The Crayon Set album launch gig at Whelan’s (review & photos)
The Crayon Set launched their self-titled debut album at Whelan’s last Sunday, the 22nd of April. The refreshing Dublin indie-pop group consists of eight dynamic and talented musicians, making use of an oboe, a flute, a violin, percussion, keyboards, a double bass and guitars, with more instruments making appearances on the album. With six vocal microphones on the go, the harmonies had to be spot-on here. In fact, with such a large group, there is a necessity to be explicitly tight; if each piece does not fit perfectly (more perfection than a four-piece will have to strive for) it is a glaring and more obvious failure. No such worries with The Crayon Set, who go above and beyond this call, and obviously take stringent and minute care with their performances. Anna Keogh’s oboe and Kama Swoboda’s violin are both playful and imperative sounds to be set against Labhaoise Brennan’s flute, creating fine and denotative intra-member operations, complex sets of which were to be found in the entire show, as every musician was set to play off another, often several at once, reaching to harmonies and melodies that were, thanks to this complexity, fully dimensional and realised.
Robert Baker, who switched between an acoustic and a semibody and shared lead vocal duties with Labhaoise, announced their welcome to the crowd, thankful of the status that their debut album is now achieving around Dublin, and the attention local and national media outlets have been paying to this promising band – with a large and encouraging reaction to the new album. He also detailed their intention to energise the tunes and the night progressively towards a balls-out close. The audience was not disappointed.
The complex instrumental combination ideas were reflected in the vocal lines and times, complementing the remarkably constructive and creative lyrics themselves. Speaking of creativity, some of the most impressive moments of the gig were Sam Saarsteiner’s every-other-time breakbeat interpolations during a carefree whistling section, and Stephen Byrne’s slide-guitar ambience, which added heaps of depth and contributed to the feeling that here, poppy modes of realisation were acting on less-than-poppy ideas. George Guilfoyle switched from a beautiful double-bass to an equally lovely viola-bass, and his lines fed the talented Hannah Hughes’ keyboards perfectly, as well as those of the flute. Though obviously focusing primarily on album tracks, there was some older material and additions such as an upbeat folk cover of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.” Also known to revive MGMT’s “Time to Pretend,” the strength of the covers may reveal something of a flaw also brought about by partaking in such a large number of musicians in one band; it is always that much easier to perform a cover since each contributor will be playing the song along in their heads while playing. Any nuances will be picked up on by the other performers, and it’s easy to know where the tune is heading. With originals, who’s to say that eight people may not be playing slightly different songs with their inner gramophone?
Listen to The Crayon Set’s music on Soundcloud
Review by Luke Etherton
Photos by Tudor Marian