NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB
Though at first they seem an unusual choice to open for a couple of female-fronted-folk ensembles, Parking Lot Experiments soon prove that they can take any situation and make it their own. With a manic buzzing energy the four-piece come across as Ween dressed like the cast of Freaks and Geeks reprogramming a Commodore 64. Seemingly incapable of playing a false note or contriving anything at all, PLE kindly suggest that any reviewers tonight use the phrase ‘PLAYFUL amateurishness’ though I’d also add ‘infectiously gleeful’ and ‘eminently danceable’, with their song Superchug providing the best evidence for all of the above comments.
Bringing the mood straight to one of introversion is Ainslie Wills, with her stark Liquid Paper, one of the most arresting opening songs in eons. Soon bringing on the band and taking that attention we’ve given her to strange and beautiful places, Wills shows that for a singer-songwriter, she uses music in the most imaginative ways. Swathes of cymbals, Rhodes piano, cooing harmonies and delayed guitar spread wide, contrasting powerfully with her arresting and remarkable voice. Satellite shines and Half Present glows gloriously as the band pull out their best Grizzly Bear style chops (hacked jazz chords with heavy reverb, stuttering bass and choppy loose drums) to great effect.
Hello Satellites arrive as the audience numbers peak, nearly filling the venue. It’s their last show of a national tour and despite this, singer Eva Popov seems to take until the third last song to relax. Illuminated by projections of out of focus constellations and material textures, her songs are fleshed out by the prodigiously talented band of bass, accordion, violin and two drummers, one who was used for the east coast leg of the tour and one for the west.
Popov’s delivery often seems perfunctory and slightly cold at times, as if she’s disconnected from the scenes she so smartly depicts. Guests move on and off, in the form of mesmerising vocal trio Aluka, and a horn section. At one point Popov uses her custom instrument the thong-o-phone (lengths of plastic pipe beaten with thongs), further illustrating her and her band’s (and album producer Nick Huggins’) gift for imaginative arrangements. These skills that reach a peak on the sterling tracks Pelican, Out There and the closing Heartbeat Fast As A Rabbit, where the rhythms rise in volume and complexity, matching the soaring vocal work of Popov and Aluka.
Three very different acts, three stars in the making.