On their new album, “Pe’ahi”, The Raveonettes, whose style has definitely changed a bit over the years, are masters of accessible melodies submerged in reverb and distortion. It’s a very satisfying combination of edginess and catchiness, that was only enhanced live at The El Rey a couple weeks ago. The duo from Denmark, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, were joined only by a drummer to complete their lush, dense sound, so it was apparent right away that some of the arrangement – such as the keyboard – was prerecorded. I’m not one to have any problem with that, because, for one thing, it requires the live players to be super tight, and obviously, you gotta do what you gotta do to create the right sound. The two of them both played guitar, with the statuesque Foo occasionally switching to bass, and once letting the drummer take over the latter, while the computer filled in the drums. They had no trouble filling the space with shimmering, buzzing, pulsing atmosphere and underplayed, sweetly creepy vocals, mostly from Wagner. Some of the vocals that I thought were Foo’s while listening to the album, turned out to be Wagner’s, whose voice is high and sometimes childlike.
The interesting thing about the band’s sound is the incorporation of 50s and 60s-style melodies into their aggressive dream pop effects. There is occasionally a surf rock feel, such as in the guitar sound at the end of the song “Sisters”, while on the track “When Night is Almost Done”, which is one of my favorites, Wagner and Foo harmonize over 50s wah-ooh’s. The song makes use of a sparse synthesized background to emphasize its gut punch of a chorus with the line, “Hey! do you think you’re on your own?” The bridge on “A Hell Below” is another retro moment, but it’s all blended into the Blonde Redhead-style magic that first catches your ear. “The Rains of May” is a good example of the latter, or “Endless sleep” with its ominous building into a rocking chorus.
Then there are the danceable drum beats of both the single “Killer in the Streets” and “Kill!” (should we be concerned?) behind languid melodies, a bit like Phantogram, which were very fun live. The only real movement from the band was Wagner’s dancing whenever he wasn’t playing guitar, like on the catchy “Summers End”. I remember him bopping and gesturing while singing on the bridge, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most evil of them all?” But no one needed to jump around; there was a general sense of energy and tension coming from the stage anyway, and the crowd was definitely enthusiastic. Wagner spoke a little to the crowd, mostly just to thank us, and there was one moment when Foo needed to tune, so she told us, “Talk amongst yourselves”, which made people laugh. Otherwise they carried straight through, song to song, breaking before a welcome encore after “When the Night is Almost Done”. Highly recommended.
(more photos after the jump)