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LIVE REPORT: Choir Of Young Believers
Matthew Foster , September 28th, 2012 10:13

The Danish five-piece deliver a taut taster set at Rough Trade East

Photograph courtesy of Matthew Foster

Imagine my horror when only one-fifth of Danish orchestral-poppers Choir of Young Believers arrives onstage in a wooly jumper, the entire bigoted set-up for a live report gone out the window. They don't seem to have brought unaffordable yuppie furniture or tubs of Lurpak with them either, so my options for an opener are now limited to something about Danish drama series 'The Bridge'. Thank fuck they wrote the theme tune.

That tune is the heart-pulping 'Hollow Talk', and though it's four years old, it's as good a place to start as any for those unfamiliar with the Choir, an under-rated, rotating act that already sounds around sixty times bigger than the back end of Rough Trade East. Floppy-fringed, modest frontman and compositional fulcrum Jennis Noya Makrigiannis has a sad-by-default voice that carries 'Hollow Talk's simmering piano and cello with it to another place, while the final third of the song explodes, shutting up the smart-mouth behind me and, for a moment, even distracting the Happy Shoppers at the back from the photo booth fun. The bassist looks like he's welling up.

'Sedated' follows, the glossy synth surface of its appearance on recent LP 'Rhine Gold' splintered by minimalistic little guitar improvs and a new bridge that lets Caecilie Trier's cello-playing work the build-up before one more beauty of a pay-off. There's another melodramatic offering from the 2008 debut in the form of 'Next Summer', and the never-quite-convincing bravado of Makrigiannis' wound-licking line, “next summer / I will return!”, comes across just a little more hopeless when you can see the singer's three mile-stare up close.

After a softly spoken plea to “move closer”, 'Patricia's Thirst' finally gets some movement from a self-conscious crowd, who are, all said, standing in a shop. 'Patricia' is a track that lets the Choir explore an avenue only briefly-investigated on the debut, one paved with brash, gawky 80s pop in the vein of Aztec Camera. It does a good job of showing that a band who can do emotional devastation in their sleep aren't too po-faced to have fun, with Trier's pedals here giving her cello stabs the character of decades-old house synth hits and garnishing the track with a sound akin to the Ridge Racer title screen, which is of course A Very Good Thing.

Makrigannis offers a meek “come to Cargo tomorrow, yah?” (tonight is a warm-up for tomorrow's headline slot there), a modest request before closing the mini-set with the less-modest ten minute kraut wonder 'Paralyse'. Diverging heavily from its recorded incarnation (there's nearly - whisper it - a drum solo) it begins with a tight, Stereolab-leaning workout before slowing to a country stroll and then rapidly blasting off again. It sounds, on paper, like a pig of a track, but Choir's lightness of touch and musical dexterity let them get away with it. Though the crowd clap three-quarters of the way through it, thinking the song over, the band aren't thrown and get on with a woozy piano, voice and cello coda that brings the set full circle.

Choir of Young Believers, if tonight's brief sampler is anything to go by, are neither settling for the MOR folky earnestness that Makrigiannis' voice could probably let them retire on, or furrowing their brows in self-congratulatory prog gestures, even if another record could push them for the worse in one of the above directions. Tonight's good-humoured, fat-free stint suggests that, with a bit of justice, lazy gig reviewers of the future may at least have one more Danish icon to fall back on.