I find it to be remarkable how many duos have sprung up since The White Stripes showed us it could be interesting to watch a whole show with only two performers on stage for over an hour. It’s also never fails to astound how full the sound can be. Of course, we have technology to thank for that, with looping, computer programs, and synthesizers doing the heavy lifting. The Black Keys one of the most popular and famous duos, with only drums and a guitarist / singer. I saw them last year when they toured with a backup keyboard player and bassist, and they actually were not as good. They simply have it so worked out as a duo, that the extra musicians took something away from the sound, rather than adding to it. Other duos making a distinct impression are Japandroids and Sleigh Bells, but there are many more.
One of them, Wye Oak, came back to NYC this week to promote their new record Shriek, after awhile away contemplating the end of the world, or the end of their group. Instead of quitting, they decided to re-invent. Formerly a guitar centric group along the lines of My Bloody Valentine meets Cocteau Twins, Wye Oak did a 180 and became a drums-synth / bass guitar band. They still do the old stuff from the previous record Civilian, with Jenn Wasner on guitar. The drummer, Andy Stack, still plays with his right hand and two feet, while playing keyboards with his left hand. Really! Wasner sings lead on all of the songs, but now plays BASS guitar, and occasionally switches to a synth on the new ones. They mixed the songs up 50/50, and the difference is a bit jarring. It became ‘My Bloody Cocteau meets Kraftwerk’. Yikes!
Fortunately, they were very engaging. The set went fast, and didn’t drag at all. Wasner and Stack are accomplished musicians, interesting personalities, and nice to look at. It seems this duo s very much alive.