Occasionally – and only very rarely, mind – we like to take a break from pummeling our eardrums into submission, and instead of standing grimly trying to put metal bands off their stride, we stand grimly and try to put off other kinds of bands.
Tonight’s sojourn to Hoxton, home of craft beer and quinoa burritos, sees us drawn in to the side (back?) room of Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, and the awaiting hazy sounds of Helen Ganya Brown and Eva Bowan, better known as Dog In The Snow. We feel immediately in familiar surroundings, as the room is almost entirely empty at first, despite the 20:15 start; it’s sort of nice (in more of a solidarity kind of way) to know that other scenes suffer the same for their art.
Nevertheless, the pair’s ambient soundscapes are inviting, and elevated by Helen’s delicate vocals. The music itself, while largely electronic, is produced live with the aid of guitar and effects pads. There’s not a great deal in the way of performance, but it’s soothing, and you feel that any thrashing around would be incredibly distracting.
Final track “Brother” – an older song in DITS’s catalogue – is the most riveting, meshing the electicness and emotion of Sigur Rós with Mogwai; in particular the main, thudding, insistent drum beat of Mr Beast‘s “Auto Rock“. It’s a great end to the set.
Dog In The Snow released a new EP called Uncanny Valley just last month, which is available via label Love Thy Neighbour.
There’s no doubting who most people are here to see. It may be their very first gig in their current iteration – two years after forming – but St. Sleep are the epitome of relaxed and professional, and the massively increased crowd is as much an indication of the quality of their recorded material as to how enthusiastic their friends and family are in supporting them (even if it is a free gig).
The comfort with which they fill the stage is matched by their abilities. In a previous form as a more upbeat, melodic pop rock band by the name of Hello Mexico they had wowed me in opening up for The Elijah‘s DVD recording a few years ago - which also turned out to be HM’s last London show. Earlier this year – and for reasons that will become clear in our forthcoming interview – they rejigged and rebranded as this new beast; a darker, moodier, yet equally beautiful prospect.
Familiar tracks from their self-titled EP – dropped this time last year – are joined by a few new ones, including the recently released “Lithe“; a synthy number with a gorgeous piano melody. Each is infused with life almost effortlessly; the five play with real passion, from the charm of singer Myles Pereira to the sublime percussion from Dan Mayers. Opener “Ciudad” builds from a simple, thudding beat and piano melody, seeing Myles’ beautifully disciplined voice absolutely kill every single note. The textures constructed by Nick Calafato and John Martinelli on guitar, and Gulli Gunnarsson on piano – with the latter two sharing synth duty – are luxurious and finely detailed – it’s just astoundingly well created on all fronts, and pulled off live almost flawlessly.
The crowd’s reaction is rightly justified. Each track is met with and waved farewell to by cheers and whistles, and as a first foray on stage with this material, St. Sleep will have been rightly pleased.
Things are stripped back significantly for Conor Stephenson, AKA The Half Earth, who takes to the stage alone with naught but a guitar. Whilst sometimes accompanied, he admits he enjoys the freedom of not having to keep in time with anyone else whilst performing – not that he’s sloppy however; far from it.
Recorded, his compositions are fully fleshed-out, and it’s something of a shame not to hear them in full flight, but the simplicity of his choir boy-like voice, along with some beautiful guitar tones is an entirely different bundle of fun. It’s disarming, like Jeff Buckley at his most delicate.
Ultimately, a long headline set of this could have dragged, but Conor keeps things succinct. He’s unfortunate to have seen much of the crowd dwindle after St. Sleep’s set, but it doesn’t dent his humour, vastly to his credit.
So a different kind of evening for certain, but nice for a change. We bagged a quick chat with St. Sleep afterwards, so keep an eye out for that; they’re a truly exciting band.