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Review: Sleigh Bells at Bluebird 

****
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Those who attended Sleigh Bells at the Bluebird Tuesday night were treated to simplicity in its most crushing form. With the band's sound comprised of '80s shred guitar might, bratty gang-punk vocals, explosive drum loops and subtle pop hooks, their music was an exercise in maximized minimalism, with every instrument turned to punishingly high volumes so as to prevent any holes in their sound.

Currently on tour in support of their sophomore effort Reign Of Terror, the band's 16-song set featured very little frills. Aside from what was at times a glaringly strobe-tastic light show, band members Alexis Krauss (vocals), Derek Miller (guitar) and touring member Jason Boyer (guitar) stuck to the basics, and bushwhacked through their set in precise and punctual fashion, with Krauss stopping festivities only once in order to point out a group of fans dressed as characters from Wes Anderson films. "Is that Fantastic Mr. Fox?"

The venue's confined quarters played to the band's strengths. It's true their music is big and spacious, but it's also condensed and tight-knit. With a near capacity crowd bundled around a slight stage cluttered with 12 rack amps, it was easy to see Krauss and company feed off those in attendance.

While they had a new record to promote, a majority of the set dealt with their 2010 debut Treats, which features raw, unvarnished songs centered around riffs and distortion, leaving little room for melody. The set was rounded out by four straight selections from that album including "Rill Rill," a vague drug anthem that was both fitfully mellow, and a nice breather before the onslaught of "Riot Rhythm" and "A/B Machines" in the encore.

Material from Reign of Terror, which is more reliant on Krauss' voice than Miller's guitars, translated to the stage unhindered in part because the songs selected were stronger than those omitted. "Born to Lose," an echoing anthem for the underdog, featured a slightly reworked opening and began as a ballad before the full thrust of the song was injected into the crowd. However, I was glad to see "Leader of the Pack," about the death of Miller's father in a motorcycle accident, make the set. Despite their knack for impersonal lyrics, it shows they're capable of adding flesh to their delightfully robotic sound.

As for opening act AraabMuzik, an EDM DJ from Rhode Island, his 50 minute set was entirely robotic. An overbearingly cyclical performance, his dilemma was his genre's dilemma; How can you make the thousandth bass drop, scream effect, or drum machine trick as interesting as the first? Certainly not by doing more of the same. While the beginning of his set featured emphatic fist pumping from the audience, the halfway point saw only small pockets of polite head bobbing. It's no coincidence an overused smoke machine made him virtually invisible towards the end of his performance. By then, he was already lost in a fog of his own ambition.


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