In the first of a week of gigs to celebrate Independents Day, what better label to start off proceedings than Bella Union, founded by Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde, and home to Midlake and Fleet Foxes. Tonight is about showcasing the rising stars of the music industry: four lesser-known names hoping to follow in the footsteps of the bands that have made it to the indie mainstream.
Danish Chimes and Bells are followed by Here We Go Magic, a Massachusetts band who spread a little stardust with their hippy-ish psych-folk that spans old and new seamlessly. The tribal beat and four-piece chanting of "Only Pieces" is pleasingly Graceland, while their best track, the swirling, melodic "Fangela" has shades of MGMT, and they happily sit alongside Animal Collective. The band are nothing short of entrancing.
Sleeping States' singer-songwriter Markland Starkie almost breaks that golden rule – not to share your dreams with other people. "I tend to sleep heavily and most of my songs seem to be about that," he tells a polite crowd about the reason behind his act's name, "but I don't dream ever, apart from this morning... " A hundred people sigh with relief when he launches into the band's eponymous single, with trembling guitar bubbling under his measured and beautifully undulating vocals.
At his best, live, Markland's songs are shamelessly romantic and allow his voice to shine. In "Rivers", he plants guitar notes which are deliberately chaotic in their dissonance à la Pavement; elsewhere, he is hampered by the lack of a drummer, and tries to compensate with an experimental, dark and crackling track, "Spiralling", which would be more suited to the soundtrack of a Guillermo del Toro film.
My Latest Novel are from the same strident indie-folk-rock school as their Scottish peers Frightened Rabbit and the Twilight Sad. Their "All in All in All is All" from new album Deaths and Entrances is show-stopping – a dramatic and emotive opener with the kind of compelling violin refrain that new band, Broken Records, excel in. Nothing quite matches the storming opener, but it's the dynamics that keep My Latest Novel interesting. They can build up to crashing drums, all three guitars blazing, and drop to a gentle violin and vocal-harmony-fuelled bridge seamlessly, as in "Sister Sneaker Sister Soul". They throw everything into it, heart and soul. With the exception of "Dragonhide" in which they creep into Snow Patrol's less interesting territory, My Latest Novel have many inventive and captivating moments.
If tonight shows the diverse talent of an independent label, it's still only a selection: Bella Union could hold a week of gigs themselves and draw the crowds.Reuse content