Sensory Overload: Maza Blaska and Black Love

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The sheer amount of talent compiled in Maza Blaska made the band a must-see, so last Tuesday I went to Carabar and did just that.

Since midway through last year, the core of the band has remained Yoni Mizrachi and Sam Corlett (she of Karate Coyote fame) doubling up on vocals, with Mizrachi strumming his guitar and Corlett wielding an array of instruments including mandolin and Glockenspiel. Bassist Kyle Charles and drummer Tim Murray have been consistent contributors too, though Murray is on his way out to tend to daddy duties.

The new and (presumably) improved ensemble on view Tuesday featured two of the city's most talented solo acts flexing their sideman muscles on the flanks. At stage left was Dane Terry, one of the city's truest musical talents whose piano playing enriches just about everything he contributes to.

Stage right found Blake Miller, a former Alive Bands to Watch honoree for his whispery indie-rock concoctions, contributing sonic special effects with his guitar machinery - with his back to the audience, of course.

The songs I previewed on MySpace were sonically minimal and wide open, like Islands' take on tropical twee filtered through Spoon's production values. So I didn't expect a stage sound as thick as the one they unveiled. The extra pieces totally transformed this band's identity from light and airy to densely saturated. Sometimes it worked wonders, but just as often it sounded over-stuffed. Lots of good ideas but not enough focus? Edit, edit, edit.

Closing out the night was Black Love. Glenn Davis, Dylan Meister and Travis Hall used to haunt the house-show circuit as the core members of TI-83 Plus, a supremely catchy ensemble reminiscent of Say Hi To Your Mom's synth-laden janglers and - in a common thread with Maza Blaska - the Islands/Unicorns school of exotic indie-pop. Black Love reunites them under a new banner with new songs and a more down-tempo disposition.

I never saw TI-83 Plus, but I enjoyed their MySpace tracks and considered myself a fan. In principle, I dig Black Love's blend of crisp, minimal electronics and loosey-goosey Paul Simon guitar pop too, but I'm not totally sold on the band, mostly because it all feels way too cutesy, especially when Davis sings like Kermit the Frog (shockingly and unfortunately often).

In the context of the old band's big, bold bundles of fun, the cuter-than-thou approach was a lot more tolerable, but over softly syncopated guitars and understated drum programming, it sounds disingenuous: all wink, no conviction.

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