Oxford Elm Tree

It's the guitarist's MC5 T-shirt that gives us hope.

It's the guitarist's MC5 T-shirt that gives us hope. Initially we were worried that south London quartet Delicate AWOL were a stray band of wandering hippy minstrels, particularly when the first few minutes of set opener, 'My Death God Is Zero', are no more than a spaced-out jam that seems to be going slowly nowhere.

But then it hits you, not like a train but like a sea mist - cool and soft but utterly consuming. The sound becomes dense and suffocating as Caroline Ross and Jim Version weave seemingly random guitar strands into each other over hypnotic rhythms. Delicate AWOL create songs without beginning or end. Each rises out of nowhere and fades into oblivion with no respect for the rudiments of verses or choruses.

At their sharpest, like new single 'Hurray For Sugar', they sound like The Breeders trapped inside Mogwai's awkward universe. Elsewhere, they're what Sonic Youth might have sounded like if they'd actually been Fleetwood Mac. Occasionally they get a bit lost in the land of jazz, but always manage to rescue themselves.

Caroline's gorgeously fragile voice is heard all too sparingly tonight, but she's doing well considering she's got chickenpox and a temperature of 103. "I'm not contagious," she reassures the few souls huddled at the back. Delicate AWOL, on the other hand, might well prove to be.

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