Gig review: U.S. Girls at Headrow House, Leeds

U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls
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U.S. Girls’ Meghan Remy has been quietly releasing lo-fi records since 2008 but it was with this year’s Half Free that she really found her voice.

Touring the album with just a minimal synth set up and second vocalist Amanda Crist, the Toronto-based musician unleashes a curious mix of electro-dub, deep disco and vintage girl group pop that walks the line between art-pop and karaoke.

When Grimes toured with a similarly sparse configuration she manipulated sounds behind the deck, the audience watching her build up songs as samples were triggered and loops created. In contrast, Remy lets the backing track play and only approaches the synth to forge between-song collages out of radio commentary, applause and whining static.

It’s an approach that in less conceptual hands would appear impersonal – she only pauses the music once to address the audience – but she nonetheless succeeds in creating a sense of intimacy during this short set.

This is largely due to the material’s strong feminist agenda, with a parade of ‘everywoman’ characters stalking her lyrics (including a war widow on the wonky reggae of ‘Damn That Valley’). Their stories dictate whether her vocals are soulful or vulnerably high pitched, while Crist represents additional personas that she occasionally loops.

When their voices are silenced by beats that have become muffled with distortion it can only be assumed it’s on purpose given the obvious level of attention to detail throughout. At one point this sees Remy stepping off the stage to listen to the music from the audience’s perspective, furiously indicating for the sound levels to be altered.

For the most part, however, it looks like she’s hosting a party with her best friend. Cranking up the rhythm section and dancing lithely around the stage, she signals the arrival of a new contender for electronica’s art-pop crown.