CANT - Cargo
Live Review

CANT – Cargo, London

“Good grief, how am I going to describe that,” I said to my friend as we left Cargo in London last night. “Well, that main guy sounds a little bit like Grizzly Bear,” he quipped. Funny guy… But there’s no denying Chris Taylor has a distinctive sound, one that’s recognisable in the music of his Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear and one that he can’t help but take with him into his solo project CANT.

CANT is more than a Grizzly Bear spin-off though. Taylor has described his latest endeavour as being “all about me” – a kind of creative release of emotion and tension, without the compromises that come with making music in a band. That’s very much how the project comes across live too. There’s often a point in any gig where the band goes off-piste, heading off on a soaring freestyle instrumental during which you can no longer sing along and must instead be content to gaze at your shoes for a bit. Last night was almost ALL like that. Only we got to gaze at Taylor’s shoes instead, which were kinda cool, all black and white stripes.

It was exciting, unfamiliar territory: intense, very powerful, and a little dark and scary in places. But it was controlled with a mastery that only musicians like these guys can pull off. So a thrilling ride, with safe hands at the wheel. We weren’t plunged straight in to the deep experimental end either – the set (pretty much the CANT debut album “Dreams Come True” played live) started softly, with tracks that instil nostalgia for late-eighties jazzy, souly R&B, featuring Taylor’s smooth, elegant, accessible vocals.

Added to the sound mix were the French disco synth stylings of John Kirby (of Eurovision controversy Sebastian Teller’s band) and some delightfully different yet tight drumming and percussion from Guillermos Brown. We also got the guitar noodlings of Dev Hynes, albeit a little subdued after his supporting act in the guise of his latest project, Blood Orange.

(Blood Orange’s set was a whole different kettle of fish from his album Coastal Grooves – the same C-side Prince tracks, but much less polished, much more immediate. Most of his time on stage was spent off stage, coming down to stand among the punters and going a bit nuts on guitar. It was all a bit incongruous. But strangely compelling.)

“Dreams Come True” works well live. Highly personal projects like this sometimes do – with that extra freedom, and performed by such a diverting collection of musos, it felt like a creative, exciting jam session. It might not translate so well in recording though – the album (released on the 12th) doesn’t have quite the same appeal. Given Taylor’s skills in production and the solo nature of the CANT project, it might have lost some of its edge. But intensity doesn’t always stand up to repeated listens, and maybe the highly restrained and polished quality of Dreams will reveal layers of warmth and complexity on repeated listens…

Either way, you can see why Taylor felt the need to wander off on his own for a bit – on his journey he’s found some lovely stuff, and music in general feels just that little bit more interesting because if it.

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