The black-box basement of this Clerkenwell pub is a reliable well of new music, hosting nights like Electroacoustic Club and The Moonshine Jamboree, which tonight brings together representatives of two mutually appreciative folk-ish scenes: Sons of Noel and Adrian (part of Brighton's Wilkommen collective) and London's Left With Pictures.
For a 10-piece, the Sons' playing is remarkably tight. Most numbers begin with founders Jacob Richardson and Tom Cowan duelling on guitars; the rest of the band then well up behind them for such songs as the new single "The Wreck Is Not a Boat", with its introductory choir of whistles, or the heart-swelling "Inside Olympia", which begins with a shimmering fiddle. The Sons' songs are less melodic than their Brighton sister act The Leisure Society (with whom many band members are shared), but they have a raw, emotive quality to them.
With brass, woodwind and string sections of sorts, the Sons have an enviable breadth of sonic possibilities. It's a slight shame, then, that they resort to the same tricks too often in a short set. Occasionally the swell of sound becomes dirge-like. But their self-titled debut album is well worth a listen.
If the tone of the Sons' set is generally morose, Left With Pictures are awfully cheerful. Bouncing around in smart casualwear and warbling close vocal harmonies, they seem like a quartet of religious studies teachers putting on a show for the kids. LWP's Secretly EP and the single "Every Stitch" demonstrate an instinct for melody to match their influences, Sufjan Stevens and Belle and Sebastian being the most obvious. The tunes are twee and twinkly. This being a tiny venue, the vocals are a bit high in the mix, making the instrumental sections the most rewarding. For their closer, the band step away from their mics and into the crowd; the cover of Richard Thompson's biker rebel ballad "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" is a classy finale.
Rounding off the evening is Lay Low, alter ego of the adorable Icelandic singer-songwriter Lovisa Elisabet Sigrunardottir. The interplay of her country-folk and the accompanying multi-instrumentalist is enticing but downbeat and, eventually, a tad tedious. There's more variation in her recorded output, so check out her new album, Farewell Good Night's Sleep.