BY NICK GK
A quiet gig in a bookshop. They keenly use the word “intimate”; the PA is small, and the lights stay on. You daren’t leave your phone on ring. Listeners are invited to sit down.
Concurrently, there is free booze at the back. Lots of it.
This makes for a regular to-and-fro to the back and you seem to be the only one doing it. This is okay.
The band sit meters away with a reduced setup: stool and microphone flagged by sparse drumkit and Nord keyboard. The slightest snare buzz is audible, though everything is well rounded, with shelves of books seemingly absorbing any overtones reflected by the concrete shell of the basement.
Arctic Lake are a young ambient three-piece in the vein of London Grammar, perhaps with the introversion of Beach House. It’s true that Arctic Lake trade largely on Emma’s skills as a vocalist, though the setting makes for a quiet examination of the band’s accomplished songwriting skills. They are unusually candid throughout; four new tracks, as well as a cover and some old material. The new songs gear towards an upcoming (and well overdue) EP, which seems to have tempted them away from their tried-and-tested formula of slow, evocative ballads; they flirt with faster tempos and percussive hooks, with Emma’s soaring vocal at the helm.
This is a band pushing gently in new directions. One wonders how often they could have repeated the success of their early singles, which were certainly beautiful songs but songs that largely conformed to a narrow formula. With the decision to record an EP, Arctic Lake have shown a new maturity and scope in their music, which I’m looking forward to hearing in recorded form later this year.
Arctic Lake played at Waterstones, Tottenham Court Road, 8th July 2017.