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Live review: Glasser at the Troubadour

November 4, 2010 |  5:40 pm


For having released a debut album that could ostensibly be played on loop into infinity, Glasser sure is a fan of the short set. At Cameron Mesirow's big victory-lap show Wednesday at the Troubadour following the release of "Ring," she recalibrated her refracted, electro-tribal compositions into a brief (45 minutes, give or take) clip of standalone singles that underscored two of her best traits -- her virtuoso attention to sonical detail and that voice.

Mesirow's plowed through a number of different band setups since her first spate of singles in 2009, ranging from a two-piece with an iPod to a double-digit cast of local indie heros from Foreign Born, Darker My Love and others. Her current ensemble is a lean, polymath electronic four-piece with an intriguing MIDI-guitar player who combines the live physicality of a Stratocaster while coaxing weird bell sounds, loops and ambient pricks from his instrument -- the trilling arpeggios of "Treasury of We" were especially gobsmacking to watch.

This setup relies heavily on backing tracks (probably a necessity, given the density of "Ring"), but the show is always Mesirow's. Let's go ahead and make it official that she's probably the most interesting vocalist in L.A. outsider music right now, full stop. On a relatively straightforward song like "Home," she proved she's a belter with the best of them (Björk is an obvious reference point), wringing depths of hope and longing from the single title word. "Mirrorage" had the icy vibiness of Thom Yorke's "The Eraser" with sonic exotica from both Balian bells to the Gap Band's vocoder in the margins, while she kept a chilly but inviting distance vocally.

But more contemplative tunes such as "Plane Temp" and the jazz-skronking "Clamour" proved her experimental bona-fides: She's unafraid to hang on a single nonsense phrase for a hook that, when tied to an excellent melody, conjures something wild and strange and moving. Pre-recorded vocal harmonies are about the lamest thing one can do live, but Mesirow's live instrument is so extraordinary that when she used them, they felt like ephemeral arrangement details rather than compensation for something missing.

If there was any shortcoming, it was in the set's modest visual presentation. This is music so fraught with mystery and discovery that one wonders what she could do with, say, Fever Ray's stage direction supporting her ravenous musicality. But then again, for an encore, she came out alone for a minute-long a capella, admitting she hadn't prepared anything in advance. It was a completely haunting, heartbreaking number, and the most riveting part of her set. One got the sense that you could listen to her do that all alone for, well, forever. 

-- August Brown

Photo courtesy True Panther