The electronic duo make a great first impression at the Rockwell in Somerville, giving the sparkling sounds of their debut EP a warm, human touch.
After their debut EP caught the attention of music bloggers and talent scouts back in 2016, Aussie electronic duo Vallis Alps decided that that they should translate their alluring, highly produced sound into a live setting. After playing their first few shows last year, including a set at SXSW, they just recently set out on their first ever headlining US tour. On Friday night at the Rockwell in Somerville, producer David Ansari and vocalist Parissa Tossif gradually won over a small but enthusiastic crowd with an enchanting performance.
After opener Matt Maeson warmed up the audience with his fiery, heartbroken ballads, the lights went out, a projector switched on, and a faded wash of pinks and blues blanketed the stage. While David and Parissa made their entrance from stage right, an ambient instrumental swirled and settled like a cool mist over the crowd, eventually dissolving into “Thru,” a downcast number from their debut EP.
David’s mellow beats quickly got the crowd dancing, but overall, things were a little slow to start. “Thru”, “Oh!”, and “Reprieve” were technically perfect, but musically soulless. This was far from a paint-by-numbers performance, but the pre-programmed quality of the music seemed to get in the way of a real connection with the crowd.
It wasn’t until David picked up his electric guitar to play EP standout and crowd favorite “Young” that the ice was broken. Parissa’s warm, clear vocals vocals and the nostalgic lyrics (“weeks went by but felt like hours… in my hair were winter flowers”) gave the song a sweet, sad tone that felt instantly relatable, and while there was no exact point of connection, it was clear by the end of the first verse that the audience and musicians were speaking the same language. As Parissa took the mic out of the stand, the crowd joined in singing, and the verse bloomed into a wistful chorus.
The second half of the show was devoted mostly to new material — after all, at the time of writing, Vallis Alps have released a grand total of five songs. While the debut EP features blissed-out textures readymade for showcase on the Majestic Casual or MrSuicideSheep YouTube channels, the new material sees the duo capitalize on their musical potential with songs that could exponentially expand their already growing fanbase outside the realm of music bloggers and Spotify or Soundcloud new music junkies.
The three unreleased songs debuted on Friday explored Parissa’s vocal range both stylistically and technically, showing that she’s a truly underrated vocalist. On one new track, an 80s-inspired bop accompanied by sunny rhythm guitar and visuals of ocean waves, she navigated tricky vocal runs with a carefree elegance that recalled Sara Bareilles or Kelly Zutrau of Wet.
Like any act worth their salt, Vallis Alps saved the good stuff for last, closing out the night with “Fading,” their latest single and their best song yet. As the high-pitched vocal samples of the opening instrumental slowly braided into a sinuous beat, Parissa drifted from the far left of stage to the center, settling at eye level with the audience.
The crowd began to sing along to the first verse (“and nothing goes unspoken when the colors unfold/cuz now we’re alone in the atmosphere”), and it was unclear whether Parissa was singing about the beginning of a new relationship or literally waking up in paradise. Surrounded by David’s hazy, euphoric production and Parissa’s supernatural vocals, it became clear that, to Vallis Alps, this distinction didn’t matter.