Channel Cairo, Barfly, London
Every now and then you discover a new band that you feel have belonged in your record collection for years. Rarer still, you discover that the band live on your own street. This I discovered when a local fire in Willesden Green, north-west London, led me online to Twitter, and to my neighbours, the pastoral dream pop band Channel Cairo.
Via some BBC6 radio play, and gigs across London – and on the strength of an astounding debut single, “Elephant Room” – the small Camden venue is packed out with fans, including one who’s so enthralled she’s travelled all the way from sunny California to rainy London. It may be early days – tonight the band are launching their second single, “A Year” – but it’s easy to see what lured her across the Atlantic.
This five-piece create blissfully expansive, dreamy melodic pop. In their singer and pianist Josh Bowyer they have a charismatic frontman with a talent for song writing. But it’s the beautifully crafted arrangements and lush instrumentation of their timeless pastoral pop, which each band member contributes, which renders their songs so magical.
The prominence of the piano – Bowyer stands at it at the front of the stage – strikes obvious instant comparisons to piano-led indiepop band Keane, but their music is far more interesting and beguiling.
While recalling the inventiveness and intricacies of art-rock band Wild Beasts, they blend this with classic influences from the harmony-laden Sixties pop of The Beach Boys, and the spacious instrumental sound of the Seventies, nowhere more redolent than on the majestic and melancholic “A Year”, with its widescreen feel. “Elephant Room” is one of the best singles I’ve heard this year. It also boasts some knowing lyrics such as: “she’s a singer in a rock group/ and don’t she let you know about it all the time”.
Bowyer opens with a confident flourish of piano leading into blissful harmonies contributed by his band members and builds to a dramatic climax that’s so typical of the refreshing twists and turns their songs take. There’s nothing formulaic about Channel Cairo. “Drifter” has an eerie feel, hinting at Radiohead as do the skittish beats that the spectral “Halo” breaks into, all the while carried by Bowyer’s keening vocals.
Channel Cairo aren’t just putting Willesden Green on the musical map – they are set for pastures far wider.
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