London Notting Hill Arts Club

The live spectacle may leave something to be desired, but [B]Stoltzfus[/B]' prodigious songwriting skills remain unimpeachable...

So this is what they mean by lo-fi. Unfeasibly named Mazarin mastermind Quentin Stoltzfus and his two mates – the one with the guitar is from hometown Philadelphia, the one behind the toy drumkit is from London – are hunkered down on stools somewhere around the audience’s knees. It’s hard enough to see anything in a venue this size, but unless you’re up-front and floor-level tonight, you might as well forget it.

[a]Mazarin[/a], sadly, come to us with only the barest of means. Had there been more abundant cash, they explain, this rag-tag trio would be accompanied by a multitude of musicians, fleshing out Stoltzfus‘ wispy love songs into full-grown pop masterpieces. And, presumably, standing. As it is, however, we are privy only to the stripped-down, impoverished and emaciated [a]Mazarin[/a]. Just two guitars, one drum, and a whole lotta heartbreak.

This is a very different listening experience from that afforded by [a]Mazarin[/a]’s startlingly lovely debut album ‘Watch It Happen’ – on which Stoltzfus‘ spindly voice is bolstered by all manner of ambient noises, jagged bass and forlorn piano. Tonight the songs are sketchy, thin and, let’s be honest, a little out of tune.

Nevertheless, their beauty is unmistakable. Between bouts of guitar readjustment and rambling stories about transportational problems, ‘Chasing The Girl’ is a fluttery moment of stinging grace, ‘Sicily’ is a Simon & Garfunkel-styled nursery rhyme, and one-time [I]NME[/I] SOTW ‘Wheats’ is naggingly, hopelessly lonely. Only ‘Deed To Drugs’The Monkees‘Last Train To Clarksville’ through a shredder, essentially – suffers irredeemably, as their attempts to emulate the record’s sudden time changes and chugging hooks only sound jarring and disjointed.

The live spectacle may leave something to be desired, but Stoltzfus‘ prodigious songwriting skills (particularly impressive considering his career up until now has been drumming for other bands) remain unimpeachable. Let’s hope that next time [a]Mazarin[/a] can afford to come back in style. Expectations, if nothing else, are high.

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