Active Child, Chad Valley, and Silver Swans at Bottom of The Hill [Live Review and Photographs]


Photographs by Darryl Kirchner

We arrived early to catch Silver Swans, the Bay Area based synth pop duo led by vocalist Ann Yu of LoveLikeFire. The sold out show was barely packed. Silver Swans have only a handful of released tracks, but after hearing “Secrets” I was eager to hear more. On “Secrets” Yu sings in a whispered, dry tone that balances the churning synth line and is comparable to Sneaker Pimps. As she performed she looked out into crowd, seemingly needing affirmation, as she stiffly rocked back and forth (likely the result of a new group with not enough material out there for people to provide that affirmation).


Chad Valley followed next. The larger set and average looking Brit who one might overlook, had a memorizing presence on stage. Each track he layered vocal loops over minimal arrangements, building on the crowds’ anticipation, before releasing tumbling synth rhythms that shook the walls. He performed like a hip hop producer scratching one record, listening to other record queued, a smile on his face knowing that the party was about to erupt.

With the crowd riled and sweaty from Chad Valley, a cool air of elegance filled the room with Active Child.  Listening to him can make someone feel more sophisticated, the same way looking at man smoking a pipe in a dark parlor would make one think he’s a dapper chap. The added echoing effect on Pat Grossi’s vocals creates a chant like reverberation that coupled with his harp playing reminds me of classical Baroque music or what I’d imagine the music was like at a Grecian party. But lyrically Active Child, who writes about love, heartache, and relationships, sounds wooingly like an R&B singer on tracks like “Playing House” where he sings, “Don’t wanna be in love just with anybody / I’m tired of being just Mr. Anybody / So baby come with me and lets just make a body.” It’s a deadly combination of seduction and sophistication that any fan of Bon Iver or Frank Ocean, should willingly give themselves to.

Active Child

Download Mp3 – Active Child: “High Priestess”

Download Mp3 – Active Child: “Playing House”