Published Oct 08, 2014Despite growing up in Winnipeg, Tuesday night's (October 7) show at Union Sound Hall was only the second time Robert Alfons' gloomy, Toronto-based electronic synth-pop act, TR/ST, has performed in the city.
Moving from the more intimate West End Cultural Centre to the larger (and some would say more appropriate) warehouse space of Union Sound Hall for its second appearance, TR/ST's (formerly known as Trust) new material seemed better suited for the low ceiling, minimal lighting and booming, bass-heavy sound system at the Exchange area club. Alfons made sure the stage setup helped establish the mood, using a number of tall, paper-wrapped lights that were synced with the show and proved you don't need to blow a huge amount of money on your stage production budget to have an impact with lighting and ambience.
Working through material from this year's Joyland, and 2012's critically acclaimed TRST, the trio seemed more comfortable when they dialled up the intensity and let Joyland's bombastic synths, low-end throbs, punchy drum workouts and simple melodies drive the trajectory of the night, sending the normally sedate weekday crowd into boisterous cheers between songs and during the peaks and valleys in the set.
Alfons used his garbled, chameleon-like vocals to push the weird, melancholic moodiness inherent in some of the productions to the edge, and at other times used them to give an even icier touch to his tracks. His vocal style may not be for everyone, but it gives TR/ST a restless, dark-tinged take on the dance floor that immediately sets them apart from the other synth-driven acts out there.