Katie here again, and I keep hearing that it’s fall somewhere. Not quite here, where it’s still well in the 90s, but somewhere. We keep our eyes out for trees changing color and reasons to grab a sweatshirt. But with every long week that passes by, I’m reminded we’re one week closer to our Underwater Sunshine Fest party— and there is almost no better way to set a ‘party’ tone than to listen to our next band, Van Goose.
If the frontman looks familiar, he should: Van Goose is Marcy Playground drummer Shlomi Lavie’s other band, and it utilizes his ear for rhythm in ways that capitalize on both the sounds of New Wave, R&B, and even some eighties synth sounds. The lyrics and words are often used as percussive devices, too, which is just to say that they’re often stand-ins for something that feels like it hits just right.
For instance, the song “On My Hand,” above, is absolutely fascinating to watch. Shlomi walks out and immediately sets down the drum pattern that will steady the rest of the song. But as the piece builds— with a bass, a guitar, synthesizers, keyboards, and another drummer— they all seem to have their own separate styles and pacing. It’s almost like watching a group of people who are creating a human triangle on the back of just one person standing at the bottom— sometimes, the group leans a little left for a four-count, sometimes back right, but eventually, all of the different rhythms build to something far more complex and fascinating than they would have been on their own. The sheer novelty isn’t the only thing about this song: it’s that Lavie is able to use novelty without turning it into a gimmick. It’s one thing to watch someone use a loop machine to create different sounds— we’re almost practiced at watching one-man bands play several instruments. But Van Goose does the studied opposite: they create and incorporate loops one person and one new instrument at a time. Sonically, I can promise you won’t have experienced anything like this before.
“Last Bus”, another song from their new record Habitual Eater, is a perfect example of the balance you find in Lavie’s songs: they constantly feel as though they are headed for a breakdown, wheels barely on the tracks but they’re really not. He’s both a creative and a precise drummer and, as in his tenure at Marcy Playground, he always manages to find interesting rhythms and meters without ever sacrificing the idea of the song, whether in a more traditional form or not. I would say the most enjoyable thing about watching Van Goose play together is that the idea of a “song” can be tossed almost completely out. These are fun, danceable tunes but, more than that, they become representations of the people who come with disparate instruments and cadences that should tear the song apart— but instead bring it together. The “controlled chaos” displayed in the official video for the song does a good job showing you that Lavie knows the line he walks.
Last year, I had the fortune of being able to share the Flaming Lips’s Zaireeka with my music class for their “sonic” review. The enterprise took four amps or major speakers, four CD players, four button pushers, and a laser light show. (Hey, I don’t know, I just push buttons.) Zaireeka is a sensory experience which takes the idea of “mono” and “stereo” recording and stretches it across four different speakers— meaning your ear and attention are constantly pulled to whatever little element is just slightly off syncopation, whatever new noise comes in, and it’s a full body moment. You are surrounded by sound in a way that feels like swaddling. And what does that have to do with Van Goose?
All Van Goose needs to do to surround you with the kind of sound that makes you forget where you are, draws your ear to the left, then the right, then the middle, to maybe even have a meditative experience— is show up with the band themselves. (And maybe lasers. I’m still not sure how important those were. I haven’t checked with Shlomi.)
Check them out at the Rockwood Music Hall for Underwater Music Fest and watch the rest of the One on One Video!