Tonight, eagleowl are headlining a five-band setup in aid of the Pakistan Flood Relief campaign at Roxy Art House, that crumbling, tumbledown venue tucked away in the shadows of the Old Town. They’re joined by Iliop, The Douglas Firs, Alistair Roberts and The Wee Rogue, and once again the little basement room is packed to the brim.
First on is Iliop – the alias for one-man experimental electronic act Pete McConville who, at first sounding nervous and lonely on stage, thaws the audience into rapture. His music is evocative and weird, and conjurs abstract images like those of motorways where the cars are nought but streams of light; it’s not long before you’re lost in the siren-song of the ghostly audio he’s beaming out into the room. McConville never stops moving – setting up the next loop to come in at the right moment or fiddling with the wires laid around his feet; the detritus of soundchecks – guitar cables, pint glasses and instrument cases. It’s a crowded stage for one man, but he manages to make the air vibrate with some sort of cosmic, digital energy.
Moving on, the Douglas Firs step up and make their mark on the night. I’ve seen them before and every time I listen to them, they grow on me. Tonight they’re like a sudden July storm that’s been brewing for days and then the lightening is upon you with three guitars each throwing thunderclap punches; each new track washes over your mind like a crashing wave on the beach and you’re caught in its chaos theory curl. They play a couple of songs from ethereal The Haunting EP and a few others, and then they are gone – as sudden as the first explosive chords, they fade and their beautiful haunting power has passed; skies are clear for the next act.
The Wee Rogue – or Jamie, as he introduces himself – slithers onto stage like he doesn’t want to be seen by the crowd but what appears to be initial unconfidence soon becomes an asset. His songs are heartfelt and delicate and sparing; the lyrics more alike to slam poetry than a folk ballad, and his cute Scots tilt adds another flavour to the well-crafted, bespoke songs he threads with his modest acoustic guitar melodies. Neither poppy nor new-folk, Jamie O’Connor is indeed a little rogue – he sings with a silken intimacy, careful longhand in his songs reveal a subtle magic, and the listener is enchanted.
Alistair Roberts, the near-mythical folk man from Glasgow, appears with a wonderfully worn guitar and a set of vintage-valued songs. Based heavily on traditional ballads, the tragic rough vocals and his woven earthy guitar make his short set a one to remember; patchwork iconography and woollen aural aesthetics are the mode du jour. And finally, to round off the night, eagleowl “headlining by default” are on stage with their own small set. They’re currently catching alight in terms of press attention, garnering support from The Scotsman and The Skinny, have released a few singles. This two-piece cello and guitar band is on its way up in the world. Think Sparklehorse or The Miserable Rich and while they’re mostly similar at face value to The xx, (albeit clearly detached from the r n’b influences) they’re wonderfully distinct from anything you’ll have heard; at the same time slotting perfectly into anti-folk indie canon but retaining a pure, unique voice of its own.
Nevertheless, their sound is undeniably, almost uncomfortably confidential; when lead vocalist Bart sings in his hushed, shadowy manner it’s almost as if they’re opening a door on some innermost secret. Their lyrics are entwined with raw emotion and feeling like a vine growing up the side of an old house, rooted right into the mortar and brick. Put simply, they sound beautiful, absolutely beautiful. It’s private and gorgeous and crystalline and you don’t want them to stop playing when they are finished.
Rating: Iliop DDD, Douglas Firs DDDDD, The Wee Rogue DDDD, Alistair Roberts DDDD, eagleowl DDDD