These New Puritans, Fenech-Soler, Feldberg – The Great Escape @ Audio, Brighton

The Great Escape festival in Brighton offers 350+ bands playing in 30 venues over a 3-day period. Where to begin we thought, then headed off to Levi’s OnesToWatch @ Audio to see some much-touted up and coming acts.

First up were Icelandic duo Feldberg. Given the recent financial and geological shenanigans emanating from their homeland one might have found Rósa Birgitta Ísfeld & Einar Tönsberg nervous of the reception that awaited them but once into their  stride with the gentle melody of ‘Dreamin’ and upbeat tone of ‘Don’t be a Stranger’ the packed auditorium was easily won over. Perhaps some of the subtlety of the former track was lost in a bass-heavy sound, but well supported by a grafted-on rhythm section the simplicity of the composition filtered through.

It was all over too soon as at breakneck speed it was the turn of Fenech Soler to set up and get going in the similarly small time allotted to them.  This meant they could manage only 4 tracks before their time too was up prematurely, but in that short time they did their lustrous best to make an impression. Taking to the stage resplendent in sparkly tops to a man, they exuded a Gallic charm reminiscent of Daft Punk, a commendable feat for a group of young men from Cambridgeshire.

They threw themselves into their synth-heavy repertoire with ‘Lies’ best representing what they’re all about. Bass driven but with a keen-eyed pop sensibility, singer Ben Duffy has a chunky exuberance that does put one in mind of Simon le Bon for a fleeting moment. Backing this up with ‘Stop & Stare’ the packed crowd were certainly getting into Fenech Soler’s anthemic style when things were cut short by the night’s tight schedule.

The headline act These New Puritans were allowed a little more time to let their sound build over a number of songs. A sombre, measured start, blended a series of disparate sounds from what I believe were bass clarinets, synth drums, guitars and various percussions elements. A meandering opening number gave way to the punchy, bombastic sound of ‘Attack Music’. Singer Jack Barnett leads from the front with a staccato delivery that reflects the experimental nature of his band’s work, staying on the right side of avant-garde.  Classical references abound alongside a grand-scale, primal percussion backbeat, driven along by Jack’s twin brother George, that generates a lot of the energy in the performance. ‘We Want War’ is the focal point of the evening’s show, drawing upon influences of electronic pop, hip hop, classical and indie guitar that infuse The New Puritan’s variety of sound. A seven-minute mini-epic, with shades of Massive Attack, it’s very much on the dark-side of their oeuvre with the trade-mark clattering percussion to the fore.

Once again it was all over too soon on a night where the acts had to be precise and focused.  This was probably just as well, with the audience heading off for their next slice of action as The Great Escape continued across the city into the early hours.

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