Sunday, March 9, 2008

An Evening of Confectioned Revelry with teletextile

Mmm. I love cake. I love the Cake Shop. The brilliance of bringing together pastries, old vinyl and hard liquor is quite on par with the invention of motion pictures and the Internet. Well, almost.

On Saturday night, the Cake Shop added chamber rock group teletextile to their list of goodies. The band's characteristic lush arrangements and Pamela Martinez's indulgent vocals proved to be a smart addition to the line-up.

To get to the dungeon-dark basement of the Cake Shop, one must descend a steep, concrete stairwell. Inside, the room thumps to a grittier vibe than the cheery pastry and music shop above it. The spare room is dotted haphazardly with seating against one side of the wall and a bar on its opposite. The only lighting comes from the glowing red of the bar with its transmogrified, faux fireplace log sconces, and on the stage, where dozens of white Christmas lights illuminate the band from above, casting weird shadows.

As if playing on those shadows, teletextile opens their set with a hypnotic hum of synths before launching into "Ampm Two." The song is long familiar to me now, but the band plays it enthusiastically -- hungrily, almost, and the deep reverb of bass and drums pulses inside me and I'm hooked. Martinez's live vocals are as crisp and soul-shaking as her production vocals; a too-rare occurance in today's era of studio polish so thick even bad vocals can be transfigured into mediocrity.

"Heartquaker" and "Girl" followed suit, with the version of the former being especially energized and spectacular. Changing it up on the fly, teletextile then banged out a cover of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence." Despite Martinez's claims that she didn't know the keyboard part, nothing seemed out of place musically, and it was a fun way to lighten the atmosphere. Still, it lacked the intense spark of their original stuff, and I would have preferred to hear another original in its place.

The next song more than made up for it, however. "Gesso" was a delightful surprise, as I had not heard it before. Lyrically rich and intriguing, it is probably their most pop-oriented, radio-friendly song. This was the highlight of the show for me, because I wasn't expecting it and because the melody is just so damn enchanting.

As shows at the Cake Shop are apt to be, this was a short one. "Distant Places" closed the set as the sixth and final song. Its steady climb to an eventual eruption of lyrics and sound was a perfect closer to a well-rounded set.

On the whole, none of the songs were black spots, but the Depeche Mode cover was a disappointment simply because I almost always prefer to hear original works before covers. I do realize, however, most people like an upbeat atmosphere during shows -- and the crowd seemed to enjoy it, after all.

teletextile are working on two new songs after a creative explosion ripped through their practice session the other day. They were so new, Martinez said, that they weren't ready for debut Saturday night. Perhaps they will be ready for their next New York show on March 19, at Brooklyn's Trash Bar. Fingers crossed . . .

Sample MP3s:

- Gesso
- Ampm Two

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