Live Review: Fossil Collective, Joe Banfi and Dark Dark Horse

Steve Buttercase 18 April 2013

Fossil Collective, Joe Banfi and Dark Dark Horse

The Portland Arms, Cambridge

What a sublime evening of music this was.

There were fourteen guitars on the tiny Portland Arms stage when I walked in at the beginning of the evening but it wasn’t until the second support act that I heard what sounded like one.

This was because Dark Dark Horse were stripped back to basics playing their blend of electro-pop chill to the early arrivals. A triggered drum machine and 24 key Korg augmented the effects-drenched bass and guitar to produce a post-XX contemplative set of ambient soundscapes draped over meandering songs.

“Thanks for coming out early” was an example of their courtesy and manners. A polite band with a polite sound that would sit well at any 3am Festival tent this summer.

Next up was Joe Banfi, a singer song-writer with piercing blue eyes and Jim Morrison charisma also devoid of his full band in the tight space available. Sparkling and original his voice growls and soars through the material fracturing at exactly the right moment with plenty of light and shade. Bon Iver and Ben Howard come to mind briefly but Joe has an individual approach.

I was so admiring of his stripped down arrangements I felt certain that let loose in a studio he would deliver handsomely and so bought his debut EP which I will review elsewhere but it was excellent – especially the beautiful “Olive Green” and the profound “Oarsmen”.

So to the main act Fossil Collective, which I can only compare to the first time I saw Elbow at The Junction when they too drank with the audience and chatted freely before and after the gig. I think I can confidently predict that I will not see Fossil Collective in that size of venue again.

They played through every track of their beautiful debut album, “Tell Where I Lie”, with such accuracy and sensitivity you would swear you were listening to a headline act at a top festival.

The harmonies wrapped up the many components of the Fossil Collective sound to create a warm meld of gorgeous melody and lyrics that reminded me of Crosby Stills and Nash performing songs by Radiohead and Elbow. Complex yet approachable every song is built on melody first, then harmonic composition and production. The result is elite musicality that never sounds pompous or detached.

“Under My Arrest” began the evening highlighting the depth of talent in the band from percussive military snare to soaring strings and chiming guitar figures. Further highlights included Youtube hits “Let It Go” and “On and On” which were interspersed with playful banter and interaction. Every sing was a masterpiece of arrangement and delivery but the rendition of “The Magpie” with its excited percussion finale left nobody in any doubt that this Portland Arms audience had witnessed something truly remarkable.

From Cambridge Fossil Collective head south to a sold out concert at The Borderline and are touring the UK before a month of support slots in the US. Inevitably they will be judged by the American audience against the wash that is British music post- Coldplay but I am sure that they will get Fossil Collective for the immense talent they are.

Steve Buttercase