Live Review: Swimming Tapes @ Moth Club, London

Swimming Tapes play London's Moth Club, with support from Moon Balloon and Castorp | Velvet-upholstered booths frame the place and to the left is the stage, the kind of thing you'd see in a homage-paying movie with lounge acts and seductive redheads singing to a crowd of drunken, smoking, suited men.
Posted: 23 November 2018 Words: Sam Barker

Awash with hazy, bliss-ness as Swimming Tapes transport the audience at Moth Club beyond dreamy and into another realm entirely.

Nestled in the back of the Moth Club is the dancefloor, wood panelled and ensconced by soft tiling leading up to the bar. Velvet-upholstered booths frame the place and to the left, as you walk in, unmissable, is the stage, the kind of thing you'd see in a homage-paying movie with lounge acts and seductive redheads singing to a crowd of drunken, smoking, suited men. Gold streamers cover the back of the stage, with "MOTH" spelt out in silver, glittering, massive signage. Sparkles cover the recessed ceiling, doing away with the need for a disco ball, though visitors would not be at all surprised to discover one hiding in the crannies of the roof. Playing through the speakers is the kind of music that you’d expect to play out the patrons at the end of the night in a smoke-filled lounge: smooth, restrained, crooned. It is, basically, a perfect venue for tonight's acts and headliner Swimming Tapes. Up first is South London duo Moon Balloon, composed of Rhys Timson and Dan Weller, fleshed out with a couple of other musicians to accompany them live. Mop-haired and slouched over the microphones in front of them, the duo jokingly introduces the set with “hello to all my friends, the only people here” before breaking into a set of funk and jazz-influenced indie pop. Over the course of their four-song, thirty-minute set, they engender comparison most strikingly to Vulfpeck, albeit with less silliness contained within the songs. Happy to joke about, and poke fun in between songs, they shy away from Vulfpeck's kind of nonsensical and ridiculous lyrics, but bounce and riff their way through their songs with just as much joy and ease. Next to take the stage, threading their way through the steadily growing crowd, is Castorp. Songs from Castorp are written and recorded by one member of the band, Steffan Davies, but live brings in Idan Brutman, Harri Chambers and Ben Penfold to flesh out and thicken up the sound. The band cruise their way through seven tracks of startlingly bright and sparkly music driven by the interplay of Korg synth chords and jittery-reverb-and-tremolo-laden guitar riffs. At times the music is almost piercing, cutting through the atmosphere in the room with a brightness that both downplays and accentuates the inward-looking, morose content of the songs. Bringing to mind Mac Demarco and Ben Howard, the band suffer, however, from a lack of diversity – with each song exploring a very similar mood, anchored by pretty indistinct vibe, rhythm, groove, and tempo. There’s no doubt that the songs are good, but at times you want them to sink deeper and slow it down all the more, or kick it into another gear and crank up. With Swimming Tapes arrival to the stage, the mood strikes a mid-note between the silliness of Moon Balloon and the starkly serious Castorp. The band gives thanks to the audience profusely throughout the performance, sincere in their happiness over the headlining gig. Across eleven tracks, with almost half of them completely new songs, the band demonstrate their ability to transport listeners into a dreamy landscape of indie-pop. The five band members trade jokes and smiles with the audience and each other, never holding out on the crowd, but never surrendering to an air of ridiculousness or self-importance. With Swimming Tapes comprising of three guitarists (two of whom sing with neither one ever gaining prominence over the other to be determined as the lead), bass guitarist, and a drummer, the swell of instrumentation could prove overwhelming for tracks that hang from a thread. Instead, it adds a fire and energy to propel the songs beyond dreamy and hazy into another realm entirely, one where lyrics about burning down buildings become memories rather than dreams, and where riffs push and pull at the vocals. With most tracks sticking faithfully to the EP versions, others extend out into blissful outros that bring back the dreams and transfix the entire crowd with nary a drink being lifted to lip throughout. Hazy, dreamy, sad, entirely accessible and relatable, and gently aggressive, Swimming Tapes prove a brilliant end to the night. As they thank the audience one last time and dance off the stage, the crowd is visibly dejected with the dismantling of microphones and amps onstage that prove there would be no encore. Read Swimming Tapes Top Tour Bus Tracks here. Photography: Marieke Macklon

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