We are in the fortunate position of having friends who live out in the country with nothing but cows as next door neighbours. And we’re having the hottest, driest July for years. So Ben has organised a BBQ come mini-festival in his back garden. To cut a long story short, the heavens opened for the first time in 2 weeks and the sound engineer called the thing off on safety grounds.
Anxious not to disappoint, Another Belgian Band took over the couch as an improvised stage and played anyway.
ABB are pretty much a fully acoustic band, so a living room is a perfect arena for them. Mainman Jérémie Fraboni on guitar (and a lot of the songwriting) shares the lead vocals with clarinetist Audrey Coeckelberghs. Renaud Versteegen & Thomas Hayez provide a very correct backing on percussion and bass respectively and Diego Leyder spins a web of captivating melodies on a variety of instruments.
The songwriting and musicianship is immaculate. I should have expected that if I’d realized that some of ABB also feature in Ruacutane, a band I had the great pleasure of seeing in January. The formula of having 2 lead vocalists works particularly well, as at times it feels like you’re getting 2 versions of the same song in one go. I thought that was really quite unique. Particularly seeing as the chord progressions are not quite as obvious as they may at first seem – that makes for some very interesting melodies over the top. The lyrics are well worth listening to – there’s a good deal of humour and angst in there, and they have their own unique way of exploring familiar themes, both lyrically and melodically.
Despite being all acoustic, this is not folk. It reminded me more of the soft indie-pop of Belle and Sebastian, or R.E.M. around the “Out of Time” album. I liked what I heard enough to buy a copy of the mini-LP they had with them. They have managed to capture that raw live in-your-living-room sound just perfectly. It really is a very faithful recording of how they sound, and does not suffer at all from over-production. Though I would have liked to see the lyrics printed in the booklet.
In this context – a sofa in a living room, they were just magical. I’d be curious to see how it pans out on a larger stage with the challenge of having to amplify the instruments. But given their experience with Ruacutane, I’d guess they’ll make a pretty good job of it.
I had seen Ruacutane at the Clos des Milliardaires in January – a more electrical formation with a really good stand-up bass player and a girl with the most delightful voice. Again, sort of soft indie-pop, but this time with a bit of electronica thrown in. And I see they have a couple of albums out on Carte Postale records, so I think I’d better get shopping.