Every once in a while, you witness a live band that reduces you to rubble. An incoherent, speechless mess. You walk away from the venue wondering what just happened. On a Saturday night in Whelan's, a small but appreciative crowd were lucky enough to witness just such a band. They are called Exitmusic and they hail from Brooklyn. They released an album in 2012 called Passage and it is very good indeed. As good as the record is, nothing prepares you for the searing white hot intensity of the band in the flesh. Singer Alexsa Palladino cuts a slight, almost delicate figure on stage. But once she opens her mouth to sing, she is transformed into a dark angel, a destroyer of hearts with a voice that eviscerates and obliterates, moving from a soft hush to a banshee wail in the blink of an eye. Husband and co-founder of the band Devon Church adds subtle guitar shadowplay and sheets of glorious white noise in equal measure.
Opening with a chilling version of 'The Sea' off their From The Silence EP, there was no let up as the band ramped up the intensity levels to almost unbearable levels over the course of an hour long set. Most of the material was drawn from the Passage album, so we got spine tingling versions of 'The Modern Age', 'White Noise' and 'The Night'; the darkness at the heart of these songs amplified one thousand times over in a live setting. A major highlight was the title track from Passage; a song that on record could be interpreted as a tad melodramatic but live makes complete and utter sense. At times, it felt like the narrow confines of Whelan's struggled to contain such a huge, all encompassing sound – this is a band that packs quite an emotional wallop. Palladino's voice is their most potent weapon –it is hard to recall a singer that has such a visceral impact in a live context – closest reference point must be Jonsi from Sigur Ros, and the similarities between the two bands don't end there. Exitmusic's use of subtle electronic textures and great walls of guitar noise make them kindred spirits with their Icelandic counterparts.
They finish the set on a beautifully downbeat note, Palladino singing 'we are sparks of light but we hide it' providing an emotional and affecting end to one of the best gigs seen on these shores in recent times. Yes, it really was that good – next time around, mark them down as unmissable.
Review by Paul Page