James Yuill, Cocknbullkid, Trophy Wife, Visions of Trees
Chris Eustace 10/02/2011
They've given us early stuff from acts like Bloc Party and Friendly Fires, coming good with almost scary regularity, and this enjoyably eclectic evening out with the cream of Moshi Moshi's current roster down in N5 showed that their strike rate's as good as ever.
Early arrivals get to enjoy electro duo Visions Of Trees, who offset moments of Bat For Lashes-esque otherworldly beauty with the harsh synths of Crystal Castles, albeit in a less confrontational, if no less effective, way.
Next up are former Foals touring buddies and fellow Oxfordians Trophy Wife, and it's not hard to see how the two bands have struck up a friendship. Both seem determined to put a cerebral spin onto danceable indie, with as little po-facedness as humanly possible. As the propulsive force of single The Quiet Earth hold, it seems that they may even, dare I say it, have more of a sense of fun than Yannis and co. Certainly, anybody hankering after another round of the Antidotes sound has found their band.
Cocknbullkid, decked out tonight in a fairy-lit headdress, has returned in blistering form, founded on one simple idea - there's always going to be insecurity and crippling self-awareness on the dancefloor, so why not get people to dance to it? Stand-out tracks Bellyache and Asthma Attack channel this anguish into superior bass-driven indie-soul, and while obviously Cocknbullkid, is still her eponymous theme tune, her mission statement now appears to be Hold On To Your Misery, which argues such feelings are essential to staying what passes for sane, all wrapped in a tune which could see the song, and the Kid, (un)happilly hold their own against Lily and Amy in the top confessional pop stakes.
James Yuill, meanwhile, shows a healthy disregard for the “HMV Next Big Thing” banner at the back of the stage, covering the bulk of it so that the visuals that back up his headline set tonight can be seen properly. He does himself a slight disservice here. If people don't find the sight of an indie-fied Woody Allen switching between a laptop and a bank of synths with an acoustic guitar on his back whilst crooning songs as good as opener Give You Away visually arresting enough then we definitely have a problem.
There's a versatility in his sighing electronica that's greatly appreciated by the sold-out crowd here tonight. As they sing along to the infectious On Your Own, a wonderful under-the-radar pop song that could go on New Order's Best Of and not feel upstaged, they know there's a My Fears around the corner. Beginning with simple acoustic guitar, it's manipulated and chopped until the song mutates into quelchy techno that The Chemical Brothers would be proud of. Yuill dedicates another such mammoth ending to “the guy who described me as 'folky' on the way in!” Perhaps that punter was only familiar with "This Sweet Love” the only song where that acoustic guitar is more than a red herring tonight.
Proceedings end with a dense, glitchy version of Madonna's Frozen, the brooding of the original married with a bit of extra urgency, before a beaming Yuill bounds off, and then on again as curfew beckons, encoring with the song that would have introduced (no pun intended) him to many of the audience tonight, the Huw Stephens-approved No Surprise. His albums Movement In A Storm and Turning Down Water For Air come recommended, his live show even more so, just don't call him folky, and try and see if he'll get some of his friends to play too.