The - rather peacefully named - Twilight Sad proved to be something of a Trojan Horse, when performing their only London tour date, at Dingwalls, Camden. Supported by a charismatic RM Hubbert, who was both mesmerising and darkly funny, side effects of his intricate guitar playing and comedic anecdotes; mapping his personal battle with depression. So far, so sad (if beautifully, folksily so).
In the time it took the crowd to pop outside for a quick cigarette, stock up on pints and, in our case, get the bouncer to gaffa-tape up our decaying headphones, the atmosphere jumped from the serene to the surreal. Lovingly plucked strings were thumped aside by enigmatic synths and fairy-light vocals were slaughtered by deep, bulging trenches of noise; layers upon layers, stretched out like battlefields, as far as the ear could hear. The war had begun.
Opening fire with ‘Kill it in the Morning’, from their album ‘No One Can Ever Know’, a change of direction for the Kilsyth boys, frontman James Graham threw himself (almost literally) into the set, as though every chord might be his last. Layers of stacked sound were packed so tightly that vocals were left peering earnestly over a wall of sound; reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine’s 2008 reunion tour, The Twilight Sad undoubtedly matching them in decibel levels.
A comparison to the performance of Ian Curtis seems inevitable: eyes rolling rhythmically, organic convulsions that can only come from a soul drowning in the music hailing down on the crowd. But James Graham has a stage presence that seems oblivious to external influences past and present. Pausing a little into the set to say, “I was in a shite mood last night, but am feeling much better now, thanks!”
A full-scale battle ensued, the sheer levels of sound, energy and bass continued to shell down throughout. Highlights of the encounter were ‘Dead City’ and ‘Don’t Move’, but favourite ‘I Became a Prostitute’, with its bleak, poetic lyrics and thundering bass treated us to a Mogwai-esque nostalgic journey back to an earlier Twilight Sad sound.
The forgivably, if unfortunately named (who could have predicted that a similarly titled teen-trauma hit would rear its fanged head? James tells us that he once played a gig to expectant youths wearing vampire tributes!) The Twilight Sad, with their epic soundscapes, chaotic charisma and euphoric choruses hold their own in the electronic-injected folk scene. Underneath a front-line of hypnotic noise lie dark, apocalyptic lyrics that, far from being suffocated by the careful kerfuffle of bass and synth, wait unassumingly to be discovered with each new listen. We are all ears.
Words by Kate O’Sullivan