Pop review: Broken Records, Water Rats, London

Water Rats, London

"This is a great venue," sighs Jamie Sutherland, the singer of Edinburgh's Broken Records. "But there's not a lot of space on this stage." Indeed not, when your band has seven members - among them a cellist, a violinist and a trumpeter - and each break between songs sees an awkward exchange of instruments between members. Adversity is no barrier, however, to Broken Records. In this packed back room they simply astound, offering convincing evidence that they could be the UK's answer to Arcade Fire - purveyors of an epic, swirling, joyfully mysterious music, melding the unlikely combination of eastern European folk to Scottish indie with a warmth and heart the Canadian band somehow lack.

Broken Records also appear to be a band without a weak link. Sutherland's voice, swooping from pitch-perfect falsetto to sonorous baritone without missing a note, is their obvious strength, but every instrument is crucial. Bands of multi-instrumentalists often seem to arrange the songs simply to show off their prowess, but here everything is in the service of the songs, giving them a thrilling sense of drama, be it on a slow-burner such as opener Nearly Home, or the near-hoedown of If Eilert Løvborg Wrote a Song, It Would Sound Like This.

That drama is heightened by as clever a use of lighting as you can possibly get in the back room of a pub. Broken Records are probably the only band to have turned the notorious claustrophobic dinginess of the Water Rats to their advantage: with strobes flashing and the band in full flow, it feels as though one is totally immersed in sensation.

After a couple of years as Scotland's hottest unsigned band, Broken Records finally release their first album on 4AD in June. It it matches this, they won't be in pubs much longer.


Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

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