Live Review: Hurtling, Junodef + Stephen Evens at The Islington, Islington

We’re fortunate to be surrounded by people with impeccable musical taste who are always more than willing to share their latest discoveries, and every so often a name comes up with such startling regularity that we know we’re on to a sure thing.  The whispers surrounding Hurtling and their debut single ‘Feel It’ a couple of years back were so frequent that practically every musical conversation had a whiff of déjà vu about it, and the warm words were instantly proved correct on the track’s release.  A couple of years down the line and we’re finally here to welcome the band’s debut album Future From Here into the world at an intimate sold-out gathering within the red velvet confines of North London’s least imaginatively named venue.

Tonight’s festivities, including ,we presume, the splendid multi-tiered cream cake that all present were treated to at the end of the night, have been organised by the ever prescient Onomatopoeia Records, home to both Hurtling and tonight’s opener Stephen Evens.  In the past we’ve seen Mr Evens perform both with a full band and solo on guitar but today sees his first Casiotone outing, and the warm, nostalgic tones of the instrument lend a wonky end-of-the-pier charm to the collection of psych-pop curios that made up debut LP Bonjour Poulet, including an excellent rendition of previous single ‘Captains of Convenience’.  We’re also granted a few glimpses into what he has in store for us with forthcoming record Employee of the Month: consider our interest piqued.

Next up are Swedish trio Junodef, who produce a masterclass in understated alt-rock.  Never afraid to give their tracks space to breathe and grow, and blessed with an excellent drummer who flits between acoustic and electric kits within songs, they manage to be dark and brooding without creating distance between band and audience in a set which weaves elements of growling post-rock with the artful alt-noir of middle-era PJ Harvey.

And then it’s time for the night’s headliners.  Hurtling take little time in dispelling any doubts as to the veracity of the praise which has been heaped on them by all and sundry as they launch into a set which covers the entirity of their new album.  Jen Macro, face half covered by a long, dark fringe, sends her guitar soaring into the stratosphere, while bassist Simon Kobayashi and drummer Jon Clayton map out an angular framework for the songs to stretch themselves across.

With time spent in bands including My Bloody Valentine, Graham Coxon, Shonen Knife, The Monochrome Set and many more, exemplary musicianship was to be taken as a given, but far from being an amalgam of the artists they’ve worked with Hurtling forge their own path, carving shimmering swathes of post-rock, fuzzed at the edges with flecks of grungy alt-rock.  Dedicated to the memory of Jen’s mother, the tracks have a deep emotional core, magnified by live performance, the mood switching from downbeat to hopeful so smoothly you barely notice the transition in your own state of mind, with the red-raw vocals of ‘Feel It’ and the vast emotive ocean of set closer ‘Call to Arms’ particularly affecting.

Finishing with a triumphant encore cover of Furniture’s 80s hit ‘Brilliant Mind’, Hurtling leave the stage to a huge ovation as throughout the crowd eyes are wiped dry and ear to ear smiles beam through the darkness.  Music journalist convention would ordinarily require me to make a cloying reference to the Future From Here to close this article, but Hurtling deserve better.  Seek out this record, see this band whenever they play within a commutable distance of your home and spread the word to anyone who will listen.

Review and photography by Paul Maps

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