Study the line between letting loose and letting go. Letting loose is something accomplished with the body. Letting go might be a cerebral thing done at a Nite Jewel and Teen Inc. show.
These two bands participate in a nebulous music cluster residing in Highland Park, where Ariel Pink lives, too. Last night, Nite Jewel & Teen Inc. ventured West to the Troubadour to celebrate Nite Jewel's new EP, Am I Real? The audience was modest but smitten, keeping a good 10 feet between themselves and the powerful funk on stage. These bands did the opposite of stink and they were very serious about it.
“Am I real?” Nite Jewel's final song of the night echos past the rows of unplugged treadmills a block away from the Troubadour. Ramona Gonzalez and guest vocalist Julia Holter asked each other and the crowd “Am I real?” the way nightingales would have done it before there were synths and samplers to digitally evoke them. This song felt real in that it was good and the drummer pulled some dazzling rhythms out of his giant cymbals.
And it was real about reality in the sense of a room with a view, being in the world the way Virginia Woolf described it. A place to hang up insecurities and a window to peer out impishly at the invisible visible outsider, feeling somewhat special and looked-at but alone. Gonzalez and Holter swayed as if rebelling against their puppetmaster's strings and barely smiled, launching SWV hooks into outer space cathedral harmonies.
Speaking of space, the crowd gave Teen Inc. all the space the band needed to present their own take on virtuosic funk. Daniel and Andrew Aged are determined to carry the torch of their '90s studio session musician heroes to new heights.
The talented twin brothers cooed over slick rhythms and solos, with the guitar at times sounding like a saxophone–all with precision and meticulous timing. Here's where Prince would be grabbing his own nipples, but the Aged guys lurk in color-changing shadows. Enjoyment comes from seeing the songs come together in all their parts so perfectly, without the stroking of their own parts (which is enjoyable, too).
Teen Inc. seems to have chosen a time period and gone to live there, clothes, mentality, with so much skill it seems unavoidable to wonder if they're visitors from another galaxy far away.
Besides the lack of dancing and the crawling into a little personal cubby feeling, the Teen Inc. and Nite Jewel experience had a lot of power and resonated with greatness and grace. It wasn't a place for smiling. It was a place for modern funk and pop to be taken very seriously.