Perfume Tree vocalist


Perfume Tree
with The Electrosonics
The Starfish Room
Vancouver, B.C.
Thursday, February 5, 1998

Review by Darren Gawle
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

Clare Kenny is haunted by eyes. It's fifteen minutes to showtime, and she's starting to get a little stressed. She tries to find the beer tickets. She tries to find the rest of her band, the Electrosonics. She ponders Perfume Tree's attempt to 'choreograph' the Electrosonics' performance. And then, in front of the stage, in place of the usual disco ball, she's confronted by the photo-mobile. It's a the Electrosonics, gazing at their shoes zoetrope-like contraption which projects old photo portraits onto the walls. Old eyes stare blankly at Clare. In Victorian times, the London police would take pictures of the eyes of Jack the Ripper's victims in the belief that their killer's image would be burned into their retinae. Old eyes. Clare's had enough of this.

Electronics keyboarist Clare's father (western Canada's number one Jacques Cousteau lookalike) has driven all the way from Alberta to see her play; apparently he was getting a little bored. But the Electrosonics don't disappoint. The set is tight, and with a guest appearance from Wendy Young (ex-Kaneva) on backing vocals and flute, the Electrosonics' sound gets an extra layer of warmth and richness. The sound retains the Sinead O'Connor singing for Slowdive element it always has, but it's a welcome thing to hear the keyboards becoming better integrated into the overall sound and the songwriting taking on more complex, suite-like arrangements. In other words, the Electrosonics are doing what all good bands should -- evolving and improving by challenging their own abilities.

Speaking of evolution, what the hell happened to Perfume Tree? As if taking well over two years off from gracing the local music scene with their style of loopy dub rhythms weren't enough, Perfume Tree has returned after an overhaul so complete it's almost shocking.

Perfume Tree vocalist Those of us familiar with the Perfume Tree of Dust and The Sun's Running Out will be familiar, at least, with Jane's disassociated, spectral crooning and dub basslines. Other than that, the band has progressed by a quantum leap. In the old days (i.e. 1994), Perfume Tree were intriguing enough live because of what they were hinting at -- hypnotic rhythms, multi-media visuals. They were ultimately crippled, though, by the generally half-assed nature of the results. The bass player would invariably look too stoned to live and the sound they were trying to achieve required more gear than they could evidently afford. Besides, two television sets on either side of the stage at Graceland does not an effective visual presentation make.

Perfume Tree Fast forward to 1998, and Perfume Tree have almost got everything right. Signed to World Domination, they sound a lot more electronic by now -- and the sound is integrated, with evidence of attention to detail (as opposed to the sort of 'automatic songwriting' that afflicts more than a few electronic projects) It does also seem, though, that the evolutionary process that Perfume Tree is undergoing is far from complete. The first half of the set consists of new material which sounds like the logical progression their sound should be taking, while the last half of the set begins to sound like older material with breakbeat drumming spliced onto it. Nothing wrong with it as such, just that it seems less polished.

The visuals show the most improvement, with a bank of televisions mounted above the band flashing out channel surfing from a cathode-ray Perfume Tree hell. Nice to see they're recycling the old footage of the invasion of Sicily in 1943 that they used back in 1994, too. Of course, the three of them just stand there as they always have; but, with the multi-media aspect of the show being a lot more fulfilling than in the past, you're hard pressed to really notice the general listlessness of the band, let alone care.

By the end of the show, once Jane and the boys have decided to reprise one of their 'oldies,' you realize that two and a half years after you gave up on Perfume Tree as yet another casualty of Vancouver's apathy, something wonderful has happened. This is the kind of event you always knew the band had it in them to put on, and now, more than ever, it's good to know that they're alive, well, and doing O.K.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on February 28, 1998

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