Monday, July 27

Tucson said goodbye to Terraformation on Monday night at Plush. Mohadev, Ben DeGain's key collaborator in the desert Tortoise-like project, is off to seek his fortune in Austin.

But Terraformation made many new fans at the show anyway. A Saturday-night-sized crowd had gathered to see Sub Pop artists and headliners the Album Leaf, and the two bands were an inspired pairing—both demonstrating how much power and emotion can be conveyed at midtempo and midvolume, with intelligence, musical chops and a wide-open mind about the fuzzy divide between conventional music and the sounds of our lives.

Those who just discovered, or have not yet discovered, Terraformation's music need not despair. It may no longer be possible to catch the band in its regular sets at the Red Room, but its February 2009 release, Darkness Among Stars, can be downloaded, for free, at And we can be sure that pan-instrumentalist DeGain will be heard from in another atmospheric project very soon.

While Terraformation made a fantastic impression, all the star power at Plush belonged to Jimmy LaValle and the Album Leaf. The early influence and support of Sigur Rós, plus 10 years of recording and touring behind his uniquely powerful and generally uplifting compositions, proved out in LaValle's command of the room, not to mention the intricate interplay of the arrangements and his cast of multitalented musicians with their masses of inscrutable gizmos. Hardly a conversation was heard anywhere in the venue, as the crowd hugged the stage in rapt attention.

LaValle told the crowd he was en route to Phoenix to master a new record, set for a February 2010 release. This is great news for fans who haven't had new Album Leaf music since 2006's Into the Blue Again. Just three songs from that release were included in the set, including "Always for You," which was played in the encore along with "Vermillion," from the 2001 One Day I'll Be on Time, and "On Your Way," from the 2004 In a Safe Place.

The rest of the Album Leaf material was new, most songs featuring a violin as a central character, and at least two incorporating subtle doses of hip-hop and dance beats. After 10 years, La Valle's vision continues to shift and evolve with power, intelligence and grace.

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