Alessi's Ark, Lexington, London


It's unfair to lump the entire current crop of exciting female artists together into one mythical scene. They're too interesting and too diverse for pigeonholing. In particular, Alessi Laurent-Marke, the driving force and mastermind behind Alessi's Ark, is nothing like her contemporaries.

She's made of the same enterprising, DIY stuff of course, but she channels herself in another direction. From the hand-knitted CD caddies that come with the merch to the fact that she's managed by her (lovely) parents, she is probably as far removed from pop divahood as it is possible to be.

In fact, she's quite an anxious stage presence, even before a small north London audience, all kooky patter and pigeon toes. At one point, she asks for the stage lights to come down, standing there foolishly for a minute as absolutely nothing changes. At others, she stops halfway through a song to apologise for a bum note or forgotten lyric; chummy amateurishness seems to be her MO.

The confidence with which she delivers her songs is entirely at odds with her stagecraft, however. She has a lilting, smoky voice, clearly much more powerful than she's letting on, and she deploys it exquisitely over simple finger-picked acoustic guitar.

She is joined on stage by a chap providing subtle accompaniment on bass and guitar. From time to time, he'll waft in with a vocal harmony, which is when the show is at its most enchanting – Alessi's music comes into its own when those harmonies are piling on top of each other.

There are times when her material veers a shade too close to dinner-party territory, and she can be prone to rely too much on her vocal prowess, but she's too sophisticated a songwriter to tumble into that particular sonic abyss.

She's on stage for hardly any time and leaves with precisely as much fanfare as she arrives: none, but for all her cackhandedness, she leaves us heartily satisfied.