Monday, 11th January – a sad day for the music world, and the world in general. Finding out we’d lost one of the greats had left everyone in a state of disbelief and sadness. Luckily for me, however – and for anyone else at The Victoria in Dalston on Monday night – the day was to end celebrating new music, and one of the most exciting young artists in the world right now. There is hope yet.
So, a pint of Pale Ale in hand, we raise a glass to Davey Jones and venture behind the magical secret bookcase in anticipation of Kiran Leonard. Having seen him live once before (and picked him as One To Watch in 2016), I know we’re in for a treat.
The modest 20 year old opens with ‘Pink Fruit’, his new single – a sixteen minute masterpiece. And I don’t use that term lightly. Filled with phrases chanelling a huge range of both emotions and musical styles, it’s a quarter of an hour of compelling contradictions. Angst-driven, yet dreamily euphoric; discordant, yet eerily beautiful. Blasts of intense, grunge-inspired sounds flow into folky, fiddle-filled melodies; racing staccato beats and twinkling cowbells slow to mesmerising halts. Leonard wails, and he whispers. An utterly blissful cacophony.
Each song continues in this majestic, unique way – no two moments are the same when you’re in the company of such inspired creativity. Whilst there’s snippets of old material with ‘Port Aine’ and ‘Geraldo’s Farm’ (from his 2012 album Bowler Hat Soup), which the crowd seem to welcome, it’s the more recent material that manages to lull me into the strange state of hypnotised joy and wonder I find myself in.
With each emotion-strewn offering, I’m sucked further into Leonard’s world. I find myself smiling throughout, at just how wonderful it all is; yet at the same time I want to cut myself open and bleed all over the angst and sheer beauty of what I’m hearing. In a good way, of course; such is the sublime power of what he creates.
As the set draws to a close, I start to feel a little lost and desperate – it can’t be ending, I need more. And my wish is thankfully granted for one last song, for which Leonard returns to the stage on his own. To end the night, he plays a song about David Clapson – “It’s too hard to talk about, so you can google him yourself”. Google reveals that Clapson was an unemployed former soldier, who died from diabetic ketoacidosis after having his benefits stopped. A tragic tale, the likes of which are becoming all too common in today’s society. And so Kiran Leonard ends the set with a few minutes of quiet reflection, and so reveals another layer of his songwriting inspiration.
It ends, and I’m left speechless. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can honestly say that Kiran Leonard is the most exciting artist I’ve come across in a long time. There’s plenty of fantastic new music about at the moment, but the emotion generated watching Leonard is something else entirely. I have compared him to the likes of underrated ‘90s grunge outfit, Slint, in the past – and the similarities remain – but it is safe to say that Kiran Leonard is truly one of a kind.
Photo Credit: Sebastian Matthes