The indie-pop duo comprised of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, Wye Oak, headlined a sold-out Webster Hall Wednesday night in support of their new paradigm-shifting album Shriek (Merge). They opened with a few electronically adorned uptempo tracks, a bold deviation from the somber folk rock of their 2011 release Civilian. Between the alternating thud of bass guitar and drums, the counter-intuitive rhythmic propulsion of “The Tower,” was treated with even more sonic eccentricities and lurid syncopations than the studio recording. There were moments, though, when the allure of electronic programming seemed to work against the natural appeal of Wasner’s guitar playing. Such was the case on “Glory,” where a deliciously sputtering guitar solo was reduced to a feeble arrangement of cotton candy synth lines.
On the whole, however, Wye Oak‘s performance was dynamic and graceful, especially considering all the disparate, and often tumultuous, noises produced solely by Wasner and Stack where a four or five-piece group would normally situate themselves. Even as a slightly under the weather Jenn Wasner suppressed fits of coughing and spritzed an unknown substance down her throat (“I’m not even going to tell you what this is,” she joked coyly between songs and spritzes), the group left no notes unsullied, each sonic embellishment louder and wilder than the last. As their set progressed they transitioned to their older material, which left ample room for Wasner to drown the venue in volatile reverb and frenzied feedback.
For their encore performance, Wye Oak returned for two songs: a gorgeous, synth-washed rendition of Kate Bush‘s “Running Up That Hill” and their 2011 standout number “Civilian,” which swelled and swayed through a range of emotions but finally settled on a beautiful kind of mournfulness.
Photos by Angel E. Fraden