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Live Report: Drinks at Oslo
Diva Harris , November 8th, 2018 17:06

Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley: delightful, deadpan and apparently arousing

I don’t know if it’s the manic pre-gig jazz that was just playing or something in the air, but when Drinks (and their fellow low-key-indie-celeb-studded backing band - hiya Euan from Younghusband) take to the stage and fire up their multitude of instruments (guitar guitar bass keys drums cowbell cowbell miscellaneous percussion) at Hackney’s Oslo on Tuesday night, everyone seems to be making out. Maybe what the world’s missing is an experimental fuzzy lo-fi/post-punk/folk Sexy Songs For Lovers compilation. Anyway, I digress.

I – and a couple of hundred snoggers with ironic haircuts - are here to give our attentions over to the off-kilter lovechild of Tim Presley (White Fence frontman, Ty Segall collaborator and ex-Fall member) and Cate Le Bon (High Priestess of Welsh Indie). The duo released Hippo Lite, their second album as Drinks, earlier this year; its tender evocation of a shared holiday in the south of France was just right with summer shimmering on the horizon. But on this dark November night, Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort seems a hell of a lot further away, and their music takes on a rawer, colder, more unnerving feeling.

What starts as a tiny seed of jangling guitars grows slowly upwards, building until the creaky, jarring flower of ‘Real Outside’ bursts through the soil – much heavier, louder and looser, more detached in its delivery than in its Hippo Lite iteration. The goosebumpy harmonies, sawing violin and surreal imagery (are they singing about shoving hands into cake?) of ‘Blue From the Dark’ bleeds into the shrieked, whooped and wailed ‘Corner Shops’.

Throughout the set, Presley and Le Bon elegantly oscillate between slow and fast, loud and soft, old and new, their changes in trajectory bridged by erratic, feedbacky interludes. Tracks from 2015’s Hermits On Holiday sit comfortably alongside those from Hippo Lite, the slight stylistic detour of the latter less obvious in this live setting. The title track of the former, a firm fan favourite which Le Bon dedicates “to everybody”, gets a wolf whistle from the (evidently randy) crowd as she sings: “Six past the eight / Copulate”. As the song approaches its run-out grooves, Le Bon straps on her guitar, and she and Presley thrash simultaneously – which is utterly joyful to watch, even as it feels a bit intrusive; we could’ve easily just stumbled upon the pair jamming in their sitting room. Drinks’ extremely good band maintain a steady, rhythmic backbone, whilst Le Bon and Presley drape their weird, impossible-sounding meat over the top. It is in these moments – when its frontpeople, both i n c r e d i b l e guitarists, appear to improvise, bouncing freely, organically, off of one another’s twangs – that the project is at its most captivating.

Towards the end of the set comes an unexpected, hypnotic cover of ‘Television’ by one of the band’s “favourite people in the world”, H Hawkline – a move indicative of the spirit and support to be found between the close-knit members of this particular scene. “It goes something like this…” says Le Bon. “Something, but not quite.” Her deadpan stage schtick is as sharp as ever.

And no Drinks show would be complete, of course, without a rendition of the messy riff/spoken word frankly goddamn mad number ‘Tim, Do I Like That Dog’. Though they may not crack many smiles, it’s clear that this band are equipped with the all-important ability not to take themselves too seriously - and therein lies their brilliance.

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