Foundlings/Sister John/Cloth @ Sebright Arms, EAST LONDON
Saturday 2nd March 2019
The amazing crowdfunded not-for-profit independent label Last Night From Glasgow has been around for three years. So, with their Brighton/London-based signing Foundlings releasing their debut album with the label, what better time for LNFG’s first London show featuring three flagship acts; two of whom have proved popular with the Fresh On The Net audience in recent times. All three have had prominent BBC radio support in 2018/19 too.
LNFG boss Ian Smith introduced the Glasgow trio Cloth as the label’s hot properties. He may have said it with tongue partially in cheek but actually they really are. Fresh from having delivered a particularly memorable live session on Tom Robinson’s Saturday Night show on BBC Radio 6 Music and with a 100% track record of getting their track submissions into the FOTN Fresh Faves in 2018, they are gathering interest from new music’s most ardent advocates. Steve Lamacq is another who has played and praised their cool atmospheric Post-Dream Pop.
In a recent conversation I had with Tom, he talked about their incredible poise and what an amazing sound they made with two guitars and drums when they appeared on his show. I certainly see exactly what he meant. The two guitarists use a series of tunings and build their unique sound on intricate harmonics, unusual chords and a contrast between chugging lower-strings figures and a veritable rainbow of resonant (sonic) colours and patterns. The fact that they, Rachael and Paul Swinton, are twins may well [in part at least] explain the incredible telepathy that seems to exist between them. Rachael’s voice is goose-bumpingly clear and otherworldly. There are moments when their utilisation of guitar harmonics reminds me of why the early U2 were such an exciting proposition before they discovered their inner stadium rock band! Showing my age here for sure!! One of my friends said they reminded her of The xx. Certainly there is a comparison with that band’s love of reverberant guitar patterns and light textures although, in my humble opinion, Cloth’s music is way more interesting.
Drummer Clare Gallagher is both amazing and original, driving the songs along, multi-tasking all the way, controlling additional sounds while still keeping immaculate time. At one point she continues to drum with foot pedal and snare beat while shaking jingle bells with her other hand! If there is a better example of a band in which three people each bring so much to the creation of a unique sound, I should like to hear about it. Their penchant for unusual harmonics and floating ethereal melodies add to this aura. It is pretty difficult to make music that sounds new in this post-everything era. So, while there are shades of Cocteaus, Mazzy Star, maybe Lush too, they are new and there is nothing else like them in current music.
It is difficult to talk about highlights in a set where every track was a delight but exquisite renditions of Old Bear and Disco Love were spine-tingling. The trio do come across as a little shy on stage although Paul did his best to retain a good-humoured presence joking that he hasn’t quite mastered the art of tuning his guitar while ‘… having a laugh with the audience’! They are certainly endearing. They also make musical parts that are tricky and would be easy to mess up look incredibly easy. Cloth begin work on their debut album later this month. I can’t wait to hear it.
Sister John are a reminder that LNFG’s model is multi-genre. Ian introduced them humorously as the ‘… dependable old guard’ which, in LNFG-speak, means they have now released two albums! I reviewed their recent album for Trust The Doc and noted, at the time, the rich tapestry of classic influences that draw on an obvious love of Americana, Country, Rock and related canons. Live that is all the more emphasised. Amanda’s confident vocals and strummed guitar chords are a constant along with Jonathan’s lead guitar style which utilises a good deal of what us seasoned strings-players refer to as double stopping. He plays in thirds and fourths in melodic riffs that recall Ron Wood in his Faces days and others like Bernie Leadon and Robbie Robertson.
It’s always fun to see band members switching instruments and Sister John do just that. Bassist Heather and drummer Sophie both play violin. Jonathan switches to Bass and they all contribute to harmonies which, at times, are truly lovely. Their eponymously titled second album is well represented with authoritative renditions of Eight Years and the single I’m the one. I was a little surprised Amanda didn’t mention that the latter got played on Amy Lame’s show on BBC 6 Music last weekend; a great endorsement of their music. My favourite moment was a gorgeous version of Waiting for the sun in which the combination of their voices was magical.
Foundlings have only been together for a year and were keen to thank Ian and LNFG for taking them on at such an early stage. It is important to know that because it is clear that their sound is still in development. They have a driving energy that is immediately appealing and they are accomplished musicians. And they have already had a track in the FOTN Fresh Faves, been singled out by BBC Introducing in the South and have completed their first UK tour. A pretty impressive Year One!
Singer Amber cuts a confident figure, moving around the stage, leaning on the mic stand and chatting in relaxed manner with the enthusiastic crowd. Her voice is strong and at times it soars and swoops while, at others, she is softer-toned and understated. In Bryan they have a bassist with a rock solid proficiency and fluid, sometimes funky style. Matthew (Guitar) and Olly (Drums) add a fizzing energy and are strong instrumentalists too. They have some cracking songs like the intensely building Enemy and the janglier Caught Up On You, both of which underline their melodic flair.
The band’s Facebook page lists a number of influences, many of them classic Post-Punk (Joy Division, The Fall, Bunnymen, Siouxsie etc.) and others more recent such as Parquet Courts, Courtney Barnett and Haley Bonar. Their music veers between wall-of-sound contemporary Punk-Pop and more dreamy semi-psych Indie with a hint of shoegaze. They write strong melodies and are a tight unit. So all bodes well. They need to continue to carve out their own niche within that broad template and find what makes them truly individual but they are moving in the right direction and their energetic live performance tonight was ample proof of that.