Trentemøller - 4.21.11
The Mid - Chicago, IL
Words By Stevie Tee
Photos By Gerardo Antunez
After years of drooling over live clips on youtube or sets on soundcloud, it was finally time for me to catch a live performance from Danish producer Trentemøller. We've talked him up quite a bit through our coverage of Ultra Music Festival and his group was fresh from their Coachella performance the weekend prior. His appearance on this particular night was a part of MUTEK's Avant-MUTEK events. The Canadian promoter's main platform event is MUTEK festival in Montreal every year, but the Avant-MUTEK events were a series of one-off shows in few different cities such as Appleblim in Toronto, Theo Parrish in Vancouver and a full weekend of events in Chicago.
We were treated very well by the people working the door of Chicago's newest high-profile nightclub, The Mid, but I really wasn't crazy about the venue, at least not for this kind of a performance. There were some feng shui issues with regards to placement of furniture. There were booth couches, tables and chairs on the dance floor which really destroyed the flow of the back half of the dance floor. It created an atmosphere for sitting around and socializing rather truly taking in the music. This is perfectly reasonable for an average night at a club, but this environment made it difficult at times to connect with the music being performed. While the sound in the venue was fine and the lighting matched the music, the furniture would've been better suited around the perimeter of the dance floor to give more space for people to dance or watch the music. Let's turn our attention to the music which would have been just as well suited in a theater with seats as a club with a dance floor.
Dorit Chryler was playing when we first entered the club and we only caught the last few songs of her set. She's a solo artist and her entire performance rig consisted of a laptop computer, a Moog Theremin and a microphone for her vocals. The computer seemed to have her bed tracks laid out where all she had to do was press play and then perform her vocals and theremin techniques. The music was what I'd consider electronic music, but it was far from dance music you'd normally hear in a club.
Some of her songs were based more in ambiance to allow room for lots of captivating oscillation work on her Theremin, and the others were more lyrical-based indie electronica from a song writing perspective. We didn't quite catch enough of the set to render a solid opinion, her songs and sense of musical drama captured my attention. Dorit Chrysler would also appear with her Theremin as a part of Trentemøller's rotating ensemble after her own set.
After some brief intermission music, a large wooden gate raised in front of the stage and Trentemøller 's band entered. They opened with "The Mash and The Fury", the first track from Trentemøller 's newest album "Into The Great Wide Yonder." It set the night off with a very dark, heavy downtempo groove that reminded me more of seeing Nine Inch Nails than seeing most DJs or electronic music producers. The gate lowered as they continued the dark, eerie vibe with instrumentals like "Past the Beginning of the End," complete with Dorit Chrysler's cinematic sounding Theremin playing and distorted twanging guitars.
While a lot of the show was based around the most recent LP, he dipped into some of his earlier higher tempo, more minimal techno tracks like Vamp and an encore of his biggest single, "Moan". These provided some of the better dance floor moments of the night, though most of the crowd was still very responsive to the slower, heavier grooves. This performance was also carried on much like a typical rock concert with clear breaks between each song and different members of the band rotating on and offstage.
Trentemøller had 2 tables of equipment that included 3 different full keyboards including a Moog and a Korg, a laptop computer, a few other hard to recognize samplers, sequencers, drum pads and big crash cymbal. He played with back up singers and occasionally lead singers for songs like "Sycamore Feeling" and "Even Though You're With Another Girl." Throughout most of the show, there was also a drummer, rotating guitar and bass playing based upon what was called for in the song. The show was very precisely orchestrated with Trentemøller as the composer and conductor.
It was a fantastic set with stirring peaks and climaxes in the last few songs before the encore break. This included the triumphant, gradually building crescendos of "Take Me into Your Skin" and the faster Tarentino-esque break beat madness of "Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider Go." It's not the type of show that would be good to follow around on tour as there are only a couple older songs varying from each night's set list, but I'd love to catch him again for his next tour or a DJ oriented performance.