Islington Assembly Hall – December 5th
On a bitter, wind-ravaged evening, it was difficult to tell whether Dutch Uncles had, figuratively speaking, swept me off my feet, or were I simply suffering from the weather conditions. In retrospect, it was certainly the former.
Outfit, a band worthy of a headline slot themselves, are justly rewarded a forty five minute set, but an uninspired stage presence and muddied sound conceal the clutch of hooks and bubbling choruses that lurked within their debut album. It’s underwhelming, although the irrepressible groove of ‘House On Fire’, heavily indebted to Hot Chip, is most welcome.
Dutch Uncles emerge briskly and waste no time in tucking into a lengthy, career-spanning trove of material (that’s three albums worth, folks), flanked by the ‘Out Of Touch In The Wild’ orchestra, “they’re very special, but they’re ours”, Duncan Wallis, the band’s chirpy vocalist, quips early on. He’s got good reason to claim ownership, too, as the modest trio of two violins and a double bass are worthy additions, seamlessly, gorgeously entwining with Dutch Uncles’ traditional set up.
Deliciously subtle and rarely overpowering, they craft intricate ties with songs from most recent LP Out Of Touch In The Wild, most notably ‘Nometo’, elegantly reinforcing its colossal, thrashing nature, ‘Brio’, which squirms and wriggles in every direction, and ‘Phaedra’, the evening’s first breathtaking moment, as Wallis’ solitary piano soars beneath a wave of warm, lush strings. Older tracks also get an airing; Cadenza’s frantic ‘Dressage’ is surprisingly ferocious, whereas the band’s self-titled debut is further rejuvenated, the frenzied ‘Steadycam’ embraced affectionately by the crowd like a lost lover.
Of course, Wallis’ own blend of chaotic body popping and relentless writhing is an essential part of Dutch Uncles’ live show these days and he does not disappoint, managing to balance a wistful croon and a rapid machine gun crackling of moves when he strays from his piano.
There is no distracting, however, from the fact that the venue is only half full, the expansive belly of Islington Assembly Hall looking frustratingly spacious and, despite my sweltering sense of injustice, the crowd that do lend an ear are justly rewarded with a blistering set. Perhaps Dutch Uncles aren’t meant for mainstream recognition, much to my dismay, but their aggressively unique blend of organic instrumentals and intelligent, sugary pop is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.