The 3 1/2 exquisite minutes that make up “Ran,” a single and accompanying video from Future Islands’ new album “The Far Field,” encapsulate everything you need you know about this Baltimore-based, synth-savvy pop troupe.
It begins with a cool sheen of electronics from Gerrit Welmer, the kind that has fueled everything from 1970s new wave songs to modern dance-pop sounds. Then we scroll past a dash of manual percussion from auxiliary member Michael Lowry and bass guitar support from William Cashion. On the video, all the three reflect a sense of stoic, studious reserve. On record, their combined orchestration possesses an icy but emotive backdrop, a cinematic setup for the crowning touch.
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That finality comes literally bursting out of the song and video in the personage of Samuel Herring — a robust, almost punkish presence that gives Future Islands a distinct bravado. Comparisons of the resulting music to a less robotic version of New Order are not ... out of order.
Herring also is the catalyst for the band’s electronic soundscapes onstage. A March 2014 performance of “Seasons” from its then-current album, “Singles,” on “The Late Show with David Letterman” became a viral sensation for Future Islands. Welmer, Cashion and Lowry provided a poker-faced back line as Herring worked the stage with guttural growls and lounge-lizard moves. Letterman loved the performance. “I’ll take all of that you got,” he told the audience on camera afterward.
In short, Future Islands is a synth-pop band with smarts. Its studio music reveals artfully emotive construction. Its performances torch any sense of a safety factor to become a vital live-music creation. Experience the mix when Herring and company take over Manchester Music Hall on Sunday.
Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival
Noon Sept. 1, 11 a.m. Sept. 2, noon Sept. 3 at Terrapin Hill Farm, 3696 Mackville Rd. in Harrodsburg. $30-$80. Terrapinhillfestivals.com.
When Labor Day weekend hits, the Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival can’t be far behind. The annual bluegrass-esque, jam band-inspired summit takes to the great outdoors in Harrodsburg beginning Friday night. Lots of familiar local and regional favorites pepper the schedule, including the Restless Leg String Band (for a late night show … technically, very early Saturday morning), The Wooks (a headlining set on Saturday) and the Rumpke Mountain Boys (a festival closing performance on Sunday).
Of particular interest this year will be the Joe Marcinek Band, a Dead-friendly troupe with a revolving guest lineup that has, in the past, featured such all-stars as Ivan Neville, the late Bernie Worrell, Umphrey’s McGee drummer Kris Myers, String Cheese Incident percussionist Jason Hann, and Snarky Puppy keyboardist Shaun Martin.
For a full festival schedule, go to Terrapinhillfestivals.com.
The Legendary Shack Shakers
A Lexington favorite since they played the long-gone Dame during its opening weekend nearly 15 years ago, the Legendary Shack Shakers have proved a potent — and, at times, downright frightening — vehicle for scorched roots music. The Paducah-born band features founding frontman J.D. Wilkes, whose love of Southern Gothic inspiration and punk-directed performance immediacy has long fortified the danger element within the band’s music.
Wilkes and his newest Shakers brigade take to The Burl on Sunday to support their new album, “After You’ve Gone,” which was released last week. The song’s title tune is a modest departure for the band, with a low-fi, sax-punctuated juke-joint sound. The narrative, though, is as heated as ever. The song takes its cue from Wilkes’ recent divorce. He told Popmatters.com that the composition “describes the melancholy doldrums that set in after a break-up or divorce, … the soul-crushing boredom and loneliness that I’m sure we can all relate to. If you can’t relate, then I’m not sure if I can trust you as a person.”
Another Labor Day weekend tradition, albeit one that tends to get overshadowed by the avalanche of activity that often comes with the holiday, is the Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival in Winchester — in particular, it closing concert at Lykins Park, which has featured a number of country music notables through the years, including Sugarland and Rodney Atkins.
Add one of Kentucky’s own to the roster. Sundy Best, fresh from its Summer of Sundy series at The Burl, will headline the Lykins Park show on, you guessed it, Sunday. The Prestonsburg-rooted duo of Nick Jamerson and Kris Bentley will perform along with Ohio-born, Lexington-raised and now Nashville based singer Raleigh Keegan and Winchester native (and Pioneer Festival mainstay) Lauren Mink.