The Willkommen Collective, Union Chapel, London
Thursday 25 June 2009
It means "welcome" in German, an apposite adjective for the Willkommen Collective, a group of musical girls and boys based in Brighton, who last year launched a record label to produce albums by their bands The Leisure Society, Sons of Noel and Adrian, and Shoreline. All three are on the bill at the acoustically enticing Union Chapel in Islington.
The show begins, however, with loops of ambient sound echoing up into the cavernous chamber courtesy of Kopek, aka Marcus Hamblett, also the double bassist of Shoreline and Sons of Noel and Adrian. Almost all the bands in the Collective are composed of different combinations of the same dozen or so musicians. Next up is singer-songwriter Rowan Coupland (who plays woodwind in Shoreline and Sons), processing around the chapel followed by the "Willkommen Choir", cajoling the early audience arrivals to join in.
Shoreline play beautiful orchestral folk that swells to fill the space. Their loping pastorals fit the décor that's been laid on by the promoters Arctic Circle: leafy bowers and woodland animals litter the venue, and birdsong fills the air between the acts.
Sweet Billy Pilgrim are a folktronic four-piece with post-rock leanings. Their songs, however, have difficulty competing with the multi-instrumental sound of the other performances.
Sons of Noel and Adrian take the stage as the light beyond the stained glass windows begins to fade. Comprising 12 musicians, their sound is less melodic than their labelmates', but in these surroundings their set is the highlight of the night, with sombre chants such as "Indigo" and "The Wreck is Not a Boat" becoming stirring chorales.
The last act of the evening is the one many will have paid to see. The Leisure Society are a favourite of Elbow frontman and 6Music DJ, Guy Garvey, who recently pipped them to an Ivor Novello award. Despite their more conventional indie-folk sound, the Society have the most memorable songs of the lot.
Thanks to the other acts over-running their time slots, their set is sadly curtailed, but there's time to play a ukelele cover of "Cars" by Gary Numan, and the band's two superb singles "Last of the Melting Snow" and "A Matter of Time", for which they are joined by their rest of the collective, strumming ukes and singing harmonies. It's a fittingly communal end to an evening defined by musical camaraderie.
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