Islington Assembly – 10th May
Last October Glasgow’s affable singer/songwriter C Duncan released one of the most atmospheric and coherently stylistic records of the year. A dreamy cloud virtually effused from The Midnight Sound as soon as the needle touched the wax and, talking to London in Stereo back in March, the young Scot explained how the record’s icy textures mirrored the emotional fatigue that inspired its creation.
Tonight’s performance on the London leg of The Midnight Sun May tour naturally draws heavily from the recent record, though despite the cold and eerie synths that lead the set, it’s unfathomably hot in the boomy Islington Assembly. Though that may not be intentional, the soft-touch effect of the smoke that clouds the stage clearly is, and as Duncan and band open with ‘Like You Do’, there’s an immediate hypnotising trinity of sensations.
Every time I’ve seen C Duncan perform he has had a different stage set up, and the translation of songs have inevitably differed, if only subtly. But tonight’s seems refined, with the necessary bassist, drummer and guitarist somehow all gifted with choral voices to match Duncan’s, who himself switches between laptop and midi keyboard to nail the layers of keys on the likes of ‘Jupiter’ and ‘Nothing More’. The band boost the rhythmic quality of Duncan’s songs live too, boosting subtleties from the record like the off-beat bass line on powerful and aptly named closer ‘Last To Leave’ to the cymbal crashes of ‘Wanted To Want It To’.
Though the inclusion of hits ‘Say’ and ‘Garden’ from his Mercury Prize-nominated debut Architect are well received, it’s the B-Side ‘Castle Walls’ that wins the evening; literally unplugging a nylon guitar and coming to a platform in front of the stage, Duncan and Co. unveil amidst a perfect silence from the hall that it is the voice, not the synth, that is the backbone of his sound.