Sensory Overload: The Receiver and Operators dial up a connection

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From the May 15, 2014 edition

It felt like a missed opportunity when some phone company didn’t sign up to sponsor a recent Double Happiness show pairing long-running locals The Receiver and Operators, a newborn trio featuring Dan Boeckner (Divine Fits, Wolf Parade) and C-bus resident/drummer Sam Brown.

Fittingly, brothers Casey (bass/vocals) and Jesse Cooper (drums/backing vocals) of The Receiver kicked off the evening with a 35-minute set of lush, synth-smeared prog-pop built around lyrics that often sounded like a phone conversation between onetime lovers.

While the lyrics tended to betray a crisis of confidence, the music itself never wavered, the pair utilizing live loops to craft dense patchworks that moved effortlessly between swaggering (“Visitor”) and shattered (the symphonic “All Burn,” where the bassist delivered his words like a defeated fighter attempting to slowly pull himself up off the mat).

The brothers Cooper split their set equally between old songs and unreleased numbers off their recently completed new album, which the two are currently in the midst of shopping around to labels in the hopes of seeing an official release sometime later this year. The best of these new tracks — “Collector” and the glitchy, percussive “Transit” — underpinned the pair’s growing rhythmic sensibilities with warm, flowering synthesizer that owed at least some debt to Casey Cooper’s recent work scoring films for director Jennifer Reeder.

It’s a performance that (rightfully) earned praise from Boeckner, who spent a portion of the pair’s set positioned directly in front of the stage, bobbing along as atmospheric dissonance bled into pulsating turns like “Castles in the Air.” “You have good bands in this town,” the native Canuck said as Operators’ too-short, 40-minute set wound down.

Though only partial residents (Brown lives here, and the trio recorded portions of its still-to-be-released debut in the basement of his Clintonville home), it’s definitely worth adding Operators to the list. The band’s set — dominated by dark dance-rock numbers — leaned heavily on corrosive analog synths and Brown’s malleable kit work. In Divine Fits, the drummer embraces a more minimalist style, but here he was cut loose, bashing through aggressive, punk-inspired rumblers (the terse, tense “The Shape of Things to Come” — one of only a handful of songs where Boeckner deployed his guitar) and pulling back for more skittish, groove-oriented turns where the three-piece transformed the cramped venue into a sweaty discotheque.