The New York debut of John Talabot's new live show with collaborator Pional was a lesson in patience. The first obstacle was the venue: a cramped, sweaty (Le) Poisson Rouge, notorious for strangely neutering a fair amount of the dance music that graces its stage. The second was a crowd with a scattered attention span, the kind adept at snaking through thick groups while double-fisting drinks and proceeding to stand stock-still in the middle of the dance floor. (Not that there was much motivation to move early on: Blondes never once looked up from their equipment during a chugging, anonymous opening set.) The third obstacle, and thankfully the one conquered, was Talabot's perceived difficulty in recreating the density of his productions in a live setting. Throughout the hour-long performance, Talabot and Pional progressed from the murk to turn in ecstatic reminders of why fIN stands out as one of 2012's best releases.
Numerous details from fIN were intact, like the oozing, wheezy thunderclaps that usher in "El Oeste" or the jolting shrieks during the intro of "Oro Y Sangre." Although nearly every song on the album was represented, there were obvious dead zones and crowd-pleasers, the latter stretched out into percussive workouts pulsing with new life. Unfortunately, with bass audibly clipping for the first couple of songs and muddiness throughout, layers lacked the precision that make the eventual peaks so inspiring on the record.
In addition to a slew of analog gear, Talabot and Pional would occasionally lash out at crash cymbals and toss in cowbell interludes. The duo also harmonized well, changing key parts to better suit their live range. Although the vocal in "Destiny" lacked the yearning found on fIN, it was reliably eerie, the psychedelic repetition and gurgling guitars exemplifying the brooding sexuality that Talabot handles so well. "When the Past Was Present" was punctured by high-frequency sweeps alongside vibrating moans and cymbal rushes, with wet "yeah's" gliding through the mix. A sparse re-work of "So Will Be Now" received an expectedly rapturous response, the sloping bassline floating over the room while the pleading, earnest chorus of "I hear your tender rhapsody" carried the emotional weight.
Talabot closed with an abrupt medley, barreling into the chattering vocal and pounding piano of his remix of Teengirl Fantasy's "Cheaters" right as the war whoops and jangled guitar of "Sunshine" were preparing to boil over with energy. It was an unusual choice, limiting the joyful progression of both. Then again, the peak-time capabilities of those two tracks can sound at odds with much of Talabot's recent insular and ominous output. As riots and austerity measures envelop Talabot's native Spain, who knows how long he'll choose to stay in dark corners of the dance floor.