Photography: James Muat-Dodd / @gethexd

Penelope Isles

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  • Last Living Cannibal
Future Yard 19/5/21

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For the first show post-lockdown in a country starting to flicker back to life, it seems appropriate that two of the most promising current UK acts are on the bill. This is the second date of PENELOPE ISLES’ socially-distanced spring tour and, after what I think we can probably all agree has been a slightly underwhelming year for live music, it really is a great pleasure to be, well, back in the room.

Before the headliners, LAST LIVING CANNIBAL opens the show. Currently promoting his impressive, self-released debut LP 7 Years, his set is a demonstration of complex, intricate songwriting. Opener The Overground is perhaps a perfect encapsulation of his style-blending hooky, repeated riffs with intriguing synth leads and understated vocal lines. The set-up is simple: distorted guitar played over a pre-programmed backing track, but the effect is captivating. For the first strains of live music outside of Zoom streams we have heard in a long time you could definitely do much, much worse.

Since the release of their first album Until The Tide Creeps In in 2019, Penelope Isles have, through relentless touring, developed into one of the best live bands in the country. Tonight’s performance only confirms that fact. Brother and sister duo Jack and Lily Wolter have always been the driving force in the group but new members Henry Nicholson on bass and Joe Taylor on drums make up an impressive rhythm section. Chlorine gets things moving nicely and is an example of the band’s winning formula of fusing shimmering morsels of pop with fuzzy sections of noise-rock experimentation. Just when you’re settling into the appealing lull of a pristine melody, the song suddenly plunges into unexpected dissidence. In this way no track ever feels stale or overwrought.

Not Talking is a showcase for Jack Wolter’s vocal range. Dream-like and ethereal, the track manages to convey a sense of fragility with sparse percussion and delicate chord progressions. One of Penelope Isles’ biggest strengths is the symbiotic vocal harmonising between the two Wolter siblings and this track emphasises that in abundance. Leipzig takes the set into more kinetic territory with its off-kilter, wonky riffs and 60s, French-pop infused vocal delivery. The band have been working on their second album and tonight we are treated to some of the new material alongside the well-known fan favourites. If these latest tracks are anything to go by then the new record may well even be an improvement on their first effort.

As the set draws to a close, there is a distinct, triumphant feeling in the room. Even though the audience is sitting at tables huddled in pairs, it is clear that a new dawn beckons. Live music is back. The current experience might feel slightly unfamiliar, but if the other shows on the horizon feel anywhere near as good as this one then it won’t matter. Live streams have gone some way to satiate the hunger for all of this during the past year, but it doesn’t touch the real thing. So, get yourself back in the room as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.

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