(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)
We didn’t know what to expect. How could we? Last night was New Build’s first show in the US. But the facts were promising: assorted members of Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem playing in a side project at Mercury Lounge, the venue to catch acts with potential. If there was a time to see them, it was now. But what were we to see? The first surprise of the night came in the form of Reverend John Wilkins, a head-scratching yet excellent opener. New Build frontman Al Doyle later revealed the choice was as much about picking someone he wanted to hear as it was about proper billing. Regardless, Wilkins’s charismatic take on blues and gospel endeared him to the crowd and raised the collective mood. By the end of his set, a request for “foot stomping and hand clapping” seemed unnecessary because we were doing it all along.
Between sets it was quiet—not silent, but without house music playing in the background, the transition felt abrupt. The seven touring members of New Build eventually walked onstage to clusters of applause. Doyle, at first visibly nervous, made a passing remark about the peculiar entrance. The awkwardness hung in the air briefly, and then disappeared completely as the band’s percussionists began to play. Over the course of an hour-long set, New Build filled the cozy room with layers of rhythm and sonic texture.
At times, the sound felt like drinking a thick shake through a narrow straw: delicious yet incrementally satisfying. But New Build’s forthcoming album is a basket of treats. The first single, “Do You Not Feel Loved,” pulsed and swelled with calculated intent for the dance floor, while “Medication” was as Doyle described it, “a short poppy number.” The variety of sounds seemed natural for a band finding its footing. These are seasoned musicians, but this is new and a risk. Thankfully, they were as good as their lineage suggested. Truthfully, they were better. The bar is set high for concerts this year.
Photo courtesy of Mina K