London's darkly intimate Borderline venue provides an appropriate home for a band named Fossil Collective. Descending the well-trodden - and decidedly sticky - stairwell to the stage, the sense that tonight's crowd are to be let in on a secret hangs in a misty red light.
A midweek school night it may be, but pre-gig bevvies are flowing as anticipatory chatter echoes under low ceilings and bounces off poster-plastered walls. The band slip into the room, relatively unnoticed bar a spattering of claps. Not until the chorus of haunting opener ‘Under My Arrest’ are audience murmurings silenced, but silenced they are, as a powerful sound unbefitting the band's humble presence takes everybody prisoner.
"Here's a song some of you may know," hints lead singer and guitarist David Fendick, before driving into the summery ‘Let It Go’, a track set to make the cut on many a road trip soundtrack. Subtle harmonic brilliance marries earthy, full-bodied tones on the likes of ‘Wolves’ and ‘Brother’, both of which lull the room into a contented trance before cranking the intensity up a notch in dramatic instrumental unsettlements.
Although Fossil Collective's one album repertoire may seem small, the pace of their set is cleverly managed to keep engagement levels high. Cinematic highlight ‘Monument’ showcases impressive vocal range to create an angelic effect somehow strong in its fragility, while ‘How Was I To Know’ is masterfully-balanced. Introduced as "the first song we ever wrote," it is unsurprising that ‘On And On’ feels less ambitious, but it is by no means anticlimactic and feet are soon tapping.
Their vocal and instrumental textures do not blur in a murky, cloying fashion, but remain individually praiseworthy elements that blend to create something even more beautiful. Fendick smiles with a coy pride after every song. He knows his band is something special but the absence of arrogance is refreshing.
In our digital age there is plenty of scope for a band that sounds fantastic in the studio to disappoint on tour: live performances separate the raw talent from the manufactured, the class from the crap. Fossil Collective’s live show is understated as expected, but the resulting otherworldly atmosphere succeeds in tingling spines. As the inimitable Billy Bragg once said: “You can experience a download but you can't download an experience.” Wisdom too often discarded by the iTunes generation.
The crowd are appreciative, bemoaning the band’s absence from this year’s Glastonbury line-up. “Imagine listening to these guys as the sun goes down,” one fan mumbles wistfully, while another reminisces on first hearing the band in a support slot at Camden’s Roundhouse. For those unfamiliar to the two-piece’s tender songwriting, the hour long show is a delightful surprise - long enough to generate a representative taster of promise, yet brief enough to leave us temporarily satiated, soon to be hungry for more.
If not everything that glitters is gold, this gig saw Fossil Collective deliver their own unique treasure - captivating music fully worthy of excavation from the underground.
Words by Jess Denham
Photos by Richard Gray
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