Live Review: Canyons - Northcote Social Club

5 June 2012 | 4:51 pm | Esther Rivers

Finally. A band that's not only passionate and entertaining, but quirky, innovative and fresh. NO ZU are a whacky blend of electro, jungle funk and psychedelia. They bring new meaning to the phrase 'bells and whistles', but with zero negative connotations. They ARE the bells and whistles; and drums (by four) and shakers and bass and sticks and dance moves and lunges and echoes and smiles. At first there is scepticism, as the near-empty bandroom is littered with a dozen or so people that have made a semi-circle around the back edges of the room. Yet as Nicholas Oogjes and his band of merry men (and woman) play on, they bridge the gap between stage and audience with their infectious energy. Did someone say, “Top pick for Meredith?” No. It was just an ocker guy behind us saying, “They're goin' AWF.” But that's what he should have said. Props for originality, a refreshing approach and for planting the beat under our feet, NO ZU.

Canyons have a hard act to follow. Electronic duo Ryan Grieve and Leo Thomson take the stage (after a lengthy changeover) to kickstart the set with a drums and synth intro. Grieve bops along to his automated beat, head in rhythm, and doesn't stop for the entirety of the show. Moving into the second track, they are joined by a percussionist, bassist and, when drums are taken over, Thomson moves to guitar. Smatterings of distorted psych licks are dropped into the tracks, allowing a wraithlike giddiness to wash over as you lose yourself in the beat of metaphoric valleys and, well, canyons. By now the whole crowd, at first timidly approaching the stage, are swaying and moving together, eyes closed, lost in the pulse.

Sounds of the desert filter to us from the percussion corner: rattlesnakes, frogs and birds. The crowd are moving in ways that are ugly and uninhibited – the best kind of dancing. It means that they don't necessarily understand the music or why they like it, they just do and so they dance. Cheers abound as Thomson finishes a song and utters, “[How] quiet it is in here”. The poor bass player is sweating buckets and looks as if he might keel over at any second, though keeps at it with an iron will. Mid-set it is explained that he has the flu, so stellar effort there. Thomson's vocals are lacklustre and inconsistent at times, yet hardly the key to this experimentation of sound with omnipresent electronics. The duo's multi-instrumental abilities are impressive and for lovers of house music, Canyons are just the ticket.