Following in the footsteps of other bedroom artists turned headliners (Toro Y Moi comes to mind), Brooklyn’s Autre Ne Veut — the one-man project of Arthur Ashin — represents the best of the internet’s ability to propel talent onto bigger and bigger stages. Recently tagged with a Best New Music award from Pitchfork for his 2013 LP Anxiety, Autre Ne Veut writes nu-R&B that’s manic and catchy, stylized with layers of retro synths and creatively twisted vocals.
Throughout Monday night’s well-attended show at the Independent, Ashin carried himself with a surprisingly powerful stage presence, a backwards baseball cap adding to his active, youthful appearance. Playing with a live drummer and backing vocalist, Ashin ran through nearly all of Anxiety, opening with the synth-propelled “Play by Play,” which includes all the best of Autre — deep bass, glimmering synths, chattering snare drums, ear-tingling falsettos, and a chorus that will follow you around for at least a night.
Other highlights included “Warning,” in which Autre pushed the highest registers of his falsetto, and the new piano opening for the plaintive love song “World War.” During the show ending performance of “Counting” — the catchiest song Ashin has ever penned and the album’s current single — the crowd started yelling in excitement as Ashin’s impressive vocal presence seemed to send shivers down our collective spine.
Despite touring on the strength of last year’s Turns Turns Turns EP, opening Canadian duo Majical Cloudz played only one song from the EP, opting instead to perform a number of tracks from their forthcoming full length due out on Matador later this year.
Led by vocalist and main songwriter Devon Welsh, Majical Cloudz played a worthy set, accurately reproducing the expressive sparseness and intensity that characterizes their sound. Welsh, who has very much the opposite stage presence to Ashin, stood flat as board for most of the show, staring into the crowd between songs and clutching the microphone to his chest. But what he lacked in style, he made up for in raw intensity — Welsh feels these songs and by the end of the set it was obvious that he can express his pain with an astounding vocal minimalism, relying on subtle turns and slow movements.
When the duo performed “Turns Turns Turns,” Welsh walked slowly back and hid behind the stage curtains. He remained there for most of the song, a voice from behind the curtain, still remarkably powerful even without the spotlight — a place where I might wager he’d like to remain, as not everyone can jump straight from the bedroom to the stage.