Posted March 13, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment
 
 

Brooklyn Quintet Fuses No-Wave and Hip-Hop

Album Art provided by AVA LUNA

Album Art provided by AVA LUNA

BY ISSAC SCOTT

Ava Luna hails from the heady Brooklyn music scene that favors the often impossibly intricate and angular experimental rock evidenced by Dirty Projectors, Akron Family, and Battles. Listening to these bands, it is clear they emerge from the epicenter of every musical style from no-wave to hip-hop. In Ava Luna’s brand of pop, urban rhythms of reggaeton, jazz, and R&B underlie deftly prepared rock-n-roll.

Their new album “Electric Balloon” brings together echoes of nihilistic ‘80s no-wave with timeless doo-wop, rich Latin rhythms and the Rolling Stones for a lively interpretation of rock.

Released March 4 on the Western Vinyl label, the new record shows the quintet to be bolder and more ambitious than their previous two albums. They embrace in equal measures the syrupy consonant goodness of pop music, and the abrasive irreverent exploration of noise.

Impressively, “Electric Balloon” avoids the pitfalls of both styles: it never comes across as self-satisfied or self-negating. The title of the album points to this dualistic nature, contrasting harsh with buoyant.

It is a musical idiom employed by a parade of art school hipsters, but Ava Luna summons renewed authenticity—urgency even—marking themselves closer to the Talking Heads than Vampire Weekend.

The band identifies their style as ‘nervous soul,’ highlighting the undercurrent of emotional tension in their music. Carlos Hernandez’ vocals are jittery and self-conscious, jumping anxiously between singing, talking and incoherence.

Compositions push forward restlessly, at times taking off in unexpected, abstract directions.

Yet the band does not rely too heavily on this strategy, returning to smooth R&B, like on “PRPL,” where keyboardist/vocalist Felicia Douglas delivers an impeccably liquid performance.

Ava Luna from Brooklyn played in Olympia for the first time on March 1 at Northers. Photo by ISSAC SCOTT

Ava Luna from Brooklyn played in Olympia for the first time on March 1 at Northers. Photo by ISSAC SCOTT

Ava Luna came to Olympia for the first time on Saturday, March 1 for a show at Northern presented by Impose, a music blog based in Brooklyn. It was part of a series of similar events Impose put on around the West Coast leading up to SXSW in Austin, Texas. Ava Luna joined tour-mates Krill from Boston, King Dude and La Luz from Seattle, and Skrill Meadow, the Olympia solo-project of Markly Morrison, a member of LAKE.

It was a rare opportunity to see such a polished and innovative act in Olympia, often skipped over by East Coast bands. The clarity of their performance stood out against the typical grungy Olympia show.

Northern was actually a great fit for this one. While the room can often suck the life from a set, the pristine gallery space allowed for the ideal atmosphere of focus on the part of the band and the audience. The New Yorkers brought high-minded craft to their instruments, while still having a fun and relaxed stage presence.

With support from Pitchfork, a recent nod from the “New York Times,” and a European tour coming up next month, Ava Luna seems set to fulfill their lofty ambitions.