The quintessentially ‘La Belle Angele’ purple haze douses the famous room as a night of electronic folkness commences.
A sprinkling of both new and old songs sees Jonnie Common enliven the crowd. His largely enjoyable set is perhaps most succinctly summed up by a comically fast guitar solo followed by the utterance of “eh, something like that anyway”, bookended with radge electronics.
Neil Pennycook and a diminutive Meursault set-up of just two more musicians take to the stage to play their latest record, Crow Hill, in its entirety. The record is an entity delicately capturing the lives and loves in all abstractions, of the wildly wacky inhabitants of the fictional setting of Crow Hill. A live version of the album produces an almost tangible sense of vitality that is so rarely present in any other musical setting.
Pennycook’s contradictingly charming and abrasive electronic production, alongside keys, accordion, and guitar, provides a versatile set of soundscapes for the touching and sometimes comedy-tinged stories communicated by a relentlessly powerful voice to be embedded in. Throughout the performance a constant chiming of soft and intricate melody is absorbed under vast layers of electronic drums and omnipresent chordal backing.
Despite an undeniable power within the demonstration of Crow Hill, scarcely were the most intimate and heartfelt moments of the album replicated with such tact, save for perhaps a highlight of both the record and the gig: ‘Nahkla Dog’. In a rendition further stripped back than the recording, a voice, usually strong, crushing, and so heartily full, is suitably reduced to a fragile wavering shadow of itself, often lingering into a lulling falsetto.
Amidst wandering tales of sea lions and sex robots, a permeating sense of humour sits, waiting eagerly to be presented when appropriate. It emerges in bouncing banter between bandmates and in such lyrics as “you can take back all your abstractions and you can fuck off back to art-school.”
A lively and loving home-town show: just what the doctor of Crow Hill medical practise ordered (one could imagine). Warmth transfers from stage to after the show as band members chat to old and new friends alike, and Pennycook, in his jovial self-effacing manor expresses a slight resentment for the project’s Camus referencing name, as it has now spoilt an otherwise good novel for him.