Annelotte de Graaf plotted an unusual route onto the musical map. Told many times before, her back story makes mention of a brace of law degrees, her funding the recording of an album through savings she had accrued from past jobs – including that of a supermarket cashier and an aide at the international war crimes tribunal – and those tapes ultimately finding their way onto the desk of Heavenly Records’ boss Jeff Barrett. The end product was Fading Lines, released last summer under the guise of de Graaf’s alter-ego Amber Arcades and a debut album that is rich in effervescence and no little promise.
On the eve of a prestigious tour supporting Grandaddy, de Graaf is in York to play an intimate headline show. With her four band members she treats us to the lion’s share of Fading Lines, a pretty pumped-up cover of Nick Drake’s ‘Which Will’, ‘What A Heart’ from the 2015 EP Patiently and ‘Can’t Say’, a brand new song that threatens to remove Amber Arcades from the relative safety of its hitherto shimmering guitar-pop orbit and onto a much higher spectral plane. You end up sensing that Annelotte de Graaf is a mother of re-invention and that she probably has the capacity to stay one tantalising step ahead of the chasing indie-pop pack.
Earlier Ola Szmidt took to the stage suitably armed with a bass guitarist – well, for a couple of songs, anyway – her flute, a Loop Station and a mesmerising voice that hung in the air somewhere between her native Poland and that of Sweden’s Lykke Li . Practised as she is in the art of improvisation, we shall await Szmidt’s debut offering with our hands suitably damp with expectancy.
You can always trust a man in a bootlace tie. And if you are lucky enough to get two of them together, well that’s even better. The chaps sporting the admirable neckwear tonight are Danny and Sam. And just like Ziggy before them, they also play guitar. They have got Jack and Dom beside them and collectively they go by the name of Cowgirl and this is their first ever gig. And as first ever gigs go, it is something rather special.
Cowgirl play good time rock’n’roll; a primal, shit-kickin’ version of the genre that ever-so-helpfully assists even the most rookie of listeners to join all those dots that connect garage punk with Danny Whitten-period Crazy Horse. It is tough, powerful, thrilling music that goes on to blur the boundaries lying between primal simplicity and nascent psychedelia. Given the manner in which they stole the entire show, these guys really ought to be arrested for grand larceny.
Photo credit: Simon Godley
More photos from this show can be seen HERE