Tropic of Cancer – Submerged in low BPMs and washes of reverb (live review)

February 28 2017 3 1

Tropic of Cancer @ Musikcafeen, 23.2.2017 – review by Ivna Franić / photo: Lea Anić

Last week, Tropic of Cancer played one of the final few – and for some of us easily the most important – concerts of this year’s Frost Festival. I had been wanting to see them live for a while now, and as much as I looked forward to the concert, I couldn’t help but cautiously contain my excitement as the festival’s exclusive events practice has previously proven to be a double-edged sword.

Not only does an unusual performance space not guarantee its quality, it can also reveal the organizers’ lack of understanding of the artist’s work (see: Joanna Newsom’s 2016 concert at Glyptoteket). With the concert being moved from an apparently too tiny hall at Fasangården to a more conventional albeit still rather small and cozy setting of Huset-KBH’s Musikcafeen, though, it seemed like we were simply in either for an awkwardly exclusive show or a beautifully intimate performance. Fortunately, Tropic of Cancer didn’t seem to be particularly concerned about anything other than providing us with an excellent concert.

Taking the form of a two-piece live band, Tropic of Cancer’s Camella Lobo was accompanied by Taylor Burch of Dva Damas. As soon as Burch set her foot on stage, you could sense a sort of pure emanation of style, fully achieved once joined by her partner in crime. Their stance strikes a good balance between focused and cool, smoothly avoiding the faux disinterested posture typical for acts associated with the “dark” attribute. Something like this also goes for Lobo’s stunning vocal delivery: although never lively and playful, it is still miles away from deadpan. We didn’t have to wait long for proof of this, considering that Lobo unleashed the full scope of her sublime voice as early as the opening track of both her LP, ”Restless Idylls”, and this live set – “Plant Lilies at My Head” – while also revealing its sometimes hidden 80s-4AD-potential. These few minutes were about as long as it took to give in to absolute surrender to Tropic of Cancer.

Lobo’s music is often directly or indirectly described as being consistent: She may not be trying to break new ground, but is deeply devoted to exploring the possibilities within her sound. Even if they can be depicted in a similar manner, Tropic of Cancer’s releases thus never actually feel like more of the same. This translates to live performance as well – instead of relying on occasional change of pace to maintain your interest, Lobo and Burch do exactly the opposite, dragging you deeper and deeper into the desired mood until you have no chance of escaping the emotional weight of low BPMs and washes of reverb. It is a rare case of a dark concert at which a fog machine would be redundant in underlining the already heavily mesmerizing atmosphere.

After an inspired and powerful stroll through “The Hardest Day”, “Court of Devotion”, the especially epic “Stop Suffering” and other gems, Tropic of Cancer announced that they were about to play their last song for the night. It wasn’t too difficult to guess that this might be the upbeat “More Alone”, whose noise was left to linger on while Lobo and Burch walked off the stage making it clear that we shouldn’t expect an encore. And really, we shouldn’t. Their performance made for such a perfect and rounded whole that returning to play a couple more songs would only break the meticulously crafted atmosphere.