Arswain (Freddy Avis ’16) and TAPE GHØST (David Grunzweig BS ’14 MA ’16) stood in the darkened room, with laptops, mixers and guitar at the ready, on a stage framed by Christmas lights. People sloshed their wine and chatted on the dance floor, eyes on the electronic duo. The first thing you could hear was the synth, followed by pulsing bass and the spritely, crystalline accompaniment of electric guitar. This swirling intro of riffs, synth and beat evolved throughout the night.
If you caught Arswain’s performance at SCN’s Sprung Festival last year, you might not have expected the show they put on with TAPE GHØST last week. At Sprung, Arswain delivered soaring electronic rock that featured prominent vocals and rock song structures. But at Kairos last week, Arswain and TAPE GHØST provided a compelling mix of dance, ambient electronica, rock and jazz. The show wasn’t structured around independent songs, but around movements flowing seamlessly one into the other.
Though Arswain’s show at Kairos in some ways resembled a DJ set — the soundtrack to a late night rave — that wasn’t the whole picture. There was TAPE GHØST’s live accompaniment of jazz guitar. There were ambient moments in the set reminiscent of artists like Jamie xx, which offset periods of bass-heavy dance. There were ghostlike vocals reminiscent of Panda Bear, which, in contrast to Arswain’s cathartic solo show at Sprung, added texture rather than taking center stage.
TAPE GHØST and Arswain’s set evolved and expanded as the night wore on, evoking everything from more ambient dance artists like Jamie xx and Caribou to more traditional (and more animated) dance music. At times, Arswain and TAPE GHØST’s dynamic sound was volatile, erupting out of relative calm into a frenzy of throbbing bass; at other times, the frenzy would fade like a cymbal crash only to begin again in an icy synth phrase.
From chill, jazzy guitar intros drenched in electro-ambience to hard-hitting dance beats and sky-scraping synths, Arswain and TAPE GHØST covered all the bases. After a good while of music consistently blooming, unfurling and evolving in the night, the beat suddenly dropped out. Instantly, people clapped and chanted for “One more song!” Without missing a beat, the band responded with a funky dance rhythm to the crowd’s palpable delight.
At the beginning of the show, the band announced: “We’re gonna get your bodies fucking moving,” and they certainly delivered on that front. But, given the variety and dynamism displayed in Arswain and TAPE GHØST’s powerful set, it’s clear there was more to it than that.
Contact Tyler Dunston at tdunston ‘at’ stanford.edu.