Saturday, Oct. 17

From the general run of their press, you'd think you'd need to get your geek on for a Junior Boys show. The Canadian band is known for exploring the outer fringes of the dance music galaxy, where your passport needs to be stamped with the likes of The Postal Service, The Pulsars, The Blue Nile and distant ancestors in German math rock and '70s Bronx DJs.

But Saturday night at Plush, it was all about relentless power and dynamics. The crowd of about 200 seemed to have been building toward catharsis through the first two sets, and then whatever intellectual impulses the Junior Boys had brought to their music were lost in the visceral impetus of the beats. The audience churned almost non-stop until the last notes of the encore.

It's their intellectual approach, though, that makes the Junior Boys soar so far above the earthbound thump of hip hop and the mechanical grind of disco. Their music unfolded in layers of textures and shifting, interweaving polyrhythms and syncopations. Matt Didemus' synth was, of all things, earnest, in a way that subverted the fundamental alienation of an otherwise almost universally mechanical genre, and Jeremy Greenspan's boy-next-door voice delivered the band's essentially pop melodies around lyrics snatched from real life, organic and engaging.

Much of the set came from the band's April, 2009 release Begone Dull Care (Caprice en Couleurs), an album inspired by the brilliant, but obscure, 1949 short film of that name, in which Canadian illustrators Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart animated jazz music by Oscar Peterson. But it was the set closer—"In the Morning" from the band's 2006 So This Is Goodbye—that clinched the crowd's encore request.

Second opener Circlesquare actually did play to the geeks. Their set was as arch, fey and arty as the Junior Boys' was relatively down-to-earth. Self-consciously curated images on two video screens perfectly emphasized dramatic highlights in the music, and every other detail of the performance seemed meticulously attended to, as well, from the width of Jeremy Shaw's suspenders to the complex blend of live drumming and canned beats.

Both these bands benefit greatly from live drumming and looping, but the first opener, Tucson's small-yet-mighty ... music video? continues to earn a sizable local fan base with inspired electronics and personality alone.

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