by Maxwell Modell
The night opened with Welsh singer-songwriter Novo Amor (ails of Ali Lacey), who skilfully provided a beautiful performance built on the foundation of vocal harmony and gorgeous, airy, guitar tones. His quietly emotional delivery added weight to the atmospheric music to create a mesmerising sonic experience. Ali Lacey himself was self admittedly nervous being a Cardiff based musician who hadn’t played a gig in the city for a couple of years. While this came across when he spoke to the audience if you only heard the music you’d be entirely unaware of these nerves in what was a very adept performance.
Novo Amor achieved the rare feat of matching the quality of their studio recordings live. The mix was perfect, with no one element overpowering the whole. This proved vital as Novo Amor are a rather unassuming band, with little in the way of traditional stage presence. They seem as if they would be far more comfortable in the studio or writing music. Yet this did not prevent them from being completely transfixing as the music was simply beautiful. Cuts such as Carry You and a piano-driven version of Anchor really stood out as highlights of chilled, but charming show.
We also got to hear his new single Birthplace, which was released yesterday along with the announcement of a new album.
It was difficult to know what to expect from Susanne Sundfør, after all her career has been filled with such variety, from acoustic folk on her last album to synth pop to her work with M83 she has always refused to let her sound get stale. What we got was a rather minimalist performance featuring Sundfør on a grand piano and an acoustic guitar, back by atmospheric synths and keys. This truly focused the show on Sundfør’s lyrics and delivery. Filled with poignant details of heartbreak and sadness her anecdote from the start of her performance, that she was going to sit and play sad songs so we (the audience) could all get sad together proved to be quite accurate.
The outcome of this was all elements of pop were almost entirely abandoned in favour of dark stripped back ballads of suffering. While not what those less familiar with Sundfør would have expected it was all brought together by her distinctive voice. Be it synth pop, acoustic folk or experimental soundscapes this is the one feature which unifies all of her work. Her voice is dynamic and massive to the extent it is hard to examine her it comes out of her body, sharing more similar in scale to an opera singer than a traditional folk singer. Somehow, she managed to find a balance between perfect deliver which sounded almost inhuman and intense emotion. This created a strange sensation. At times it almost felt as if watching someone go through an extremely emotional experience through a screen which prevented the experience to transition to you, experience the emotion twice removed. Despite this, I could appreciate the extreme emotionality of the music and Sundfør’s performance as well as the unique experience it created.
While the stripped back performance created a more intermit feel, there were numerous moments where I wished an electronic beat would kick in and start driving the music, increasing the intensity. Yet this never happened, instead Sundfør gave herself to the audience on her own terms. While I would have preferred something larger and more in line with her synth-pop work everything felt very deliberate. The stripped back experience which placed a laser focus on her vocals and lyrics was the one which Sundfør intended for the audience, truly showcasing her vocal and songwriting talents.