In the world of electronic music, New York-based duo Bob Moses is a curious beast. Like the album cover of their 2016 album “Days Gone By,” their songs are dark, romantic and distanced, like dance-pop meets emo rock. As they brought their tour through NYC for a hometown show at Terminal 5 last Friday, the pair demonstrated their uncanny ability to sync up their seemingly disparate musical and performing sensibilities into a fantastically exciting live show.
What might be the key aspect to the group’s success as a live act, aside from the presence and chemistry of singer and guitarist Tom Howie and producer and keyboardist Jimmy Valance, is the presence of a live drummer. It’s the element that takes the chilled-out groove of their records and gives it a propulsive and unexpected jolt of energy. Having a drummer gives Howie and Valance freedom to show off some of the more interesting instrumental work that dot their discography.
“Too Much Is Never Enough” or “Keeping Me Alive” remind you that these guys are, first and foremost, a band. Perhaps that’s what makes them such an anomaly within their musical community. They make music like a band and they work the crowd and the stage like a band. However, any artist that leaves as much room for drum and guitar solos as they did hardly fits the traditional boundaries of electronic music.
It’s clear, though, that falling within traditional boundaries was never their intention. Bob Moses was more than happy to submerge their show in far darker waters than their contemporaries might. They embrace aspects of trance and psychedelic music in tracks like “Far from the Tree,” casting the band members in minimalist luminescent silhouette as opposed to the kind of full-throttle assault on the senses to which popular electronic artists are prone. But it can’t be denied that some of the most outright fun moments of the performance were when the music reached its energetic peaks. In particular, the funky “Tearing Me Up,” complete with fans singing along and slick guitar lines, and the slow building “Talk” seemed to energize the crowd the instant the beat kicked in.
“Days Gone By” is one of those albums that reveals more of itself with each listen, where your favorite song changes with the seasons. It’s easy to understand why Bob Moses has just kept getting bigger since its debut, as more people discover the group. At one point in the show, the pair recalled their musical rise in New York, noting that just a year ago they were playing the Bowery Ballroom and now they had almost filled a space nearly five times the size. Before Bowery, they were playing Brooklyn warehouses and formulating their sound. To see local artists who have carved out their own paths and are only becoming more successful is a treat, and when they can put on as good a show as Bob Moses does, it’s even better.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 11 print edition. Email Carter Shelter at [email protected]