[Whoops, this one got a bit lost in the shuffle. Sorry, y'all. Better late than never.]
Chris Taylor has no reason to be bashful. He’s the bassist for Grizzly Bear and a big part of the Brooklyn band’s mesmerizing songwriting psyche. He’s also human, and he’s fidgeting nervously before an undersized crowd at the Doug Fir.
What I like most about CANT’s debut recording is that it’s a complete curveball. Given Grizzly Bear’s pedigree of heavenly harmonies and stormy, scenic abstract folk, one might expect similar from Taylor on his own. Yet, CANT is evidence that the composer and guitarist has some pent up, shaken up, digitized ideas worth their own avenues of exploration.
Peter Gabriel-style mechanized vocals and smooth atmospheric electronica show up in much of CANT’s work. The four piece band works around a hefty backbone of oozing bass lines and propulsive synth sketches that meander thoughtfully in place just as often as they do accelerate into dancey morsels.
In the funky and hypnotic “The Edge,” Taylor flexed his admiration for casio-born zaps and wriggling synthesizers. He sang with a whispered vibrato that matched the hushed poise of the song itself. And though the track changed modes and sped up some halfway in (like many of his songs), it never stuttered. Like a seasoned cyclist, Taylor and his band know how and when to switch gears.
Kudos too to the feverish percussion outburst during “Bang.” The track sat back and watched the drummer work, who managed to carry it—with the help of a few vocal effects that turned Taylor’s voice into a reverberating demon—throughout.
If Grizzly Bear was evident anywhere, it was in “Bericht,” a piano-based tune that finds Taylor stirring like he’s half-asleep, gasping the lyrics more than singing them. This song never erupts, it simply stays a comatose course. Dramatic and wonderfully undercooked, it feels like a track CANT played with for months before reverting to the fact that the base musical premise needn’t be tampered with.
Taylor returned to the stage not for an encore, but simply to thank the crowd. He was out of CANT material. He blushed some but the crowd understood. Given CANT’s extremely short lifespan thus far, I’d say it did quite well with the tools it had.