What To Do Wednesday: Junior Boys and Max Tundra
I'm just as taken with Max Tundra, the nerdy London electronic composer whose music sounds at once like a hyperactive cartoon and next-level dance pop. He's been sort of a Pitchfork pet project since 2002, when his sophomore album Mastered By Guy at the Exchange dropped, revealing Tundra (aka Ben Jacobs) as a singular talent who, despite keen pop instincts, seemed to have treacherously limited appeal. "Lysine" takes a mind-melting pop track that could easily be performed by Amerie or Ciera and weighs it down with lyrics about amino acid. "MBGATE" requires a lot of patience before the admittedly sweet payoff. Much of the disc dabbles in heady stuff more for fanboy dissection than mainstream consumption.
His 2008 follow-up Parallax Error Beheads You (yeah, six-year draught) didn't help much. Take "Will Get Fooled Again," with its lyrical references to Jim O'Rourke albums and a video bizarre enough to alienate a large portion of Tundra's potential audience. (Watch it above.) If the weirdness scares away some, the cheese will keep others at arm's length. Witness how "Which Song" morphs from intergalactic yacht rock to pure, unfiltered Manheim Steamroller. It's this kind of behavior that had Columbus rock legend Ron House comparing Jacobs to Claudio Montiverdi during a set at SXSW.
But that set ruled. Jacobs took the stage solo and delivered what I called "a virtuoso performance, jumping from keyboard to mixing board to guitar to microphone with seamless success. In the moments when he let his prerecorded jams speak for themselves, Tundra busted a move with an agility one normally wouldn't assign to a wimpy-looking cardigan-wearing producer from the UK."
So if you go to the Junior Boys show tonight (and you should), I insist you make it in time for Max Tundra. Chances are he'll start around 9 p.m.