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Delphic's overdue disco at the Echo tonight

June 18, 2010 |  2:00 pm

On the eve of Manchester disco-rock trio Delphic's debut California show at this year's Coachella in April, the dreaded Eyjafjallajokull eruption thwarted their flight and forced a cancellation. When they finally made it back to our fair shores Thursday night, they were all set to play a clandestine set in the Dangerbird Records offices in Silver Lake, when an even more powerful force of nature peeled off a good half of their audience -- the Lakers winning Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

It can't be too thrilling to watch half your crowd wander from your debut West Coast set to cheer on a game you don't care about on an adjacent television. Fortunately, when the band makes its proper debut at The Echo tonight (with the thrilling minimal house alchemist Pantha Du Prince), they should have a less-distracted audience.

The new Dangerbird signees have one of the year's most ambitious and sheer pleasurable debuts in "Acolyte," a hugely accomplished splicing of earnest pop songwriting, ephemeral house textures and a percussive restlessness that takes a song from the center of a rave floor to the fringes of Warp Records and back again.

Delphic has pulled off one of the hardest tricks in pop music -- to swing for the commercial fences while taking decades of experimental music with you. But for guitarist-producer Matt Cocksedge, like everything else with Delphic, the American debut of "Acolyte" is long, long overdue.

"I read something where Charlie Kaufman said that making art is like giving birth," he said. So on that timeline, "now our album is getting beaten up at school and we're hoping it gets good grades."

To belabor that metaphor, "Acolyte" excels in both poetry and engineering. It's a seamless and unfussy collection of pop tunes that behaves like a long-form perfect DJ mix. Vintage synth arpeggios and lush pads fill the spaces between the traditional drums-bass-guitar mix that drives the songs, but the whole thing feels fused together in a heartfelt way that escapes most bands trying to meld computer wonkery with a rock band. "Doubt" starts with a robotic speak-and-spell vocal sample that soon unravels into a florid rock chorus. "Red Lights" is a wan, tender bit of synthetic dream-pop that spirals off into a minutes-long coda of old-rave clamor.

242_Delphic_photo_crop Delphic, whose members live in the same Manchester apartment, compose music on isolated laptops and build from there as a band. They have experience writing together -- Cocksedge and keyboardist Richard Boardman were in a more traditional indie-rock group, Snowfight in the City Centre, which toured with Kings of Leon before its members disbanded and the two recruited singer/bassist James Cook into Delphic. But making this tangle of synthetics and rock heart  stick as a live act, however, proved as daunting as competing with Kobe Bryant.

"It was a little bit of a nightmare, yeah," Cocksedge said. "We had to learn about MIDI time codes and clocks and something is always feeding back. But the record is quite considered, with everything in its right place. We wanted to play it more viscerally and different live, so we wrote all these little songs between the songs to create an atmosphere you can really lose yourself in."

That live interstitial music -- where the tune technically ends but the sound peels off into an ambient dance groove that soon reveals the next single -- might be Delphic's neatest trick, and the best summary of what they're up to. "Acolyte" is packed with great ideas, and the band delivers them with an incessant sense of invention and muscle onstage (even when the Lakers siphoned off some of their crowd). But after being thwarted so many times, Delphic doesn't want to miss one second of opportunity to play music here.

"We'd never even been on holiday in America before," Cocksedge said. "We were so excited to come, and thought it was just a little dust in the sky."

-- August Brown

Photo: Delphic. Credit: Press Here Publicity
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