Leeds Rocket

Tonight's three acts may all play acoustic guitars, but that's about as far as the similarities go...

Tonight’s three acts may all play acoustic guitars, but that’s about as far as the similarities go. Despite only two out of three – Shawn Lee and I Am Kloot – being signed to Wall Of Sound’s indie offshoot, We Love You, this gig represents that label’s first ([I]NME[/I]-sponsored) foray into the outside world. And for the most part, it’s a real success.

Frequently compared to Belle & Sebastian, you might expect the two lanky, lovelorn Norwegians who comprise Kings Of Convenience to be hopelessly dysfunctional. In fact, they’re all smiles and understated charm. Their cough-and-you’ll-miss-’em songs may, occasionally, be a little insubstantial, like bubbles colliding and popping in mid-air, but the bulk of their set is as wistful as Simon & Garfunkel, with strong, surging melodies and clever melodic one-twos. They close with a cover of A-Ha’s ‘Manhattan Skyline’, the perfect sedative for hungover Sunday evenings.

Unlike Wichita, Kansas’ Shawn Lee, a man with a dazzlingly nimble voice who thrills and frustrates by turns. Last time [I]NME[/I] saw him, with a full band, Lee’s songs (Stevie Wonder soul/curious woozy falsettos and peculiar arrangements, à la Prince) were mired in muso guff. Smooth songs, like the cocktail-jazz of ‘Happiness’ or the screwed-tight soul of ‘How Strong Is Your Soul’, invariably sound best when tattered. And tonight, stripped to percussion, melodica and guitar, they shine. Now and then, however, Lee gets too caught up in gurning, riffing on his own voice or tinkering with a song’s nuances, to notice that he’s lapsed into acid-jazz smoothness.

I Am Kloot, in contrast, are the dark heart of the evening. We could talk about the airy, heart-bursting ‘Sunlight Hits The Snow’, or about how the supple rhythm section gives IAK’s songs such dynamism, but tonight the Kloot are lingeringly uneasy.

Their set ends in fierce noise, John Bramwell screaming, “Stop! Stop! Stop!”, like a grief-stricken, fly-weight psychotic.

For all the unsullied love and humanity, for all the meltingly good melodic twists, these songs contain something corrosive too. Runtish and confrontational,

Bramwell doesn’t seem to trust this situation, or the audience – “You’re really fuckin’ polite,” he baits. “Can’t somebody swear at me?” – any more than he trusts himself.

“I really love you”, he repeats at the end of ‘Twist’, dead-eyed and disgusted, where once it might have sounded like a plea. You can’t get a fix on them, any more than you can on life. In questioning their own songs, I Am Kloot unearth something hard

and true.

Tony Naylor