To people of a certain age in Bristol the mention of Imperial Records makes everyone slightly glassy eyed and wistful. It was a place to bump into friends and find new music thanks to a multitude of recommendations chalked on its walls. Its demise felt like another lurch forward in the gentrification of what used to feel like an exciting and alternative area of the city. The opening of Rise in the last few years just up from Park Street on the Clifton Triangle has thankfully felt like a push in the opposite direction. Like lots of great independent record shops they also have space to put on gigs. Entry to this show was free to those buying a copy of the new XL released second album Culture of Volume by London based singer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist, banger and purveyor of excellent tie clips East India Youth.
After being aware but not really fully engaging with the previous EIY album I was curious to see how it would all translate to a live gig. Being a fan of bands in general I’m automatically skeptical of one man with a laptop – at worst it’s someone nodding away behind an illuminated apple. For all I know they could be just flicking the mouse pointer from side to side having pressed play 25 minutes ago.
Thankfully, by the time second track and latest electronic pop single Turn Away kicks in it’s clear that Mr. William Doyle (to use his street name) is a busy man. Singing, playing a keyboard, knob twiddling, banging pads with drum sticks, Bass guitar hanging round his neck, it would be unfair to accuse him of slacking. As he steps back from the controls for a bass driven wig out I soon forgot any misgivings, I was watching a performance. It felt real.
The set moved smoothly from the longing synth layered Looking For Someone into the almost Underworld influenced Hearts That Never – soaring vocals with music direct from clubland. The next track Hinterland ends up in a similar but heavier place with great effect. The besuited front man is going full pelt now, no tricks left up his sleeve, taps on full. The audience nods its collective head a little harder in true Bristol fashion, we wouldn’t want to mess our hair up now would we. Thankfully Big Jeff is at the front having it, but he would probably be doing that to a reversing ambulance.
If this all sounds like it shouldn’t work then maybe it shouldn’t, but standing watching the set closing ballad Carousel, it’s hard not to be won over. It’s all swooping instrumentals and fittingly dramatic vocals with nods to Scott Walker and Marc Almond.
After cheering and applause, the crowd disperses and forms a happy and orderly queue – albums are signed, there is chat, people go home. It was good and I don’t like much.