Published Nov 01, 2003Taking the stage at Vancouver's most charming venue, the Sugar Refinery, Oregon's E*Rock left no doubt that this would be a subdued affair. Don't get it twisted; while his stage name suggests crotch-grabbing braggadocio, the Portland native was preternaturally calm, teasing winsome piano melodies and clippity-clop percussion from his laptop while his accompanist (Colleen French) filled out the spectrum with her Mum-esque vocals and low-key flute-playing. As the founder of the mighty little Audio Dregs label, E*Rock gave those present a first-hand glimpse of folk-tronica done right. Next up was Berlin's FS Blum, a guitarist whose set recalled the work of Christian Fennesz and Ogurusu Norihide. While a stream of clicks and cuts emanated from his computer, the German sketched out delicate melodies on his acoustic axe, often times recording the result and looping it over and over to hypnotic effect. Still, without a clearly defined sense of composition, Blum's set came off rather poorly, more an exercise in sound design than proper songwriting. Such was most definitely not the case with Greg Davis, the Chicago native whose forthcoming Curling Pond Woods is one of the most hotly-awaited laptop releases of 2004. His face aglow in screen-shaped fluorescence, the bearded techno-ist crafted a wonderfully mutable piece, draping layers of acoustic instrumentation over halting digital percussion. After overcoming a software crash early on in his set, Davis battled bravely, proving that narrative tension need not be the sole preserve of vocally-oriented acts; juxtaposed against a visual backdrop of ice floes, puddles and trembling leaves, the Chicagoan's musical melancholia ushered in the fall with unerring grace.