This is Your Captain Speaking / This Melodramatic Sauna
Pannonica; Nantes, France

[04-10-06]

This Melodramatic Sauna is a group
from Nantes fronted by 23-year-old Jonathan Seilman. They released their first
full record, et les fleurs eclosent à l'ombre, on Effervescence at the
beginning of February, and the few tracks I had heard prepared me for some
pleasant indie folk, and not much more. In fact, the performance blossomed
from its delicate folk roots into colorful bursts of polyglot pop – whenever a
song was in danger of becoming too pretty for its own good, the dainty
fingerpicking and plucked strings were inundated with strident keyboards and
eccentric percussion. Theremin, the rims of half-filled brandy snifters, and
even a length of twirling plastic pipe complemented the drums and packed the
songs' conventional folk structures with savvy appropriations of pop, funk,
and jazz. Seilman blew injured saxophone melodies that were looped into the
rising cacophony along with his guitar. His voice was breathy and fragile,
bordering on cloying at times, but otherwise serving as a cool balm that kept
the songs from overheating. After playing through most of the cuts from the
new album, Seilman and the string quartet returned for a bashful encore,
offering a reprise of "Stronger Strongest" before breaking down their
equipment and coming into the crowd to talk and have a few drinks.

This Melodramatic Sauna's genial folk calamities segued nicely into the
polished post rock of This is Your Captain Speaking. The Australian trio - a
drummer (David Evans) and two guitarists (Nick Lane, Steve Ward) - relied on
lanky riffs and loads of tidal delay to create thickly layered songs that
surged and spent themselves in 7-minute stretches. Evans pounded his kit with
energy and poise and frequently abandoned the skins to tap out melodies on the
xylophone to his right. "6 PM" started with the friendly mechanical ratchet
and ping of a typewriter before the guitars overlapped, crested, and slid back
toward silence. "Henry and Maximus" was my favorite number: a playful melody
and jazzy cymbals gave way to contrapuntal riffage and a series of hungry
crescendoes. One of the guitarists had an effect on his guitar that made it
sound like a cello, and with all the delay, the tinny clatter of his pick
against the strings anticipated each wash of vibrating bass by several
seconds. The Aussies also gave a brief but lovely encore.

After a long weekend at a festival dedicated to the obscene, provocative,
noisy, and just plain weird, an evening spent with artists focused on
songcraft and musicianship was a soothing pleasure. The lively, if somewhat
tight, performance confirmed my hunch: I'm going to be sure to look for more
from This Melodramatic Sauna and any other Seilman releases. Any fans of
Sufjan / Andrew Bird / Akron/Family should do the same.

Setlist:

This Melodramatic Sauna

Stronger Strongest

For Respect

Automat

Home and Away

L'alchimie

Ô my sun

New

God

La Triste Comptine

Au Café

Fin de Partie

Encore : Stronger Strongest

This Is Your Captain Speaking

A Wave to Bridget Fondly

Weathered

Henry and Maximus

Gathering Places
6 PM

Lift

Encore : [unfinished new song]

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