Alpines' sound and image is extremely disciplined, their live performances remarkably polished; as such you'd be forgiven for assuming they've already a hit album or five under their fashionable belts.
Not quite - their first is due for release in 2013. But just like a listener's experience of their music (it takes a few tries for the complex melody and electronic pulse of 'Drive' to get under your skin), this South London electronic duo's experience of success has been slow-burning.
They've gathered steam and experience gigging extensively over a two-year landscape, adding clout to their brand with a slew of deceptively simple, arrestingly visual videos. This week Bob Matthews and Catherine Pockson forge swiftly forward with the release of ‘Early Hours’, their second EP, underlined last night with a slick performance before an at-capacity crowd.
In a live context the contrast between Bob and Catherine is pleasing, a visual metaphor for the music's conflicting elements (ethereal yet menacing; sedated but energetic). Bob moves with urgency and enthusiasm between guitar, electronic drum kit and computer; he looks a little stressed at times, but never overwhelmed, and is always utterly on point. He works tirelessly to provide the angry 'Got Me Wrong' with its militant structure; a stoic and ladylike Catherine looks decidedly calm by comparison.
For her, concentration is key - such are the vocal challenges she sets herself. Her style is never going to be everyone's cup of tea: she sings with power in a consistently bizarre key - as such intense lyrics about obsessive love and longing on tracks such as the gorgeous 'Chances' are not always decipherable - and, on very rare occasion, forgets restraint. But she's compromising for nobody, and ultimately it's the originality and strange beauty of her voice that proves one of Alpines' major selling points. Indeed, when Florence Welch described them as "The xx crossed with Kate Bush" she wasn't wrong. Catherine is a musical relative of Kate's: similarly fascinating, albeit infinitely more sedate.
"I'm building an empire, that's one day gonna scrape the sky," she sings on acerbic anthem ‘Empire’. It's Alpines' mission statement, and wholly indicative of the seriousness with which they approach their music (refreshing given its undeniable pop roots), and, evidently, their live shows.
Words by Jamie Tabberer