In her first concert in the United States, Canadian Tess Roby played expressive yet crystalline synthpop at Motorco Music Hall for Moogfest 2018 in Durham, North Carolina.
Tess recently released Beacon, her debut album, via Italians Do It Better. From her home in Montreal, the 23-year-old singer wrote the album in 2015 after the death of her father, naming the album after a brick watchtower that stands in Dalton, Lancashire, originally erected to warn of French invasion during the Napoleonic War.
“Throughout my life I have felt the pull to return to it,” Tess said. “I’m beckoned by father’s roots and by the sullen landscape of fields leading to the coast.”
Listen to Beacon by Tess Roby on Spotify:
In concert, Tess performed on her synthesizer accompanied by her brother Eliot on guitar. The resulting music, mostly drawn from the album, was lush but deep, precise but expansive. Early in her eight song set, Tess played “Catalyst,” which would have been at home in the England of the early ’80s as a synthwave ballad. With it, she sang of memories not faded but rather surrounding us as “a catalyst of love.”
Near the midpoint of the set, she played “Ballad 5,” which drew attention for its dreamy reflection of falling in love only to drop into the penultimate line, “Now I hate everything about you,” delivered deliberately as a bit of a gut punch followed by a pulsating synthline that drifted into ambience.
Tess is certainly at home with her labelmates on Italians Do It Better. If you know the music of Johnny Jewel’s bands Chromatics and Glass Candy, Tess Roby is a comfortable neighbor to their sounds, filling empty rooms with distant melodies that somehow still radiate a sense of warmth. All the while, Tess appeared quite approachable with an air of quiet pride and a strong sense of herself.
a new song
After Moogfest, Tess visited Union Stage in DC on Monday. She travels along the West Coast beginning with a date in Santa Cruz on May 24 and remains on the road until a return to Canada on June 11.
Here are some pictures of Tess Roby at Motorco Music Hall during Moogfest on May 18, 2018.