The Books / The Black Heart Procession Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC December 5

The Books / The Black Heart Procession Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC December 5
San Diego, CA's Black Heart Procession live up to their name. Every song in their Vancouver set lyrically dealt with some aspect of heartbreak and sorrow, while Tobias Nathaniel roused unsettling emotions on a digital piano from his first note. Other primary member Pall Jenkins moved between guitar, musical saw and morose solo vocals.

Unfortunately, either Pall had a cold or he simply doesn't have much range with his voice. He fell flat in his rare voyages to a higher register, and otherwise remained safe. This became mundane after a few tracks, about the same time as the visuals -- a jittery slideshow of crosses, clocks, vampires and crying people in green and red hues -- started repeating. Nathaniel's piano emoted far more resonantly over the course of their set than Pall's monotonous vocals, but as poignant as Tobias was, it wasn't enough to save this set.

Contrasting the opening act with a sense of humour and wonder, the Books are something else. Primary readers Paul de Jong (cello) and Nick Zammuto (guitar, vocals) appear humble. Yet when their bizarre mixture of electroacoustics, found sound arrangements, cheeky VHS visuals and pop folk instrumentation start humming in unison, a bizarre incantation takes place. At once, you feel like a mystic on the verge of transcending space and time.

The Books' patchwork visuals synched up with the plunderphonic soundscapes in most of the pieces, often to hilarious or awe-inspiring effect. One can only guess how many hours of instructional golf tapes they had to sift through to make the video backing "I Didn't Know That," but the effort was worth it.

Unfortunately, the recorded sounds were significantly louder than the live instruments, while the videos bordered on distracting. However, when one relaxes into the experience, the Books wash over the listener/viewer in waves of visceral, surreal head-trippery, conjuring strange images and ethereal tunes in your mind's eye and ear.