Thursday, March 28, 2013

Live Review: Ajimal, Heartattack & Vine, Newcastle, 26/03/2013

With his debut mini-album finally nearing completion and a brand new single already in circulation, Fran O'Hanlon - aka Ajimal - can justly claim a place along the hottest up-and-coming acts in the North East. Already hailed as "unearthly" and "setting a new benchmark for sensitive pop in 2013," the Mick Ross-produced 'This Human Joy' saw release on Monday, and was available at this launch gig as a special handmade CD, limited to 20 copies. The show itself was similarly exclusive; fans having been encouraged to register online, with 25 lucky pairs assigned a passcode and the secret location, which as it turned out was Newcastle's Heartattack & Vine. An intimate - albeit chilly - renovated room, its cosy confines provided the perfect stage not only for Ajimal, but also the two support acts who preceded his appearance.

An emerging young songwriter based in nearby Sunderland, Faith Elliott kicked the night off with a collection of cuts cataloging her experiences of love loss and heartache. With influences including Bon Iver, Lucy Rose and Laura Marling (the latter of whom she rather bluntly admitted an affection for), it'd be a push to claim these acoustic folk numbers stood out, although the candidness and direct nature of her lyrics was a definite bright spot, and should at the very least stand her in good stead. Trev Gibb meanwhile is a somewhat more established figure, and has been doing the rounds on the local circuit since 2005 - first as a solo artist, and more recently with his band Deerhart. Tonight's set predominantly found him adopting the initial guise, a format which sacrificed the lush instrumentation found on record, but worked wonders in underlining both his rich, soulful voice and the tremendous deep-rooted quality of his writing.

Whereas their performances fitted very much into the singer songwriter mould, Ajimal's music strives for more atmospheric, cinematic territory - an aesthetic which was apparent despite O'Hanlon playing the majority of his set as a lone figure. Perhaps the most striking demonstration was 'The Sea Inside,' a song whose skyscraping ambition and spellbinding ambiance shone through even with Gibbs' return to the stage acting as its only support. Around 50 musicians are set to feature on the upcoming Childhood, yet O'Hanlon's compositions retain a distinct and gripping sense of minimalism; the distant rumble of cars often all that disturbed the silence which entwined and electrified treasures such as 'Wolf' and 'Footnote To Love [Part One].' With spacious piano and guitar its only backing, his voice was the perennial centrepiece, and having visited France and Australia already this year, it's developing beyond a mere local concern.


'This Human Joy' is out now. The single is available on iTunes and other digital outlets.

Official website

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