Maybe it’s the pricey tickets. Maybe it’s the slightly outre nature of the acts on offer. Either way, the black, marine-ply main floor and upper-level balconies of the Turbine Room have a lot of empty spaces as Room 40’s Frankly! mini-festival kicks off. For the adventurous few, the mish-mash line-up offers gems: the cutely twee guitar pop and cheesey flash animations of Hong Kong-based The Pancakes disarms the crowd; the oh-so-earnest Jamie Stewart pulls fans of Xiu Xiu in close to coo over every electronic blib, strangled guitar chord and moaned note.
Tenniscoats‘ husband-and-wife duo recently wowed all with their transcendental folk-minimalism on the top floor of this very venue. I doubted they could better that gig. I was wrong. With the aid of fellow-countrywoman Nikaido Kazumi, Saya and Ueno Takashi turn their sights from their usual melange of poignant Gymnopedie-styled ambience to a more whimsical world of bright echoing guitar notes and playful layers of soprano glossolalia. In some ways, it’s a paradoxical performance — one moment all serious faces and concentration, the next full of child-like joy and impish bunny hops. Should avante acts involve getting down among the crowd like you’re a Wiggles performer and getting everyone to wave their arms back and forth We Are The World-style? When it’s this beautiful and this much fun, who cares?