We went to see Texan songwriter, Roger Sellers AKA Bayonne, perform at Hackney’s Moth Club.
For many a music fan the concept of looping is often seen as a hackneyed cheap thrill used to evoke a quick and shallow sense of awe, reminiscent of Ed Sheeran’s “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” SBTV performance at worst and that annoyingly smiley bloke with the guitar at Kings Cross underground at best.
In the case of Texan songwriter, Roger Sellers, who decided to hang up his banjo-lead, lo-fi folk-electronica fusion half a decade ago for a more grandiose and atmospheric brand of the latter under the moniker Bayonne, one might make an exception. His debut Primitives, re-released on Mom + Pop Music in 2016, layered its components – smoke-like synths, spiralling pianos, explosive drums – carefully and dramatically, and though some critics still found the effect underwhelming, few could deny the musicality and endearing spectrality to it. It’s follow up, Drastic Measures, released in February, continued much in the same epic vein, with a poppier sensibility and emphasis on African rhythms.
Thankfully its title track sounded every bit as colossal and cathartic live at his near-capacity headline show at Hackney’s Moth Club last week as it does on record, driven by the addition of The Physics House Band’s Sam Organ on drums, and gleamed with Seller’s near-perfect vocal performance. Throughout the evening Sellers layered his own simplified kit (floor tom and snare) atop Organ’s triplet-heavy playing to great effect, colliding in synopation amidst the childlike psychedelia of “Appeals”, from 2016’s Primitives, and the whistle-inducing pop anthem ‘I Know’.
Though the effect of crisp, live drums piercing through Sellers’ icy synth loops added a powerful dynamic unachievable on record, there was eventually, as there is listening to the album in full, a sense that it was just about nearing saturation. The addition of sparser and softer pieces such as “Enders” did go a long way in showing different perspective to his songwriting and providing respite, but nevertheless by the encore of “Omar” – in and of itself a paragon of Seller’s powerful style – it felt like it had all been heard before.
Regardless, Sellers’ theatrical style, with his gestures toward an audience as if it were not there, as his tangle of synths and sequencers whizz and play out his carefully built compositions is something to behold – even if it is best in small doses.