Kyla La Grange – review

Village Underground, London

Branches and fairy lights flank the stage like Titania's grotto. The mic stands are festooned with winter foliage and rams' skulls. We're about to witness either a midsummer night's dream of a gig or the ritual sacrifice of another promising young songwriter at the altar of industry box-ticking. After three alluring goth-folk singles on the tiny Chess Club label, the forthcoming major-label debut album from Watford's Kyla La Grange suggests she's been picking up tips from those who have come before her. There's Florence Welch's pagan bellow, Anna Calvi's theatrics, Lana del Rey's sultry warble, and at root the reconstituted folk of PJ Harvey and Mumford & Sons.

Thankfully, when she appears – her face awash with glitter and wearing a tiara made from pigeon wings, looking for all the world like Mr Tumnus's supermodel sister – La Grange seems anything but formulaic. "I don't have any fun songs, I like epic, miserable songs," she says, and it's a style she imbues with charm and character, carving a powerful pastoral aesthetic all her own. By draping anthemic Coldplay choruses over the plough-shackled folk of Been Better and Walk Through Walls she conjures opulent visions of longboats and nunneries, while the battle drums and stirring hooks of Courage are so medieval and infectious they're virtually bubonic.

She's not entirely Guinevere-perfect: her am-dram emoting during the quieter segments irritates, the one-tone nature of her material drags a little, and it's tough to ignore the distant whiff of the Levellers. But the cheeky murder fantasies of Vampire Smile, the glam swing of I Could Be and the masterclass in stripped-back restraint that is Heavy Stone provide variance and colour, with La Grange forever cast as the sacrificial maiden chained to her personal rock of romantic desolation. Enchanting.

Watch Kyla La Grange on Bands in Transit


Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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