Copenhagen’s Søren Løkke Juul last week released his début full-length Somewhere Else via esteemed London indie 4AD, and it this week brings Indians to the door of the quietly captivating whiskey bar that is The Lexington. It’s the first time Juul has headed up his band in the capital, and for many in attendance it’s a first opportunity to glean even a glimpse of the introspective songster – thereby imbuing the ambiguity of the album’s title with a definite geographical location, or perhaps rather a tangible point of connection. Though Somewhere Else doesn’t exactly a collection of sounds immediately compatible with the uncontrollable bustle of this fair city make, and indeed likewise nor is it one we might traditionally associate with the live arena. For on record, Juul channels his sensations of isolation into a stark classicism which is tinted only slightly with the subtle intricacies of electronica. He thus vividly elucidates these impressions of orthodoxy, traditionalism and solitude which are seemingly deeply seated within his soul whereas live, he relies not only upon obstreperous machinery and other such giddying symbols of modernity, but also upon the two squires who back him so.
The live environment is one which Juul is still coming to terms with: despite having featured as a session musician and backing pianist for somewhere in the region of a decade (incidentally, he’s at the centre of a somewhat incestuous role reversal having once played insouciant keys for the pair that tonight respectively play second and third figurative fiddles), he has publicly confessed to onstage anxieties and such, and this much is made manifest even from the opening moments as the affecting, airy balldry of Bird flutters beautifully awry. There’s then a glistering Magic Kids which, though Juul’s third of the night, also just so happens to be his third triumph in as many tracks as it unfurls beneath a twilit stage – a succinct fit for his rimy synth lines. And so he’s now nigh on warmed up albeit in a venue that, pervaded by unnecessarily chilly conditioned air, is colder than most fjords. An accommodating for his Nordic thermoregulatory custom, quite clearly.
And again, this seems rather apt: for whilst Somewhere Else thrives on an ethereal warmth, tonight the more full-on synth interventions and between-song interludes play out with a spiny prickle. At times it makes for a bracing spectacle; at others it brings the dizzying surges of the show as a whole to a frosty, though more pertinently apathetic lull. Reality Sublime, with its protracted breakdowns and builds, is one such patch of dull to engender a reaction of coagulated bemusement. Which is regrettable, given that at its considerably more warm core are those same restive, though still reliable arpeggios to have played an integral part in The Knife’s arresting development thus far.
Nonetheless, although arguably to be expected given the above evidence, an element which remains irrefutably consistent throughout is the musical calibre on display: every harmony is sumptuously executed, and each song is finely recalibrated in keeping with the staging of the show. And despite this being due to factors outside of Juul’s being, this reality is quite irrefutably all of his own doing, as his band is patently positioned about him despite his staging wide left, his eyes transfixed stage-right. He penned every part and mapped each one out with a Germanic precision. He is as such the one true native of Indians, and he makes resolutely sure of such revelation with the trundling M. Ward-ian acoustica of Cakelakers, or the monumental grandiosity of Melt, during which Juul recalls an abstemious Roger Hodgson and unveils grand designs to whisk the recalcitrant retractable roof clean off any which stadium’ll have him.
Though the joy of Indians at the minute is that Juul is lightyears off such overblown pomp and show, and is instead made for intimacy. And never is this better explicated than on La Femme: rudimentarily thwacked drum pads bring to it a more energetic aesthetic, whilst a MacBook haphazardly slapped down on the floor works muted wonders in the backdrop. It grows and expands out into something overwhelmingly resplendent, replete with a crisp dance breakdown which abruptly abates, allowing for its initial ebonised refrain to return. A burst of chatter ensues, before Juul once again pulls that graceful voice from out from his gaping mouth. The room stands still in dazed shush.
For both vocally and personally, Juul has been endowed with an effortless faculty to enthral and despite his self-professed apprehensions, he displays a stalwart ease onstage. His confidence infallible, he’s as though an estranged Scandi Wainwright to my mind and although his vocal is at times smudged as smears of native American face paint, he breezes on with the same delicate reticence as that with which the night breezes by.
In amidst the unprecedented four-to-the-floor breakdowns and the breakup songs, he thanks us as profusely as he does the heavens above for our existence. “It’s amazing being in London. You’re amazing” he gushes, disbelieving of being in London to begin with before he embarks upon Somewhere Else. Suitably, it’s that most transportive of his ten, and the wispy one to eventually carry he from we. He had us “right from the start” and held us until the last, and he couldn’t come back soon enough.