Paper Dress Vintage is a relatively new venue in Hackney, downstairs is a vintage clothing shop cum bar, by day upstairs is more clothing and a yoga studio but by night it’s an intimate venue to catch a mix of new and upcoming bands as well as the occasional better known visitor. Like Rainbrother. Bjarke Bendsten has been developing his sound through a series of bands – first coming to international notice with the jaunty pop-rock of The Elephants, then stripping everything right back for the more lo-fi The Migrants. Rainbrother is a return to a bigger band sound, but one which retains that earthier feel with a big nod to the likes of Phosphorescent. The emotion is rawer, the funk is deeper. And, as with the previous bands, Bendsten remains pretty Danishly laid back.
Two support acts opened the evening: Imogen Harfleet offered up some folky reflections, accompanying herself on guitar and autoharp and was pleasingly quirky in a Lavender Diamond way, whilst Adelaide’s The Wanderers – playing their second ever London gig – were a robust rock four piece with a slight twist in being drums, bass, lead guitar, and keyboards. In their fine, but short, set they projected a classic rock feel with a few unexpected sidesteps such as the light and breezy Unsure Emily, and a set closer which featured that rarity the sung over drum solo. A good start to the evening.
Once Rainbrother had sorted out their equipment issues after the changeover they launched into an hour’s music with some gusto. They appear as a disparate entity – Bendsten tall and bearded and looking as if he’s just walked back from a hard day on the beach, keyboardist / electric 12 string guitarist Kristian Sejerskilde has strolled in from the Apple Store Genius Bar, lead guitar Aske Fuglsang exudes Scandinavian cool, bass player Simon Minke would not look out of place in a successful blues band whilst drummer Lars Steen Hvelplund is in jeans and a t-shirt ready for some heavy duty percussion work. That’s appearances, the reality is that Rainbrother are a tight – but loose – rock band. It’s been demonstrated on the album Tales from the Drought – which appeared back in February – and it’s amplified live. They’ve also got a splendid approach to scheduling albums: the next one has already been recorded and several tracks – such as Warriors – featured in the set.
Rainbrother cover many shades of emotion – Blue is a cool slow groove, which balances on two pinnacles, neat little guitar licks and sonic stabs from the keyboards. Break Out takes Rainbrother into a harder edged sound, and gives Lars Hvelplund another opportunity to demonstrate a total commitment to bashing all kinds of Danish hell out of his drum kit. This man does not hold back – it’s a joy both to hear and to watch. And then there’s the recent single, Fat Eggs, which is such a mellow mood, hypnotically weaving back and forth, it’s an irresistible sound full of blended voices and with the rhythm section at their very grooviest as the chirping guitar echoes the wordless chorus. Fat Eggs sways like a field of corn, full and ripe for the scythe, and with the promise of grain whiskey to come. It’s the kind of song that can be, and is, effortlessly extended without ever outstaying its welcome.
Fifty minutes or so in and it’s seemingly all over, somewhat to the disbelief of the crowd. The band’s seeming surprise at the audience wanting to hear at least one more produced the superb East African Dream, introduced by Bjarke Bendsten as being about walking across Africa. This is one of a couple of instrumental pieces on Tales From The Drought, and the first of these to appear on this night. Building on booming bass notes and a mesmeric repetition of “na-na–na-na-na-nah” it loops around on itself with imaginative and dreamy lead guitar full of sky high floating notes, and grounded by Bendsten’s endless acoustic strumming. With voices joining in from the floor the song takes on a building majesty. As a closer it’s just perfection.
Rainbrother, is a band that takes Bjarke Bendsten’s musical imagination further into ever more interesting territory. The signs from this gig are that next album should be as superb as the first, and longer sets at bigger venues are sure to follow – so catch them at intimate venues while you still can.
East African Dream