Peter Broderick is a precocious but not yet wholly formed talent. The 23-year-old was plucked from obscurity in Portland, Oregon to the relative spotlight of the Danish experimental rock band Efterklang. Broderick left everything behind to move to Copenhagen, with a restlessness also apparent in his own music. Piano instrumental albums bashed out in an hour were joined in 2008 by a considered LP of guitar-based songs, Home. Virtuoso, singer-songwriter, sideman or star? The acclaim for his new mini-album, How They Are, and the reverent attention from the crowd packed into this beautiful 18th-century Soho church suggest that Broderick doesn't need to decide.
How They Are is a stopgap before a promised magnum opus, put on hold when an injury kept him on crutches. He'll finally tour the UK with a full band for that. For now, we get his usual one-man mixture of the raw and technologically treated. Sometimes he leaves amplification behind to march up the aisle, yodelling to the rafters. His choirboy-high, sweet voice sounds purer this exposed, in a church so intimate he could leave the electricity off. On "Not at Home", though, he loops and layers his instruments, becoming a solo orchestra whose music is so technologically vulnerable it can be pierced by mobile-phone signal static from the crowd.
Solo piano pieces such as "It's a Storm When I Sleep" are similarly thick with splinters of detail amidst swift, rolling virtuosity. His songs, new features of a young career, are gently associative, poetic vignettes. On "With a Key", they conjure mystical arcadian bliss in Oregon's backwoods. "Sideline" sums up his observational, gently humorous world-view. It lacks the precision to grab your heart, like his as yet undefined, inquisitive career. The fans studiously attending every note seem ready to follow him, whoever he turns out to be.