Philly expatriate Attia Taylor returned home on Saturday night for her first performance on an R5 Productions bill – in the intimate and elegant confines of the First Unitarian Chapel. Debuting material from her forthcoming Luxurious Corners EP, Taylor was focused and confident (minus a few spots where technical difficulties slowed between-song transitions), playing synthesizers, looping sounds on her laptop and singing.
With its surreal, dreamy look at fear and violence, “Knife” was layered and dynamic, one of the most intricate of Taylor’s songs to date. “Rest of Them,” on the other hand, is a slow build of loops and samples that progressively swelled into a frenzy of voices, beats and words, alluding to a non-specific betrayal. Megan Cauley of Gemini Wolf accompanied Taylor – her label, earSnake, is releasing Luxurious Corners this winter, and she co-produced the record with Taylor and Gemini’s Michael McDermott. But Cauley’s guidance was subtle, adding background flourishes and low beats to the mix and letting Taylor’s voice and synthesizer mixing take center stage. (Watching from the crowd with familial pride was her live band – John Romano, Aquila Clement and Anissa Martinez.)
Joining Taylor on the lineup was Brooklyn’s Hilly Eye, the new duo fronted by former Titus Andronicus violinist Amy Klein. In this configuration, playing duo-style with drummer Catherine Tung, it’s minimal and fuzzy-rocking, akin to 90s underground nuggets like The Breeders’ Pod or Helium’s The Dirt of Luck. The mix in the chapel was a bit spare, revealing Tung’s percussive limitations (she’s great with the Phil Spector backbeats – any kind of drum fill, not so much) but the band’s enthusiasm and song-craft shined above it all.
Opening the night was Philly’s Kate Ferencz, who wrapped herself in a tangle of Christmas lights and played a spunky mix of sung-spoke vocals, electronic beats and toy sound effects. It was a bit Le Tigre, a bit Daniel Johnston, a bit wacky playful performance art, but Ferencz’s observational, existential wordplay gave the set an alluring mystique, showing that – to whatever extent she was unconventional – she’s an artist worth paying attention to.