(Concert Review) The Franklin Electric, Club Helsinki Hudson, 11.29.13

FRANKLIN ELECTRIC TRUMPETReview by Seth Rogovoy

(HUDSON, N.Y., November 29, 2013) – Montreal-based indie folk-pop-brass collective the Franklin Electric turned in a stunning, jaw-dropping performance at Club Helsinki Hudson on Friday night. Remember this band’s name, because if there’s any justice in the world, you are going to be hearing a lot more from them in the coming months and years.

Fronted by singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Jon Matte, the group boasted a unique sonic palette, with male/female harmonies, resonant guitar textures, pristine, minimalist arrangements, jazzy rhythms, unexpected melodies, and Matte’s ineffable touches on keyboard and trumpet.

FRANKLIN ELECTRIC FEMALE VOCALISTMatte’s compositions tend towards the dreamy and moody, but are always delivered with crystal-clear clarity.  The melodies took odd swoops, harmonies arrived out of nowhere, a drum fill took a song in a new direction, a chiming guitar lent an alien accent – everything was a surprise, and in spite of the minimalism, it was incredibly musical, almost orchestral in texture if not in scope.

One minute the band was laying down a funk rhythm before Matte’s trumpet kicked it into the Latin sphere before entering into Jeff Buckley or Rufus Wainwright-like folk-poet territory. His voice offered a hint of natural quaver or vibrato, and the operatic ambitions and melismas echoed those of late-period David Byrne. The overall pan-global approach evoked Paul Simon and fellow Canadians Arcade Fire, and such was the arty mélange that a listener certainly was left thinking that someday – even someday soon – Matte and his group might be considered peers to these influences.

FRANKLIN ELECTRIC FULL BANDThere was, indeed, something holding the group back on Saturday night – something that seemed a little off-kilter or out of balance. Matte explained at the outset that the band’s regular bassist had taken ill and stayed behind in Montreal, and one of the group’s guitarists ably if tentatively handled bass chores. This obviously threw things out of whack a bit for the band, and presumably the twin-guitar attack of which we were deprived adds an entirely other element to the mix.

Here’s hoping the Franklin Electric returns to Helsinki Hudson soon in full force, and that you all come out and hear what I heard, plus more, next time around.

 

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