The Album Leaf: Neumo’s, Seattle, WA 2/1/09

It’s always interesting to see how music created by a single individual translates into shows by a band, however carefully-selected. One successful such effort would be Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor’s creative muse that comes alive on tour with the help of other, equally creatively destructive (destructively creative?) individuals.

Similarly, The Album Leaf in concert is a five-piece, multi-instrumental electronic collective, while behind the scenes, it is James LaValle, himself a talented multi-instrumentalist. LaValle’s meandering sound is beautiful: experimentalelectronica, pinging and bumping in all the right ways, creating nothing so much as an ambience for living. Live, the five-piece serves up a masterful blend of soaring melodies and steady beats, delivered by mostly traditional instruments (including a violin), and a video screen, projecting randomness.

The Album Leaf’s recent show at Seattle’s Neumo’s exemplified their style, and with it, the draw-backs of trying to produce such music in a live setting. On the one hand, their sound makes the listener feel they’re actors in a great soundtrack – likely from an avant-garde existential crisis-piece in which one only finds one’s inner raison d’être by sinking deep into the abyss of someone else’s sorrow. Melting into that vibe, one wants the sorrow, and the expected release from that sorrow. And yet…is a packed club truly the place in which one wants to experience such a feeling?

It is the opinion of this author that, indeed, The Album Leaf is excellent in both concept and execution. However, it is also submitted that they might be best enjoyed in the comforts of one’s home, or a suitably down-tempo lounge atmosphere. They make gorgeous music, music this reviewer looks forward to hearing, over and over…in the right environment.

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