Toro y Moi / Sinkane Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, BC, February 26

Toro y Moi / Sinkane Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, BC, February 26
Photo: Steve Louie
This may not be in your thesaurus yet, but Sinkane is another word for sick. Ahmed Gallab is the multi-instrumentalist behind the group, whose touring members count drummer Jason Trammell, bassist Mike Montgomery, and Mikey Freedom Hart splitting time between guitar and keyboards. The international outfit bounced island riddims all over the sold-out Biltmore crowd, with rich three-part harmonies whenever Hart wasn't working a sweet talk-box.

Unfortunately, though Gallab valiantly attempted to engage the crowd between songs — asking the audience to raise their glasses, starting a soul-clap, and dedicating songs to partying and the ladies — it was obvious most people there were killing time until Toro y Moi. Granted, Sinkane wasn't much for stage presence, but their brand of spaced-out, dub-tinged, Afro-futurist funk did all the talking required. Hart killed it on guitar, the rhythm section held it down and Gallab did everything he could. They showed more swagger than Lee could "Scratch" a Perry to, and left it all onstage.

Flanked by window blinds lit up with primary colours and a three-piece band, Toro y Moi (aka Chazwick Bradley Bundick) looked like an Urban Outfitters model in a button-up shirt and his trademark oversized glasses. Pulling from drastically different influences than Sinkane, Bundick used his set to showcase the disco soft-soul direction to which he defaulted from his chillwave fad origins.

However, unlike Sinkane, Bundick failed to do his newfound influences justice. His voice was flat and tuneless unless in a falsetto, glinting with karaoke reverb, and he can't conclude a melodic idea to save his life. Granted, his band was reasonably tight, but either they couldn't jam or Bundick wouldn't let them.

Every track ended on a hanging melody, on the last note of a phrase, which they often wouldn't even give you the courtesy of holding. Particularly noticeable on tracks like "New Beat," "Go With You" and "Studies," they just stopped playing, making it like the musical equivalent of writing in no-caps without punctuation.

Toro y Moi is a perfect example of style over substance. Strip away the gimmicky genre prefixation and this was merely poorly delivered, with bland lyrics over ill-conceived throwback R&B disco. While it's not exactly being done in that homogenous, assembly-line way in which major labels would pump out session band disco albums in the late '70s to capitalize on the then-fad, it came off that way live.