Loch Lomond, Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, Sat 10 Mar 2012 (4 stars)

Loch Lomond, Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, Sat 10 Mar 2012

Bewitching chamber folk from Portland

For those of you wondering how the vaguely surreal, harmonic and orchestral notes of Portland’s Loch Lomond might translate to a live setting, the first minutes of their Sneaky Pete’s show would give you a fairly accurate answer: with a bold and astounding brilliance.

The evening, which they call ‘special for several reasons’, is the last date of the group’s first European tour, promoting both 2011 album Little Me Will Start a Storm and the 'White Dresses' EP, an exclusive recording for their ‘wonderful label’ Chemikal Underground. From the outset the talented six-piece employ a merry-go-round of strings, drums, shakers and tinkling xylophone with an unanticipated force. The resulting swathes of bewitching instrumental melodies combine powerfully with founding member Ritchie Young’s outstanding vocal.

A showcase of tightly executed, enthralling music, jubilant new track ‘Kicking with Your Feet’ and the hurtling ‘Ghost of an Earthworm’ – cutely pegged their ‘one and only love song’ – both precede a sublime, stripped-back rendition of ‘Egg Ballad’; full chorus set to just Young’s guitar. On stage the band have all the charm of a sixties TV show, an Americanised retro image and light hearted chatter filling swift pauses. A heart-wrenching rendition of ‘White Dresses’ and dramatically charged ‘Blue Lead Fences’ should almost be mentioned as highlights.
The defining moment comes however as the group shuffle into the middle crowd to perform a spine-tingling Damian Jurado cover just inches away. Standing in hushed darkness listening to the incredible rendition, there’s a sense that this is something very special indeed.

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