LIVE: This Is The Kit – Leaf, Liverpool 26.11.15

Between the peeling Deco walls and under the warm overhanging multi-hued bulbs of Liverpool’s Leaf Café, the audience cozy together for what promises to be a mellow evening of leftfield folk from This Is The Kit, a.k.a Kate Stables & co.

Off the back of their recent support slot with José González, Cristobal & The Sea’s barefoot psych-leaning Tropicalia-pop proves to be one of the strongest support slots we’ve seen in a long time. Hailing from Paris, Portugal, Spain and Northampton (local-boy hollers from the crowd), Gigslutz highly-rated their Peach Bells EP earlier in the year and their following LP, Sugar Now, certainly didn’t disappoint either. In the flesh they’re a Balearic blur of curious crosscutting three-part harmonies, evocative flute lines and energetic psych-pop Bossa nova groove. If anything’s going to make tonight’s audience leave the comfy security of their seats and conga onto the dance floor it’s this lot. Think François & The Atlas Mountains, Devendra Banhart and the occasional vocal stylings of Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig.

As the carnival wraps up a hushed awe settles on the audience as This Is The Kit take to the stage. Almost ten years since beginning life as Kate Stables’ solo project in 2006, the band we see before us today are a refreshingly unique and effortlessly charming act, who appear totally at home on stage. Standing tall on tiptoes, Stables begins the night solo on banjo. Stables voice is one of timeless beauty, much like the subtle avant-garde folk of Linda Perhacs, Vashti Bunyan, and Karen Dalton. As good-egg, acclaimed songwriter and BBC 6Music host Guy Garvey aptly put it: “She has a lilting quality to her voice. It moves in ‘squares’ – it trills rather than slides between notes”. It’s light, honest quaver angles and finds it’s way into every darkened corner of Leaf.

The ambling delicacy of ‘Silver John’, with it’s professed apocalyptic lyrics, doesn’t feel any less magical without the warmth of Brassland’s label mate Doveman’s lulling synths filling it out. The four-piece, comprising drummer Jamie Whitby-Coles, guitarist Neil Smith and bassist (and excellent solo-artist in her own right) Rozi Plain fill out the compositions with rich, weaving harmonies and immersive lead guitar work. With bells and shakers at hand, the rumbling percussive pulse of ‘Cold And Got Colder’ and older cut ‘Spinney’ stand out from the rest of the sets wistful pace. Some solos even end in feedback, jolting some of the audience out of their transfixed imaginings. They end with a stunning rendition of ‘Bashed Out’ and an encore of ‘Wriggle Out The Restless’ standout track ‘Earthquake’, which really ramps up the dynamics; swaggering along like a bold, broody Cat Power track.

I feel you can always tell when you’ve experienced something extra special, when the first thing you do is plug in those headphones on the way home and relive every song and moment all over again. It’s close but no cigar, so here’s to holding out till This Is The Kit are next in town.

David Weir