Andre Obin at Pianos, New York

IMG_0753The piano never goes out style. The Guardian recently declared 2013 the year of piano house music. And past the Billy Joel cover bands and classical recitals, the piano still lends weight to pop tracks. And in Andre Obin‘s case, electronic music. Andre plays his synth and piano elements with a fairly unique perspective, if somewhat contained in established modes.

Appropriately enough, Obin opened for a set at Pianos, a Soho venue pumping house music in the front and fostering smaller acts in the back. Like most electronic artists of his age, Andre felt it necessary to project a series of colored patterns and test pattern glitches across the room. It really added very little. But the music more than made up for it.

One question inevitably pops up for the listener. “Have I heard this before?” Your answer is “no,” but a hesitant “no.” No piece like this can escape the tone of New Order or the beat cycling of the Pet Shop Boys. On top of that, Andre Obin occupies a musical terrain where chillwave and the like have made pianos more central to electronic music. So I don’t think anyone watching the set was necessarily surprised, but you never get the sense that Obin is unoriginal.

Thankfully, Andre works hard to set himself apart; the cavernous sound drives what might be otherwise very depressing music. Also notable was his drummer, Tucker Dawson, who sets a great pace. Sharp syncopation and a fierce beat compliment the melancholy synths. And this adds to an overall un-constructed feel to Obin’s songs. Nothing feels overworked or baroque. His music is present and unpretentious (which is saying something for a synth-heavy band). The real weak link in the set was Obin’s voice; not bad by any objective measure, his singing simply didn’t match the energy or tone of the rest of the music. His guitar work, however, was a pleasant surprise, and added more than it took away.

The highlight of the set had to be “Blue Powder,” what passes for a single amongst Andre’s work. While there are some similarities to folks like Kavinsky, Andre manages to seem less derivative. “Just like a clock that never stops.” While Obin’s music may not come from a metronome, the lyric strikes true. Everything in his music drives forward. It’s all very temporal. And it’s definitely a good start.