The Holy + Pink Milk + Warmland
Thursday 26th September 2019
The Lexington, Islington, London
Second time this month for a trip to one of my favourite small music venues - The Lexington just up from the Angel tube. The layout of the venue is good and the sound system is not bad either. Tonight is a showcase of Nordic bands promoted by Ja Ja Ja with Sweden, Finland and Iceland all represented.
The atmosphere was set by the ever-present dry ice creating a misty vista and the glowing ultra-blue lighting was dimmed to allow only enough light to occasionally reveal the shadowy figures on the stage. The figures are occasionally highlighted enough to reveal Maria on drums and vocals and Edward on guitar. Two-piece Pink Milk are from Sweden’s Gotland, a dark-wave 80’s influenced sound with the vocals reminding me of Siouxsie Sioux or Xmal Deutschland at their darkest best. There is a mournful lilt in Maria’s voice expanded with reverb, echo and delay pedals to match the swirling shimmer from the dry ice. The drums are relatively low-fi and Maria plays them standing up adding the occasional electronic drum to the kit to emphasise the 80’s influences. A glittery guitar swirls in and out with picked sequences, again heavily drenched in reverb working in empathy with the vocals. The music draws you in with the chords left ringing out and hanging in the dry ice.
I met up with them in the bar later, where they did look like they had just stepped off the set of ‘Vikings’ but that is enough of the stereotyping! The gig was really good and created a positive chilled mood for the rest of the evening.
Next, the stage fills up with considerably more musicians as ‘The Holy’ take the stage. Not one but two drummers, two guitars, a bass and a sprinkling of synths and pads across the stage. The Holy are from Helsinki and already have an EP and full album to their name, to high acclaim in their homeland. Now, anyone who has read any of my previous reviews must think I am addicted to Spotify’s music recommendations and I am incapable of finding my own new music?! Well, I actually find the ‘Discovery Weekly’ playlist a bit of chore. You have to dig through lots of trash to find a diamond, but that is exactly what I did do to find The Holy. But what a diamond! The ‘Daughter’ album is immense in every way carrying such emotion and variety within its 8 tracks. Probably my favourite album of last year, I was over the moon to see that they were playing in the UK and even had to cancel a work trip to make sure I could make the gig. So I had a little trepidation of whether the live set would meet up to my expectations.
The first track, ‘The Letter’, builds slowly with the vocal gradually combining with instruments joining him to create a crescendo toward the ‘wall of sound’ that is the band’s trademark. There is variety in their music with Henrik’s voice producing a colourful range of emotions as he sings the anthemic melodies such as ‘Land Before Time’ and ‘That Will Be The Day That I Die’. The double drumming from Mikko and Eero drives the music on and the synths and piano riffs fill the sound alongside the guitars. This is quality stuff; powerful, emotional, delivered by impassioned musicians.
Henrik switches between guitar and keyboards, with Laura on bass with occasional use of synths and Pyry on guitar. All together they make a fantastic sound and blow away any doubts I had about the quality of the band I found hiding at the bottom of my Spotify playlist!
I caught them briefly at the end of the gig and they head off to Iceland for a festival next week. With their second album already recorded, next year will see them launching and supporting that work. I for one cannot wait, as the only problem with this set, was it was just too short! Hopefully they will be back - and this time with even more songs to blow me away with!
Warmland are from Reykjavik, Iceland, taking the stage in uniformed black shirts against a backdrop of electro-static visuals. The studio line up of Arnar and Hrafn met whilst touring China and mix Pop, Prog and Techno influences. They also have a strong live sound with melodic piano giving a ‘Keane’ style absorbing performance.
Not a bad evening’s entertainment from the Nordic music promoters Ja Ja Ja who arrange a monthly club night at the Lexington and FluxBau in Berlin. Well worth dropping in if you get the chance, I think I might!