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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Chill Vibes Comfort Cambridge Concertgoers

On Sunday night, Sept. 18, I was able to see a band that I have been listening to for over a decade—the atmospheric and digitally dynamic The Album Leaf. The crowd at the Sinclair was understandably chill and cozy for the intimate engagement.
For fans of the band, it’s been four years since we last heard from Jimmy LaValle and his crew of atmospheric wunderkinds. For those unaware, The Album Leaf is LaValle’s nearly two-decade-old mostly-instrumental brainchild that has toured and collaborated with the likes of Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky.
The opening band for this tour, Rituals of Mine (formerly Sister Crayon), welcomed the crowd to the show with a synth-heavy digital romp through the realm of industrial post rock. Vocalist Terra Lopez put on a gritty and inspired performance that reeked of passion and exuberance.
Rituals of Mine combines aspects of Fiona Apple with Massive Attack and Tricky, which creates a very tenacious sound. The band’s live show is especially impressive, featuring multi-instrumentalist and percussionist Dani Fernandez and live drummer Adam Pierce. The three put on a powerful show, even within the restraints of having two members housed behind kits during the entirety of the performance.
Lopez notified the crowd that the band’s debut album, “Devoted,” would be released on Sept. 30, and that the set was comprised of many songs exclusively from the new album. After witnessing the band’s performance, I know I will be snagging that vinyl when it hits the market.
After a brief intermission, The Album Leaf took the stage in the Boston/Cambridge area for the first time in over five years. LaValle joked that having a couple children in recent years has shifted the band’s priorities—hence why we had not heard from them for a while. But LaValle could not believe that this was reality, since the group loves touring through Boston.
The Album Leaf dug into its latest album “Between Waves” for most of the fourteen-song, career-spanning set, opting to begin the night with the first three tracks from the new album.
“Between Waves” is a tight eight tracks with virtually no wasted space and absolutely no filler. The album is intentional with its approach to combining multitudes of layers of string arrangements, piano and synth leads, and both digital and acoustic drums patterns. This is a level of care that LaValle has been known for throughout his years of manufacturing elaborate yet calming music.
Witnessing these tunes live was truly an experience in and of itself; each track felt more expansive in the live show than I had ever expected, seeing as I have spent many years with these songs. It was a treat for the ears.
We finally got to hear LaValle’s gentle voice when the third song “New Soul” came up. Something rewarding about The Album Leaf is how LaValle demonstrates restraint from overusing his vocals. When it appears, LaValle makes sure that his voice is not distracting from the overall presentation of the few songs he lends it to on each album. Yet his voice, the instrument, is merely an accent to already sufficient songs. In reality, LaValle could easily release an album full of tracks with vocals and it would be instantly accessible. But that’s not his game. This is expert-level understanding of one’s craft.
I was most impressed that, given the intricate nature of the band’s music, there are only four men on stage—albeit, there was an ever-rotating system of operation for the three members besides LaValle, who would trade instruments and machines throughout the set. This movement, alongside the stunning light show and projections of water and nature on hanging backdrops of white curtains, was an enlightening way to experience the band live.
The finale of the show/title track, “Between Waves,” is an incredible closing track, not only for truly giving the sense of finality for the album, but for the lyrical structures it presents. It’s important to go back to the earlier point about LaValle’s vocal restraint. The repeated line, “Between waves, I take my breath,” echoes a sense of drowning, and having to fight for your life. But the lines are expertly juxtaposed with LaValle’s calm and dry delivery because the urgency of the lines are not met with urgency in his voice.
Yet the lines are met with the triumphant sound of trumpets, which comes off as reassuring instead of exasperating. And if there’s one reason to listen to The Album Leaf, it’s for some reassurance, comfort, and escape from the trivial nature of life.
This was the experience of the band’s live show. The crowd was loving, warm, and dancing throughout the night at one of the most chill and relaxing concerts I’ve ever experienced.