- by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date: Label:
Walking down into the basement at Hyde Park Book Club and it’s the smell of incense that hits me first. I’m fairly early so the crowd hasn’t started to assemble yet but there is, to my surprise, someone wandering around in a white wedding dress. It’s going to be an interesting night.
The occasion isn’t a wedding but the first performance in Leeds by Norwegian singer-songwriter, Eva Eik. Living in Leeds and on the verge of releasing her debut single, Eik has spent the last few months writing the songs we’ll hear later on tonight. The whole night feels infused with the spirit and excitement of a brand new venture. New music and new beginnings.
To start things off we’re all cordially invited to the “first official No Fixed ceremony”. Consisting of keyboardist Jemma Freese, self-styled frequency curator Heather Bamford aka No Fixed Identity and her sister. It’s quite unlike anything else I’ve seen, one part rap and one part new age happening. The ritual begins with the chime of a Tibetan singing bowl.
Heather is dressed in the aforementioned wedding dress, a bright green wig and trainers. Her lyrics take centre stage though, creating an engaging tapestry of confessional and cathartic storytelling. Songs from the heart and songs from the gut. Rap meets fierce performance poetry.
There’s a really interesting juxtaposition between Bamford’s Nas influenced rhymes and Freese’s mellow, atmospheric keys. Cyclical melodies and immersive storytelling designed to draw us in. A ceremony about “letting go of the things you don’t want and letting in things you want” and a much welcome initiation into the world of No Fixed ID.
There’s a shift in style with the arrival of tonight’s next act, Lenu. A four-piece indie-rock outfit led by upcoming singer-songwriter Lizzy Joyce. Like much of tonight’s music, they haven’t been around very long. The songs and performance buzzing with the energy and enthusiasm of something new and exciting.
“This is our fun song” Joyce jokingly tells us “it’s about the emptiness of dating”. Yet the celebratory indie-pop, great songwriting and unexpectedly noisy interjections make for an undeniably life-affirming set. The theme of ‘letting go’ very much continued from tonight’s opening act.
“What can I do with this heavy feeling/ weighing in my stomach?” Joyce sings over the Life Pursuit era Belle & Sebastian bounce of ‘Heavy Feeling’ before concluding “I can’t hold it any longer, can I leave it at your door?”
A short but immensely fun set, they ride out on a high with the glittery indie-disco of ‘Violet’. Any of the weight I came in with appears to have been lifted.
You might not have heard the name Eva Eik before but I can guarantee it’s a name you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the coming months. It’s clear from the start that the Scandipop songwriter, model and “tarot loving fairy” has only just got started.
Freese makes her second appearance of the night with guitarist Layth Ibrahim and drummer Magnus B Brath completing the line-up. The set gets off to a bold and invigorating start with the dramatic, big-hearted pop of ‘I Need Your Help’. Eik stands centre stage, arms imploring as she delivers the songs heartfelt plea. It’s a great start; they’ve definitely got our attention.
The songs feel huge with Eik’s voice acting as a conduit of energy at the centre of the Nordic, tribal-pop storm. The choruses feel explosive, each one bigger than the last yet it’s a sense of scale derived from emotion and passion rather than stadium bluster.
It’s the first time any of these songs have been performed for a crowd yet there’s a fullness and conviction here that suggests something very much in full bloom. Magnus, Ibrahim and Freese provide innovative, distinctive and exciting accompaniment. Each instrument plays its part, nothing overwhelming the piece. Everything in its right place.
Eik’s lyrics feel personal and exposed as she sings about feeling homesick yet defiant and strong all the same. “I feel lost like a child” she sings at one point over some Kate Bush-esque pop “the one I used to be/ and I’ll never change/ even if you don’t love me”.
Upcoming debut single ‘The River’ sounds fantastic while the last song (I didn’t catch the title) leaves us on a suitably heart-racing note. A song about running away from yourself that finds Eik deep in the metaphorical forest, “you’re lost/ I can see you/ I can feel you”. The song itself acts as a guiding light and outstretched hand.
There’s something refreshingly uncynical at work here, something hopeful. I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more from Eik and her illuminating Nordic pop in the very near future. Who would have thought so much would be going on in a basement in Hyde Park on a rainy Monday night?