Wednesday, November 23, 2011


We are called, for the time being, Netherlands” was not the most confident of starts for this London-via-Southampton four-piece. However if uncertain of name their sound is assured dream-pop, all shimmering guitar, steady floor-tom beats and gorgeous boy-girl harmonies. They may have forgotten a keyboard but if they hadn’t have told us it’s absence wouldn’t have been noticed, their sound felt so complete. Netherlands have a single out next year (“In January...or February..” they weren’t sure of this either) but whenever and whatever they are called it will be worth tracking down.

Christos Fanaras turned out to be a friend of the headliners. And it is not unkind to suggest that’s the only reason he was on this bill – the phrase ‘sore-thumb’ comes to mind. Glowering behind thirty year old keyboards he played a doomy and intense set of instrumentals somewhere between Tim Hecker and Forest Swords and sadly falling a long way behind both.

And then the headliners Fanfarlo. I have spent a good part of this year worrying about Fanfarlo. The initially self-released “Reservoir” is near faultless piece of swooning melodic indie-pop. What could a major label hook-up and a then long gestation for second album (due February 2012, three years after the self-release of its predecessor) mean?

Well from tonight’s gig at the Deaf Institute my first conclusion is Fanfarlo have successfully retained their slightly quirky, slighty bohemian otherness – what a troupe of circus children who form a touring band might look like, especially given keyboard-player/violinist Cathy Lewis’s curious one-piece romper-suit-cum-high-cut-leotard outfit tonight. But as well as near-constant touring the band have also been listening to a shed-load of music from 1979 – 1981 by the sound of it, from that era when post-punk morphed into synth-pop. Four of the older songs played tonight were all re-worked – the intro to ‘Luna’ was a dead-ringer for The B52s’ ‘Planet Claire’ – and new songs featured extra emphasis on keyboards, synth-beats alongside drums and saxophone. Elsewhere amongst new songs I heard snatches – just slight ones – of Devo, The Cure, OMD and even A-Ha. These were just snatches mind – I suspect all those references will be quite misleading when it comes to the full album.

This could have been a recipe for a sloppy mess but Fanfarlo confidently delivered it all with poise, energy and those winning harmonies. Given a long day of driving, caffeine, and a 6Music radio session all before this gig, Simon Balthazar said he felt like a cocaine-addled Stevie Nicks. He looked and sounded far from it - the whole band came across as relaxed, happy and clearly enjoying playing this set that felt as fresh as they looked and pleasingly felt like a true set of Fanfarlo songs.

I’ve the message now: the new record from Fanfarlo will not be a carbon-copy of “Reservoir”. And after tonight’s coherent and confident gig, I’m not just over this but really looking forward to hearing it. “Rooms Filled With Light” is released on 28 February 2012

The Set List:

‘Pilots’ = I Am A Pilot
‘Comments’ = Comets
‘Lunadogs’ = Luna
‘Wee Willy Wilkins’ = Harold T Wilkins
Encores not on the set list were a new song (‘In The Bag?’) and The Walls Are Coming Down.

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