Since the release of their debut LP Conversations in July, which seemed to seem to send the blogosphere into a frenzy, WOMAN’S HOUR have gone from strength to strength. With a string of stylish, self-directed videos they have carved for themselves a distinct aesthetic, and one that relates not only to their image but to their sound as well: word-of-mouth suggests that their live shows are similarly honed.
The band emerge from the dark recesses and open with Unbroken Sequence, a slowly unfolding bed of pulsating synths and minimal percussion, with Fiona Burgess’s characteristically soft, dream-like vocals floating just above everything else. Their songs may be effervescent, swooning numbers but they are also hooky as hell, with each track providing memorable shifts and turns. In this way, the art school pop sensibilities being exhibited on stage never really become pretentious or contrived, and it is clear throughout how much the members of the band enjoy playing these songs.
The best example of this is standout track of the evening Her Ghost. Interesting and well crafted, it is the kind of song that could be played to ten people in a loft, like tonight, but that could also conceivably do well in the charts. Essentially, this is what Woman’s Hour have managed to achieve with their sound, the melding of avant-garde vision with relatively simple, pop-orientated structures. It certainly works for them, but after six or seven songs it has to be said that it becomes quite hard to maintain concentration and enthusiasm. The lack of atmosphere inside the venue almost definitely has a lot to do with this, but even so it does begin to detract from the performance, and it is clear that those on stage are slightly disappointed with the turnout.
The show must go on, however, and single Conversations does much to buoy the spirits. Will Burgess’s guitar-work intertwines symbiotically with his sister’s vocal lines, creating a perfect accompaniment that also brings depth to the instrumentation. The rhythm section is steady and understated, never pushing the songs in certain directions but waiting instead to be pulled along.
Though there was a slight lull in the middle, overall it has been an enjoyable display and The Day That Needs Defending makes for a neat conclusion. Those in attendance appear satisfied, and perhaps even a little bewildered that they have been present to witness such an intimate performance from a much-hyped band. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the not-too-distant future they return to play the much grander setting downstairs here at the Arts Club. I guess it remains to be seen.