Hiva Oa Album Launch – Saturday 22nd September 2012, Inspace Gallery, Edinburgh

[The above photo was taken by Michael Lambert, who has a small set from the launch night on his Flickr stream, here.]

For a band relatively unknown on the Edinburgh circuit, this was a really exceptionally good night, and I find I am starting to wonder what the fuck is happening to my music taste at the moment.  For the most part all of the bands I have been excited by in the last year or so – in Scotland anyway – seem to have been the bands almost no-one else seems to care about.

Maybe I am misjudging public opinion, maybe I am a little out of touch with other amateur writers, or maybe I am just off on my own little tangent at the moment, but I really do think people are missing out on some awesome stuff at the moment by sticking to the perceived ‘blog favourites’ and to the bands they and their pals have all cared about for the last four years or so already, instead of taking a chance on some new stuff.

Not to suggest that no-one cares about Hiva Oa of course, because this was a busy night at the InSpace Gallery, which is a perfect spot for a slightly more innovative kind of show than the usual three bands and a sticky floor gig night. Pendulum Man was responsible, and is generally speaking an Edinburgh promoter very much worth keeping a close eye on, although the band themselves apparently arranged for the launch for their debut album The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss to take place at InSpace.

As this was Hiva Oa’s album launch, I don’t want to dwell too long on the support acts, but I enjoyed them all.  First up was M.O.T.O., playing a kind of wonky electronic soundscape stuff my hipster companion described as being very fashionable at the moment. Personally I enjoyed it, although as much as I like a lot of the sounds being made, that kind of music can wear on me a little when it goes on too long, as it flirted with doing here.

Adam Stafford was up next and he, and his live set in particular, are firm Toad favourites by now, after I eventually realised that everyone else was right about how good he is late last year when he supported The Twilight Sad at the Bongo Club. The sound wasn’t too great for his set, with the louder vocals sounding a little harsh, but everything else was good, and he ended on an absolute belter.  It’s not a song he plays that often live apparently, due to it being rather tricky to get right, but it builds his signature looped vocals up from a whisper to a deafening cacophony.  And bloody hell it was awesome!

Hiva Oa themselves played two sets, but inbetween these two was one last support… well, not band exactly.  Support act, I suppose you’d have to call him.  The fellow in question was Kyle Evans, and rather than distract from this live review with an extended ramble about his set, I will simply embed the video below, link to the instrument in question, and then to his website and YouTube account and let you explore for yourselves. But trust me, it was brilliant!

Anyhow, however many long, rambling paragraphs in and we finally get to Hiva Oa. I need an editor.  In any case, the band were excellent.  The first set started with only the lead vocalist on stage.  He goes only by ‘Stephen’ on the band’s website, and the first song was simply him and an electric guitar, before the rest of the band joined him.  The ‘rest of the band’ is bass, drums and cello, with some extra percussion and female backing vocals here and there.

Hiva Oa’s music has organic elements, and there are times when it seems quite pastoral and pretty, but for the most part they dangle the quiet loveliness in front of you like some sort of threat.  As you get to know their music you know it is capable of exploding into discord and racket at pretty much any time, so even the gentle moments are tinged with a vague sense of unease. They like their drone and the obvious comparison would be Song, by Toad Records’ Rob St. John, with whom they have shared a stage in the past, where the folk elements may be there, but they come laced with the darkness of being disorientated in thick woods on a rainy evening, rather than the grating affectations of the home counties trustifarian.

It was a mesmerising show, and even my somewhat sceptical hipster gig companion was won over by the end.  Their music isn’t immediate, but it’s grand and compelling, and the unusual setting and ubiquitous visuals helped give it a suitably impressive stage.  I like this lot.  I’ve not heard many other people get that enthused about them, but on this showing that can only be because people are generally just Wrong About Music.  Idiots.

Hiva Oa Website | Buy the album from Mini50 Records

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