SHOW REVIEW: Eric Copeland and U.S. Girls

OUT & ABOUT|Show Reviews

As a founding member of Black Dice, Eric Copeland has been melting my face for years.  I’d seen them live a handful of times in the early- and mid-aughts and had fond memories of sweaty thrashing and abused cilia.  I was overjoyed when they were announced as openers for Animal Collective’s Celebrate Brooklyn show last summer and pleased that they were just as great as ever, even though the venue was not the sort I was used to seeing them play.  Even though I enjoyed Eric Copeland’s solo material I’d never gotten a chance to see what it is exactly that he does by himself in front of a crowd.  At Death by Audio on Sunday, I found out.

I was in a somewhat poisonous mood despite being very excited about the show.  August was not a kind month to me, and it was beginning to wear me down; my hope was that the show would lift my spirits.  I was jazzed up for opener U.S. Girls, whose moniker is misleading in that is is actually just one girl.  That girl, Meghan Remy, layers her sultry but detached vocals over fuzzy electronic beats and looks damn chic doing it.  She’s released a handful of records, done a split with Dirty Beaches, and has an album, entitled Gem, coming out on Fat Cat in September.  She was also selling some pretty rad little collages at the merch table.

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Meghan Remy of U.S. Girls

Musically, the production values remain lo-fi enough to add a little grit to a glamorous ethos that clearly informs her work.  There weren’t tons of people filling the DIY space for her set, but those who were seemed to be under a kind of spell; heads bobbed but eyes were glued to the stage.  She closed with her lead-off single from Gem, “Jack”, a cover of a somewhat obscure glam-rock jam from 2004 by a band called Danava.  Remy also performed an awesomely perverted version of Monica and Brandy’s 1998 smash hit “The Boy Is Mine”.  While you would think R&B doesn’t have much to do with the swirling, dubby haze Remy creates, it’s actually a pretty appropriate reference point; though her distorted, witchy vocals and hazy compositions are far from slickly produced pop top forty, the diva swag is the same, and the jagged spines of these songs are sheathed in beats just as infectious.

Eric Copeland was certainly more unassuming than the audaciously blonde Remy in her leopard-print wedges, dressed as he was in a dark cap and ragged shorts.  Every so often, Copeland would croon into a microphone, his voice a distorted moan, and during those moments he’d direct his gaze briefly and furtively into the bizarro dance party he’d given rise to.  But mostly he kept his head down, sometimes whipping it back and forth during particularly turbulent rhythms.  Much like Copeland’s work with Black Dice, his solo work is layered with mashed loops and whacked-out samples, and it has followed a similar trajectory.  Copeland started producing his solo records right around the time that Black Dice moved away from the harsh feedback and persistent drone of their early material, replacing it with something no less experimental but certainly a bit more synth-oriented.  With the release of this year’s Limbo, Copeland’s created something that embraces that more playful ethos.  The beats are almost bouncy, layered in psychedelic repetitions and oozing pitch-shifted samples.  It’s still a challenging listen at times, due to its more disconnected moments.  But in a live setting, you could actually pull out some weird dance moves and shake to it.  I don’t think I’ll be walking into a dance club anytime soon to hear a DJ spinning “Fiesta Muerta”, but attending this show was a reminder that there are all types of grooves, and sometimes the kookiest ones are the most rewarding.