is perfect made for those people who don’t deal with pain or dirt or alarm clocks. From the nearly-eight minute opener off ƒIN, “Depak Ine,” all the way to the final throes of manic dance move rhythms, the crowd echoed every sound Pional and Talabot created with precision.

After a lukewarm reception to Lemonade, the same crowd twerked and twirled to Spanish spaced-out synthesizer-heavy songs. This record may have come out awhile ago, but Pional and Talabot engage with the music like it’s the first time an audience has had the opportunity to get all freaky with the songs. Pional is featured prominently on the record, on both “Destiny” and album closer “So it Will Be Now…” so his accompaniment on tour makes sense. But Talabot is the leader and the star here, which he charmingly illustrated in his mid-set broken English “thank you” speech.

Talabot’s music can feel like a jungle fever for the central nervous system, a blood-thirsty, predatory power. He is hypnotizing, glimmering more than a crystal ball, and his crackling tracks float in and out of what we might define as a “song.” Weirdly, his music sounds like what we imagine the old world is, despite being on the cutting edge of modern technology. It’s like watching a battle take place before your ears–the internet versus Game of Thrones.

The vast spaces of dancing bliss that occur on a Tuesday night at a darkly lit venue in Williamsburg is a reminder that, if anything, life is what you make it. Some kids danced like this show was a warm-up; others grabbed new beers even as Pinal and Talabot wrapped up the show. The worlds of Brooklyn’s nightlife are wild and wonderful, and last night’s late night hours of dancing and community illustrated that live music is not only alive, but can be euphoric–even if the foundation is just based on some pulsing electronic music.

Critical Bias: I thought I didn’t like dancing. I was wrong.

Random Notebook Dump: Talabot’s lack of pretension is so complete and confident that it almost whips back around into pretense.

Overheard: “There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a corner when you’re trying to just dance!”