Live Review: Smoke Season at the Echoplex

 SmokeSeasonVincentStevens3RTMaterial: Ethereal, transient electronic influences collide with delayed riffs of folky Americana in Smoke Season’s well-composed tracks. Although a four-piece, the band is reminiscent of the powerhouse duo the Kills. The relaxed, adagio grooves bleed into roaring choruses, over which Wortman’s high-pitched, sensual screams echo. These nonsensical chants, however, become repetitive and unnecessary, and the catchy, well-written choruses pack a healthier punch without them.

The band’s orchestrated verses, tight stops and bridges stand out on “Cold Wind.” Seductive harmonies, especially on “Bees” and “Simmer Down,” enrich the vocal melodies and enhance the lyrics. A number of songs blend together, however, with beats that are often the same.

Musicianship: Wortman has an impressive vocal range and is in constant control of her levels. Her keyboard riffs, which can be spooky or funky with great tone, are tasteful and well-executed. Rosen’s vocals are equally as controlled as Wortman’s, and his guitar playing is unique and confident. His solos fall short, though, as notes get lost in his overwhelming delay.

Davis and Roberts lock in and set the tone for each track. While Roberts plays simple grooves, they are assertive and appropriate for the genre, and allow Davis and Rosen to freely roam their fretboards.

Performance: Smoke Season quickly grasped the audience and didn’t let go until its final punch. The romantic vocal melody on “Opaque” echoed over the strong, open chorus and an onstage chemistry ignited between Rosen and Wortman. The solid, hollow drumming was a focal point in the material and anchored tracks like “Badlands” and “Cold Wind,” on which Rosen strummed a descending slide riff that coalesced with Wortman’s acoustic, folk guitar.

The songwriting compensated for Rosen’s muddled solos and the drowned-out, haunting keys. Tempos remained slow, but the set escalated like an orchestrated crescendo from “Song Wol” to the finale. Throughout the set Wortman tackled the vocal melodies with a fierce tenacity and soulful growl, which she should utilize more frequently.

Summary: Smoke Season has a polished sound that could be more distinguished with tempo variation, but the band is well on its way to a bright future.

– Vincent Stevens

Show location: The Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA
Web: http://smokeseason.com
The Players: Gabrielle Wortman, lead vocals and keyboards, Jason Rosen, guitar and backing vocals, Christopher Roberts, drums, Gabe Davis, bass.