Laki Mera, DJ set

Kevin Clynes 07/10/2010

There's a certain danger than can befall any artist or band that creates the kind of accessible, electronica-drenched soundscapes that Laki Mera specialise in, and that's the threat of being deemed 'coffee-table music', a term that not so much describes a genre but rather implies an audience that has a rack full of 'chilled' compilation albums to stick on while the guests delicately nibble the foie gras. As 'true music fans' we're supposed to revile the meaningless-but-pleasant sounds of Zero 7 and their ilk, but it's hard to deny the intrinsic appeal of a band utilising a modern digital sound underpinned by solid, succinct song writing, and it's here that the Glasgow four-piece absolutely succeed.

A word about the venue first, though; the InSpiral Lounge is a beautifully cosy little venue/cafe by the Camden Lock with an atmosphere of all its own. Focusing on organic cuisine and promoting positive energy and health, the buzzing energy, eclectic decor and dedicated clientele all result in making you feel like you've discovered the friendliest little club in the city, though I suspect word-of-mouth will soon increase its mindshare amongst the more organically-inclined of us.

As the band take the stage, I can't help wondering how their insular, moody atmosphere will translate to the cheery surroundings of InSpiral, but any concerns are silenced with the rest of the crowd as Laura Donnelly's delayed vocals begin to ring out over Keir Long's shimmering electric keys. It's a short introduction that could also be a mission statement of sorts; within two short minutes we're instantly transported into Laki Mera's world, and Donnelly is the ghostly siren leading us there, her irresistible, tender vocal providing just the right amount of relatable humanity above a swirling digital backdrop. An arresting frontwoman who manages to capture your attention whilst rarely opening her eyes, her voice, reminiscent of Jean-Benoit Dunckel of Air's electronically-assisted vocal on perennial chillout tune 'Sexy Boy', is strong enough to pull off two wholly-acoustic numbers that are both so delicate it seems a sin to speak lest you miss a single note Donnelly plays.

Impressive though their frontwoman is the rest of the band gel tightly together but still manage to imprint their own stamp on their collective sound. Keir Long is, in a way, the real star of the show, his hands moving deftly from one keyboard to another as he sends out rippling synth lines and piano chords that wash like a digital tide over Andrea Gobbi's circling bass lines that echo 'Blue Lines' era Massive Attack without ever sounding too derivative. One of the highlights of the set occurs mid-way through, when Donnelly takes a break and the spotlight falls on the rest of the band, who launch into a hypnotic, rhythmic instrumental that, thanks to its concise structure, doesn't outstay its welcome.

In fact one of Laki Mera's biggest advantages over other similar acts that rely more on atmosphere than melody is their refusal to lose a sense of structure and pacing. There are no lengthy, moody freeform tracks to be found in the set, and the band have mastered the art of dropping the bottom end away from the song while Donnelly's ghostly yearnings guide us through until the rhythm section drop back in dramatically, creating a sound that is altogether 'heavier' than most of the acts of their breed whilst retaining their accessible glossy electric sheen.

In terms of musical highlights, the opener of debut EP 'Clutter', 'She's a Day Later' remains a concise summation of everything this band does well; gradually building around an infectious synth bass line that adds a dark tension to the velvety-smooth vocals and synths that creep in subtly, before dropping into a chorus that really could be called anthemic were it not so delicate and introspective. The jerky, paranoid extended coda provides a glimpse into the real heart of the band's sound, but as a stand-alone pop song, 'She's a Day Later' works.

It's important to remember Laki Mera are a young band, and their catalogue of work so far can be a diffuse collection, drawing on many influences and using a wide range of sounds that doesn't completely succeed in providing a consistent sound they can call their own. What they do have is a clear grasp of dynamics and structure to match their ethereal ambience and a charisma that exudes effortlessly during their live shows. In Laura Donnelly they have a frontwoman who commands your attention while retaining a certain distance from the crowd, lost in her performance, creating a curiously private atmosphere to the whole affair. Currently working on their second album, if they can further refine their undeniable pop sensibilities a much larger audience that can be crammed into InSpiral is theirs for the taking.