Max Tundra
(Le) Poisson Rouge; New York, NY

I always thought Max Tundra was a hermit, taking forever to make new records and playing live only sporadically. But since he released Parallax Error Beheads You last year, it's clear that the weirdo from the secluded lair is out -- at least he certainly doesn't perform like someone who's been locked in a cabin with an 808 for six years. Actually, his stage presence is more like that of a grizzled road warrior than a guy who I expected to see play a DJ set rather than attempt a real live show.

Can I talk for a minute about his stage moves? He's got two, which is usually one more than you need if the music is good enough. First, he's got the arms up-and-out, testifying stance. This stance instantly turns a song about delivering pizzas into a sermon about delivering pizzas. Second, he's got the manic jumping-up-and-down, shaking-his-head-back-and-forth dance, which he executes with characteristic precision, often punctuating it with a controlled yet violent lateral snap of the head.

Wait, remember a few sentences back when I said "if the music is good enough?" Thankfully it is. Max Tundra's real secret isn't that he's been wood-shedding his dance moves, but that he can flat-out sing. I always thought the best tracks from Mastered By Guy at The Exchange were those with his sister's vocals -- his own voice sounded overly processed, a little cold and thin to me. I won't go so far as to recant that opinion, but I will say that cold and thin were two things Mr. Tundra's voice certainly were not in a live setting. Between playing two melodicas, guitar, piano, synthesizer, and xylophone, he sang like he meant it. He even managed to make "Merman" and "Lights" -- two songs whose recorded versions can give you the feeling that he's developed a brand new kind of computerized voice -- sound real, present, and adamantly human.

Photo: [MySpace]

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