While other Dear Plastic fans are presumably elsewhere frantically scrabbling for Kate Bush tickets, the few punters who catch the opening set from half of Oh Pep! see something very special. Missing their rhythm section, the duo of Olivia Hally and Pepita Emmerichs play a folksy Americana that makes you wish you were sitting on a hay bale in a Mississippi twilight. Dedicating the song Big Strong Man to their missing male members (heh heh), Emmerichs’ crystalline harmonies and tumbling violin and mandolin melodies show her fearsome skills, though these never detract from Hally’s beguiling, seemingly wood-aged songs. Travelling and new song Railroad sound ancient, and news of their imminent five-month tour of the US and Europe is heartening. Any band that has customised crockery as merchandise deserves a far bigger audience.
Invisible Dears are a five piece with a superfluity of technical skills and ideas, and it's these qualities that are both their biggest asset and weakness. Faultlessly shifting styles and tempos several times each song (though never straying far from soundtracking a Dolmio ad) is as fun to play as it is alienating to a non-virtuoso listener and suggests the band are constantly bored of their own songs. While individual segments are interesting, do you, dear reader, think Daniel Johnson's fragile masterpiece Walking the Cow needs to be injected with optimistic funk, sped up and played ‘right’? Didn’t think so.
With the venue near capacity by the time they go on, Dear Plastic take to a stage that resembles a model of a city block; a teetering tower of Moog gear, squat amplifiers, expansive synthesizers and a lone microphone stand. After an arresting instrumental piece, singer Scarlette Baccini joins her bandmates, opens her mouth and sets jaws dropping. Expressive, rich, dazzling, it’s rare to stumble across an instrument this natural and distinctive. Best given the room to shine as it is on recent single, the Goldfrapp-esque Everything’s Coming Up Roses, and tonight’s launched single Buck Up and Pay the Reaper, these songs aim high and rarely miss.
Without dramatic shifts in dynamics or obvious choruses, songs like No Way to Know, Physical Chemical and Bridge to Burn are surging, enveloping creations. Hooks emerge from clouds of rich keyboard textures though sometimes obscure each other and the chiming guitar lines. Baccini, resplendent in multi-coloured Lycra top and striped leggings, is an engaging presence, constantly in motion, always in control. Like a fervent soundtrack to a David Lynch film, Dear Plastic are not, as they claim on their Bandcamp page ‘dishing out more melancholy than Radiohead’, their emotional range is far greater than that. It's a revealing and distinctive set, and one that promises even better to come.