Merrill Garbus has a lot on her mind these days, and her sound is changing as a result of it. I can feel you creep into my private life is a rumination of white privilege and the divided state of America. While Garbus and newly-official bandmate Nate Brenner have done a very admirable job in calling out injustices in their previous work (like with “Gangsta” and “My Country”), they set out to confront their privilege head-on and in doing so created the most focused work of their career. (You can listen to our podcast episode on I can feel you creep into my private life here.)
Those returning to a Tune-Yards show for the first time since the Nikki Nack or the w h o k i l l eras, they might be surprised to see the band with their most lean show setup yet. Gone is the whimsical and weird stage show of Nikki Nack and the live looping tom drums that Garbus has been known to do for so long. Now it’s just Garbus, Brenner, live drummer Hamir Atwal, and a lot of sample pads. This slimmed-down lineup helped the duo rethink how they perform their intricately-layered music in a live setting, and it mostly works. With Garbus handing off the lion's share of drumming duties to Atwal, songs like “Water Fountain” and “ABC 123” received some great Latin- and electronic-tinged percussion treatment in ways not heard in the album. Brenner alternated between bass and keys throughout the show, often performing both in a single song. And of course, Garbus’s inventiveness on looping vocals still shines, especially on the fluttering vocal intro of “Bizness.” The live translation of “Colonizer” fell slightly flat, although they created an extended instrumental full of modular synths, looping vocals that grew increasingly chaotic. Maybe that was the point, given the lyrical content? One overly-long song notwithstanding, Garbus and company still put on a compelling show packed with favorites both new and old.
I can feel you creep into my private life is available now through 4AD.
Opening for Tune-Yards was My Brightest Diamond, the solo project of Detroit-based musician Shara Nova. Her voice was captivating in ways comparable to Florence and the Machine and Half Waif - of course, she’s been doing this much longer, with her first studio album Bring Me the Workhorse released in 2006. She began the set in the back of the 9:30 Club’s big room and slowly made her way through the crowd and eventually on stage. Tune-Yards fans slowly filled the room throughout Nova’s set, but her energetic dancing on loud electronic songs and quiet, acoustic moments on others had the crowd completely hypnotized and silent from start to finish. A rare treat for an opening act for sure. Her latest release is the EP Champagne.