Brasstronaut, Wild Swim – The Lexington, London: 24th April 2013

Brasstronaut”. What sort of name is that? Despite on paper conjuring up images of brass bands and floral dances by an exosphere-ascending astronaut, in audible terms they are actually a pretty good live act that straddles a range of influences from jazz through to pop – by way of a psychedelic trip or two.

“We’re Brasstronaut, we’re from Vancouver – and we’re very excited to play for you tonight!” enthuses Sam Davidson, the man of clarinet and electric wind instruments the size of which were a sight to behold in themselves.  Of that pleasure there was no doubt, as they head off into Bounce with its jangly tangled mix of synth and bass and which is the set-setter across a 12 song package that despite their name, doesn’t revolve solely around brass instruments. They in fact utilise a range of synths, slide, lap and steel guitar, clarinet and EWI, all of which combine together for a rock/synth fest that reminds most prominently of Arcade Fire. They look a somewhat odd bunch two, with two bearded bespectacled members on drums (Brennan Saul) and guitar (Tariq Hussain) – the former looking like a possible moonlighter from an accountant’s day job – whilst  Bryan Davis looks far too staid to be hitting anything less than a Courtney Pine special next to Davidson with his lanky frame and hair tied up in a back knot.

Having just rolled in from Paris that morning to play the last date on their European tour, it feels, says vocalist and keyboardist Edo Van Breeman, “like coming home” for them to be back in London. Oh go on with you, smooth talker! There’s little need for Brasstronaut to schmooze at all with their wealth of material and musicianship more than able to ‘speak’ for them. In a room that is rammed, and four rows deep by the bar with punters spilling out onto the stairs, they have garnered a reputation over the last six years that they are ‘musician’s musicians’. Stornoway’s Oli Steadman was one of the well-known faces they draw in here, and who later described them as ‘fantastical!’.

Brasstronaut – Mean Sun from Everything All At Once on Vimeo.

It had been mentioned on the morning of the show that the band had yet to decide the set numbers, and it appeared a few times during the night like they were still debating even when they were already on stage, going into breaks for group discussion before electing what to play next. What came was all good from the jazz elements surfacing on The Grove, with a long trumpet solo intro into, to the instantly recognised Mix Tape which is responded to with huge appreciative applause from what obviously is a crowd made up of 80 per cent hardcore Brasstronaut fans truly here to see this band. Falklands (“this is dedicated to the late Margaret Thatcher”) and Francisco also came into play, both from their last album release Mean Sun of last year. Of course there were also favourites such as Requiem For A Scene and Insects Released which came from their 2008 EP. As did the night’s encore and title track, Old World Lies. And its lyric “the old world has eyes/peeping out the back of its head might well be indicative of the fact that if you were there seeing this band for the first time, you’ll be back again and telling your friends too.

The night’s opening band, Wild Swim, were another who threw up a surprise or two of their own – not least the injustice that they are still playing supporting shows when they are certainly of headlining calibre (promoters take note). The other surprise is how vocalist Richard Sansom manages such a strong, deep baritone when he is not that big in stature. Another Night, their forthcoming single, (delivered pitch perfect to such a degree that you started to wonder were they miming. And that is actually a compliment rather than an obtuse aside), was undoubtedly the highlight and looks set to put these swimmers on the map. The dark electro-pop outfit have a tendency to catch you unawares in parts, particularly with the aforementioned Sansom. From baritone on the likes of Another Night and Bones to Echo where the pitch becomes seductively whispered. Add in some impressive twiddling of synths and a variety of key changes – Bright Eyes – and you have the makings of a band that could well be another to feature largely on the Oxford map of song.


Photo credit: Katherine Heggie

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