PECQ and Ella Clayton at The Lexington

The Lexington, London N1 — Tuesday, 25th October 2022

The Lexington is fast becoming my favourite Central London venue. Situated halfway up Pentonville Road between Angel and Kings Cross, it has seating around the outside of the main area in front of the stage which, as someone with invisible disabilities, is a deal breaker for me these days. The sound is always clear and well balanced, and the bar is not ludicrously expensive. 

Tonight’s gig is actually being headlined by The People Versus but my friend and I are unable to stay late enough to watch them. In any case, we are here at the kind invitation of recent Fresh Faves PECQ. The Oxford duo, signed to the exciting Upcycled Sound label, have latterly relocated to London, and this gig is part of a UK tour that takes in a range of cities including Glasgow, Cardiff, Liverpool and others.

First on stage is East London-based singer-songwriter Ella Clayton. Performing with just guitar and voice, she takes little time to captivate the gathering crowd. Her use of major seven chords, finger-picking arpeggios and bright strumming has echoes of early Tracy Thorn in a jam with Laura Marling. Her voice is striking, even a little bluesy. My friend suggests she reminds her a bit of K.T. Tunstall which I can definitely hear. That combination works really well, helped by the strength of her songwriting. It is a measure of her abilities that she already has a song in a movie and her confidence in mixing tracks from her debut album Murmurations with brand new material is impressive. She also has an easy manner with the audience that enables her to explain the motivation behind the songs without over-egging the pudding. It has been an uplifting and thoroughly engaging set.

PECQ (pronounced Peck in case you are wondering) are clearly enjoying the buzz of being on tour. The duo of Hannah ‘Jakes’ Jacobs (Vocals/Synth) and Nikò O’Brien (Drums/Synth/Production) upped their game during lockdown, spending hours in the studio honing their style, and writing in a genuinely collaborative manner. They have released 2 EPs (with a third about to drop) and, in a relatively short time, have been voted into the Fresh Faves and been featured on BBC Radio 1, BBC 6 Music and on playlists on Spotify and other platforms.

Live their sound is cinematic and reverberant, electronic note patterns mixing it with washes of warm synth and powerful live drums. Jakes’s voice is strong, distinctive and expressive. She is humorous, telling the audience about the songs, being “ratted out” by her little brother and explaining that the Glenn Campbell classic Wichita Lineman, which they play a dreamy and original cover of, was her grandfather’s favourite Country track. She also teaches the audience the chorus of a song and gets them to sing along when the instruments drop out. 

A big part of PECQ’s appeal is their penchant for the unusual; extended harmonic language, great dynamic contrasts and melodies that are striking but nonetheless memorable. Tonight Jakes’s voice soars above the fluid and full-on sound world the pair have created. It has been a great way to introduce themselves to a large and appreciative crowd.

Afterwards we spend an enjoyable half hour or more chatting with Jakes and Nikò (and briefly with Ella Clayton too). Although both members of PECQ have plenty of past experience with bands, this tour is actually their live debut as PECQ so they have gone in at the deep end. It doesn’t show though and they look very comfortable on stage. A very pleasant end to a really enjoyable gig.

Neil March

Neil March is a Composer & Artist with a PhD and Masters in music composition from Goldsmiths University, who has pursued careers in the contemporary classical and pop worlds, and has been supported by BBC Introducing, for whom he performed with his live ensemble The Music of Sound at Latitude in 2017. Read more.

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