THE TOFF IN TOWN
The near-empty room fills rapidly once the sounds of Sleep Decade begin to fill the room, emanating from the four members like billowing clouds. Looped guitar textures, simple bass motifs and scattered drums drift out as songs form out of the air and at first seem barely held together. Sleep Decade are one of the most perfectly named bands going, once their ephemeral rock kicks into gear, you’re already seduced by its dazed beauty and the attention to detail of guitarist Casey Hartnett. Songs like First Leaves and People are OK finds a multitude of ways to make expansive, languid sounds fascinating, particularly the Pygmalion–evoking relentless guitar loops of the latter. News that the recording of the debut album was completed two days ago is heralded by a performance of the song Bicycle which has a sparse momentum that screams single. It’s another song that should surely appeal to other people raised on the sounds of Kid A.
Recently shifting their name from Tully and the Thief to Tully on Tully, curtains part to reveal a nervous-looking Tully (aka Natalie Foster) dressed in a baggy smock-like dress and with a wraparound braid already dancing on the spot awaiting the onset of opening song Blinded. There is no need for nervousness though; the crowd is onside from the first note and every song more warmly received than the last. Foster’s somnambulistic movements and wholly physical devotion to each word make her seem as if she’s giving more than any other performer, so convincing is her delivery. Words are broken, lingered on and resurrected; lyrics are cast like spells and the band act as a wonderfully intuitive whole. It’s riveting stuff, and utterly unlike anyone else. The musicianship of the four-piece band is more than proficient, Pete Corrigan’s deft keyboard work and the pealing chords from Gretsch-wielding guitarist Greg Rietwyk are especially impressive, and their meshing is well arranged with little doubling of chords and a refreshing lack of overplaying.
Songs swell and break with Foster riding the changes as if barely resisting some internal force. Close to Over is brilliant in its manic tumbling and tight brevity, and there’s no reason why with the right promotion the smart pop Organ Song shouldn’t top charts. Foster’s theatrical edge belies a knowing confidence, and it’s hard not to think that were a copy of their forthcoming album stuck to the cover of each Frankie magazine they’d never go hungry again. Is This Love? showcases Foster’s warmly expressive voice, an instrument that never needs to get sweet to win favour. The stunning single Hard to Breathe, whose launch tonight’s gig is in aid of, allows for more vocal twists and turns than usual which matches the subject perfectly. Lyrics sometimes lose their impact through repetition but that’s a minor gripe with the sheer charisma on stage, and the powerful rhythm section backing everything. Closing song No Problems There, finishes the set with a flourish and seals the deal that this is one band whose debut album is something to anticipate.