It’s always difficult to imagine a bedroom artist bringing their creation to life on the live stage. However, Youth Lagoon had no problem at the Oxford Art Factory taking shelter in the comfort of a small stage which he used to exert his mythical soundscapes upon the crowd.
Youth Lagoon aka Trevor Powers is a perfect example of the power of the internet. His stage shows had to be developed off the back of his bedroom creation The Year of Hibernation which was quickly welcomed into the arms of the blogosphere.
On stage, Powers is armed with a three-piece backing band and a creation of which cannot be described by one word. Part drum-pad, part-mixer with an added synth and piano, the organ-like instrument was the keystone of the performance.
Powers is certainly not an extrovert. He huddled over his workstation like a mad professor, rarely engaging the crowd, instead lost in his fairytale world of sprawling instrumentation. It was his ability to vanish himself in his own soundscape that kept the crowd marvelling.
Throughout the set, Powers led us through a number of different worlds, particularly with tracks from second album Wondrous Bughouse. From the circus to the ocean, Attic Doctor‘s carnivale-inspired synths had everyone swaying in a daze while the vocals on Pelican Man dipped in and out of a wash of layering and distortion accompanied by chiming keys.
All the while, he thrusted back and forth occasionally violently wacking the single drum pad. Those rare moments of kinetic energy brought the crowd out of their dreamscape momentarily to actually watch with intent just what he was doing.
In Mute, Powers sings about “living in a 3D world”. You get the feeling the rich, dense instrumentation of his live sound tries to express this. Each song brings with it four or five crescendos, every time adding an ear-piercing noise or another level of percussion, assisted by an additional drummer perched behind and almost invisible.
It’s obvious that Wondrous Bughouse has benefited from being fleshed out, but there was an unpolished charm to The Year of Hibernation. Daydream was the most explicitly electronic moment of the set, with a house-inspired beat that provided a subtle dance break, while The Hunt was propelled by heavier drums, inspiring brief glimpses of a grungy rock gig.
It was Dropla from Bughouse, though, which proved the gig’s defining moment. Powers’ voice was the most present yet as he sang of eternity: “You will never die“. The gentle gurgling wave running underneath it sealed the track in an audible glass bubble, reflecting the sentiment. Its triumphant finale faded into a subtle guitar melody, bringing everyone back down to reality.
Testament to the strength of his songs and his skills as a performer, Powers’ ability to control the emotion and state of the crowd despite being completely invested in himself and the music he created was enthralling.
Photos: Youth Lagoon – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney 30/01/14