In an age when EDM has become the commercial heart of music, there is something oddly comforting about hearing dance music played with heart. The Canadians Jessy Lanza and Caribou are putting a pulse and emotion back into dance music by offering something a long way from Calvin Harris pumping his fist in an arena.
At first glance Lanza, positioned slightly off-centre on stage at Koko, looks indistinctive behind her Roland synth and mic stand. But when she sighs into 5785021, from her widely praised debut album, Pull My Hair Back, it’s hard not to pay attention. Her performance is tight and focused, and her songs work well live, though she is at times so understated that her breathy vocal and minimal R&B-inspired synth lines dissolve into the noise of the crowd.
Caribou, Dan Snaith’s solo project in the studio that is a group effort on stage, ramp things up. All four members of Snaith’s live band are decked out in white and he smiles at the punters when he isn’t stooped diligently over his synth. Under lights that change from flashing strobes to illuminating LED bulbs, drummer Brad Weber crashes energetically through dynamic builds in Mars and Bowls while Ryan Smith flits back and forth between guitar and keyboard.
Snaith also swaps instruments, turning to a second drum kit to thump his way through Can’t Do Without You. The set is varied, and Caribou sound sharply rehearsed, exactly like their recordings (except for the slightly muffled vocals). Odessa and Jamelia, from Snaith’s breakout 2010 album, Swim, pull in jubilant cheers and show the band aren’t afraid to play the hits. Encore Sun throbs like a huge heartbeat, pushing out into the sticky air and bringing the euphoric set to a close.