Dark Horses, Neils Children, Telegram – The Shacklewell Arms, London, 2nd Of August 2013

They say all things come to those who wait, and never more apt an analogy was to be had tonight. One of the three bands were late to soundcheck, another had members tied up in an interview with a weekly music rag and the scheduled 8.45 start for the first up, Telegram, turned into a 40-minute delay. With Neils Children following on, it was a full 70 minutes past stage time before headliners Dark Horses even got to see the stage. Not quite Bieber level, but long enough.


So it was that when Telegram, the hotly touted London quartet, finally took up instruments, The Shacklewell Arms’ room was still less than a quarter full. But not for long. With very few live outings under their belt (and no recorded works as yet, bar a few demos), Telegram have been nicely filling support slots and building up a word-of-mouth reputation that says this is a band on the rise. Blending psych/Krautrock/post-punk, they introduce ‘newer’ (though to many here, all were doubtlessly ‘new’) songs like opener ‘Cool Thou’ and ‘Under The Night Time’. Both, as might be expected, meet with less enthusiasm than ‘Eons’, with its Supergrass likeness and on which guitarist Matt Wood remains so bent double over his instrument for much of it, that you half expect he will be booking in for a physio workout the next day. ‘Follow’ is a triumph, with its striking opening chords and all three on guitar (Wood, vocalist Matt Saunders, bassist Oli Paget-Moon) working in fast-paced tandem, spewing out huge riffs like there is no tomorrow. When Saunders, wiping sweat from his curly-mopped brow, announces the last of the six-song set (Folly’) it comes not just with its deadly arrangement of prog-like strikes, but on this occasion is thrashing; the reverberating guitar end is elongated to four-minutes-plus – like some psych TOY variant. The crowd, meanwhile, can only look on in awe and wonder whether they ever plan to end it. But ‘end’ in a good way; most would have been happy for this to stretch another four minutes. Telegram are still in their infancy, but boy, when they reach their ‘teens’ – watch out.

Neils Children

Who is Neil? Who are his children? Until this year, that must have been what the band themselves were asking. Enjoying something of a revival after a fallow period of refocus, coming back as nu-shoegazers and a well-received album, Dimly Lit. Now shifted up a gear, front man John Linger, who once looked uneasy in his role, now owns the stage, dabbling on guitar and mini keys to augment his own understated, yet compelling vocal. Still the rather clean-cut looking band that your mum (if under say, the age of sixteen) would be happy for you going out to see.  Opening with ‘At a Gentle Pace’, Linger urges with intensity to “Look inside, see everything, something that will never show, something that will never grow”, like some latter-day Syd Barrett. Stark guitars and melancholic basslines fill the likes of ‘Trust You’, alongside the trippy ‘Edward The Confessor’, with Linger on guitar, supported by echo-fuelled drum effects. Finishing on ‘Hello In My Hands’, which like Telegram, closes on a joyous extended non-vocal interlude of three-minutes before Linger takes back the mic for another two minutes of guitar feedback, shows that Neil may just have found where both he and his children are at.

Dark Horses

It may have been well past their scheduled time slot before the night’s headliners Dark Horses took to the stage, but it was more than worth the wait. This Brighton-based, mysteriously obscure quartet, who came almost out of nowhere last year with their album Black Music, put the marker on how to play it cool, yet be thoroughly engaging at the same time. For the first date of their week-long mini tour, the Horses carry it off with full aplomb. Lisa Elle, the enigmatic, front woman, wearing ripped and laddered stockings and clad as dark as night, takes no prisoners as she fiercely strides into metronomic opener ‘Alone’. Detached and mesmerising, Elle commands attention, yet curiously purveys a demeanor that is both detached, yet distinctly defenseless. Synths pummel their way through ‘Radio’, and thick walls of sound on ‘Wake Up’, that are spread over with reverb as thick and sweet as treacle. Light effects send shivers through ‘Saturn’, giving an eerie appearance to band members, half-cast in darkness; whilst ‘Traps’ and final number ‘Boxing Day’ – their double A-sided February single release – combine an essence of psych in the former, with the space-age electronica of the latter. All in all, Dark Horses put on a stunning display here. If you happen to be a betting person, put a fiver each way on these Horses being big names by this time next year.

(Photos: Jen Moffatt)

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