Upstairs at the Fox & Newt pub, tucked away in a hidden stage, there brewed dreamy songs from a trio of acts, headlined by the duo VLMV (Uhl-muh) celebrating their newest album Stranded, Not Lost.
First up is Leeds’ very own imi, the owner of an angelically ethereal voice and the weaver of dynamic beats and strings to create a synthesised soundscape easy to get lost in. Her vibrance recalls powerhouses like Goldfrapp and Bjork, but takes ground all her own with the altogether simultaneous contiguity and juxtaposition that define the vigorous hold she takes the audience by. She finishes on her newest single, the dark electro-ambience that is ‘Margins’ that assaults the senses in the best possible way.
Ben Forrester of Manchester, and of work with Bad Grammar and GUG, presents us with his solo project Peaks. The project’s greatest appeal seems to come from Forrester’s feet: the pedal collection that loops layers upon layers of indie Americana mixed with post-rock and hints of emo pop. He plays a song from his next EP, out exactly a week from the show, ‘Heart Swell Intentions’, a beautifully-crafted melding of wholehearted vocals, light acoustic and dark grinding guitars over the top of gentle percussion. It culminates in a crescendo that leaves ears humming and hearts throbbing, a musical rendition of a tenderly vulnerable feeling.
VLMV take the stage to a much different atmosphere; blue and pink lights are replaced by a few bright exposed light bulbs, filaments glaring out at us, and swirling graphics projected onto the far wall of the small room. The orange glow fits perfectly to the ambient swaying breeze that their set seems to blanket the crowd with. In a set you want to travel a million miles away to, you look around and everyone is already there: eyes glazed but sparkling, falling into the ever-growing supernova that the duo onstage are building. The subtle apexes they achieve in bright guitar and lingering drones is hypnotisingly beautiful, and it’s no doubt everyone agrees. Someone from the back yells, “My, you’re lovely!” and nothing has ever been so close to the truth.
Each song builds on top of another, blending effortlessly and supporting the others that catch in your eyes like tears, reminding one of how personal loneliness can be, and how rewarding it is. I almost miss the second guitarist picking up a screwdriver, then a drumstick, and using it to draw across the strings like a violin, producing a lingering hum that seems the backbone of these tracks. And suddenly, they are shut off abruptly, still kneeling before their pedalboards after an entrancing stretch of enduring notes, and appropriately celebrated by unanimous applause.
Words and images by Francesca Tirpak
Featured image shows VLMV