By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Had Brooklyn's Small Black been recording and releasing material back in the '80s, critics and journalists would've simply labeled the band's layered, dreamy lo-fi sound as synth-pop or, perhaps, electro-pop. File under: Rock/Pop. In interviews, though, band members have described Small Black's sound as "Casio dream noise pop" or "not chillwave," and the band claims influences ranging from Eno and Bowie to Human League and Gary Numan.
But when the band's first singles started dropping in the summer of '09 (back when chillwave was still called "glo-fi"), music bloggers and the press associated the new-yet-nostalgic sound with similar-sounding acts Washed Out, Memory Tapes, Toro Y Moi and Neon Indian. It didn't help that Small Black started touring with Ernest Greene's Washed Out, while doubling as Greene's live band on the road and at SXSW. Since then, Small Black's been genre-tagged and forkcasted on Pitchfork so many times it's silly.
Jagjaguwar released Small Black's debut full-length New Chain earlier this week and the album is packed with lots of soaring, driving synths and the stuttering drum machine beats that could seamlessly follow Neon Indian's Psychic Chasms or New Order's Power, Corruption & Lies on a CD changer (or Pandora). Watch for New Chain on top album lists later this year.
Sharing this bill with Small Black are Brooklyn's equally interesting electro-pop trio Class Actress and Denton's own Sextape, playing again after a hiatus spent recording an EP.