As part of the third Roundhouse Rising, an annual festival of new music featuring live performances, workshops, panel discussions and associated gubbins, Moshi Moshi have taken over the Dorfman Hub. Approximately three metres due down from where you normally watch bands.
Yes, we're under the main stage of the Roundhouse. Which is appropriate, in a convoluted kind of way. Because if up there is symbolic of where the mainstream plays, then down here is sort of where you'd expect to find Moshi Moshi. Underneath the radar.
In the sort of room you can imagine being useful should you need to hide members of the French Resistance. In fact we're at the centre of a warren of rehearsal rooms, studio spaces and other media suites used as part of the program run by the Roundhouse to support young artists. Tonight, its brick walls dressed up to the nines, it is the intimate setting for the strutting the stuff of three of Moshi Moshi's newest recruits.
The first word belongs to James Spankie. A multi-instrumentalist of impressive variety, he builds intricate songs from layers of samples and loops. Plucking a violin like a tiny, higher-class banjo, twinkling delicately on a keyboard and strumming spiky riffs from a guitar. Constituent parts played, he then grabs them and wraps them back over and around each other, creating increasingly dense layers of noise. Joined by a string quartet, drummer and a bassist, who add further weight to the tracks, it makes for a performance which is lush, textured and flecked with hints of unrequited longing.
Next, Sweet Baboo. A Welsh singer-songwriter who graciously treads along the wire between self-deprecating and "I agree, you're a loser" with wit, charm and a wry sense of humour. Just him and his guitar, stood in front of a lighting rig which he says “makes me feel like I'm in Coldplay,” but he's good enough to carry it: his lyrics have a naked emotional honesty, but they're cut with an edge of sardonic humour, and a faint tinge of surrealism to make him not mawkishly sentimental like, well, Coldplay.
Finally, Fimber Bravo. Now, Bravo is the man you go to if you want a steel pan on your record. Potentially not a request you've made recently, unless you're a member of Hot Chip. And lo and behold, there's Alexis Taylor. Returning the favour as one of several guest stars who contributed to the Trinidadian's first solo album, 'Con-fusion'.
The thing about Bravo, particularly on that last record, is he casts the steel pan – an instrument which does fit a very particular stereotype – into scenes which haven't been heard before. Several scenes which haven't been heard before. Scenes which imagine 'House Of Jealous Lovers' with the rippling waves of Bravo's instrument replacing the cowbell. Or the apocalyptic 'Life After Doomsday', where enormous, booming programmed beats fight for space with the shimmering bongs of the pan. And the lovely, downbeat Taylor-sung 'The Way We Live Today'. It's a poignant pause in an atmosphere that otherwise strongly tended towards party.
And let's be honest, when Fimber says party, you really don't want to disagree.
Words by Tim Lee
Photos by Michael Parker