James Supercave proves better (if a bit less strange) at the Echo

James Supercave at the Echo (Photo by Bronson)
James Supercave at the Echo (Photo by Bronson)

Amid the nods of approval and smile as the floor cleared at the Echo on Wednesday night after James Supercave’s triumphant show, one longtime observer noted wryly, “Yeah, but we’ve been hearing that set for five years.”

Not much of a exaggeration, really; Joaquin Pastor and mates have been meting out their quirky, often-angular psych-pop since well before they made this website’s 2013 Bands to Watch list. The L.A. quintet had an EP (titled for one of their early songs, “Television”) that was ready in early 2013 but never quite saw the light of day; it was not until earlier this year that their proper debut, the four-song EP “The Afternoon,” emerged. Finally, their debut album “Better Strange,” will be out on Fairfax Recordings in February.

They proved ready for their close-up Wednesday night, with a muscular, tight performance that seemed almost too big for the packed room. It was as if the band, whose elliptical songs are wryly or comically or acerbically about the Foibles of Everything, inhabited each of the 13 songs without grandiosity or affectation. It was powerful, especially sonically.

Speaking of those songs, the show might as well have been James Supercave’s record-release party. They played nine songs that will appear on the album, four which date to that ill-fated “Television” EP and one of which, “The Right Thing,” also appeared on “The Afternoon.”

The meat of the set followed oldie “Esther Reed” and an instrumental interlude: album tracks “Body Monsters,” “Better Strange,” “How to Start,” “Chairman Gou,” “Just Repeating What’s Around Me,” “Overloaded” and “The Right Thing.” Seven in a row, showcasing all James Supercave’s complexities — the peripatetic rhythms, weird synths and Pastor’s pinched tenor, darting between agitated and tender. They finished strong with EP tracks “Old Robot” and “A Million Days,” both sounding meatier than they ever have.

Prior to James Supercave, Santa Ana native Miya Folick played an almost-solo set (a drummer joined her for three songs) of songs from her forthcoming EP “Strange Darling,” compelling, melancholic narratives told over undulating, dirty guitar. Is pixie grunge a thing? She nailed it.

And opening the night were VS Colour, an indie-rock quartet whose dissonant guitar parts, ferocious grooves and affection for off-kilter melodies made for one of the ballsiest 30 minutes witnessed in a while.