If it’s Monday, it must be… Owen Pallett at Union Chapel, London
The venue becomes him. There was always a high (as a kite) church element to Owen Pallett’s music to begin with, so sticking him in these beautiful surroundings in the middle of Islington was always going to be a win-win …
The venue becomes him. There was always a high (as a kite) church element to Owen Pallett’s music to begin with, so sticking him in these beautiful surroundings in the middle of Islington was always going to be a win-win situation. Then again, as someone muttered in the pew in front of us before a bow was ever applied to a violin, is it possible to have a bad gig in a church?
Pallett is here to give a gentle shove to his new album “Heartland”, a record of such beguiling charm and knockout hookability that you’re totally bowled over in its presence. It may be the best metaphysical album you will encounter for quite some time about a farmer and disembowelment. Before he plays, there’s a meeting of smart musical minds when Sam Amidon and Nico Muhly play. At one stage, Beth Orton wanders on to do so ethereal cooing. When Pallett joins the ensemble for one song – Amidon reminded him backstage earlier that it was “just D-E-G-D” – I’m sure several million musical molecules over London N1 blew their fuses.
One charge often leveled at Pallett, Muhly and cohorts, a cadre of bright sparks who sweep ideas from classical to electronica to indie to pop before them, is that it’s all a mite too clever. In fact, you can actually see a backlash of sorts building in places about this very thing. During our interview earlier, Pallett made a point about how UK reviews of his new album were so-so compared to reviews elsewhere. Look at Japan or Ireland or even the US, he said, the reviews there were great. But in the UK? There, the criticati seem to be coming out against the more cerebral style of indie blowing this way on the wind from across the Atlantic. Perhaps some reviewers and writers are pining for Britpop 2.0? Add in some odd reviews of acts like Beach House who’ve enjoyed much blog adulation and you wonder do some want to swap the brainy sounds of now for, well, Kasabian, Lost Prophets and Biffy Clyro.
On the evidence of this show, you’d be a fool to swap this sushi for that stodge. A show which sparkles and soars with gleeful abandon, Pallett and his onstage accomplice Thomas Gill tuck in all the song edges before unfurling them again when something even brighter comes to mind. It’s music for skylarking and twilight-dreaming which is beginning to remind me more and more of the sonic cornfields of Arthur Russell. Pallett plays Dublin’s Whelan’s on March 18 and that one is hugely recommended. Here’s a suggestion: next time out, why not stick him and his devotional music in the plush, spectral surrounds of Christchurch Cathedral?