A Live Experience with Daughter and Fractures at 170 Russell, 11th April 2016

jamesDaughter, a three-piece from London, fronted by the world’s most sweetly timid singer/songwriter, Elena Tonra, and supported by the talents of Swiss-born, Igor Haefeli and French rhythmic drummer, Remi Aguiell.  Together they make miserable (they said it, not us!) music for the youth of today. Tonight, with support from the talented Fractures, Melbourne shuffles from side to side with watery eyes and sadness in our hearts.

Fractures, is Mark Zito, a gifted singer/songwriter (think James Blake and Jame Vincent McMorrow) who, over the years, has built a steady following releasing some very decent material. “Twisted”, a hit single, is an outstanding example of his song writing ability. Tonight, it sounded just as fresh as it did some 3 years since our last listen.  In support are his drummer and guitarist/synth/programmer and collectively play through a confident set, nicely matched to the relaxed Monday night vibe in 170 Russell Street.

We last saw Fractures when they supported Wild Beasts, at the Prince in St Kilda. Zito had shorter hair then (he apologised to the photographers for its length) and he seemed a little more introverted and focussed back in the day.  Tonight it was a different affair, a confidence about his playing and his general banter, banter that was quite hilarious at times.  Slightly self-deprecating in a very funny manner, nonchalant and very funny.  In between the intensity of his songs he cheerfully chatted to the almost capacity audience about his absent merchandise on sale and how his songs were “actually pretty good”. It’s always good to see an artist on stage have a bit of fun and banter with confidence and an inkling of sarcasm. Fractures played through a short but great set to an appreciative audience, a good choice of support.

I am a big fan of Daughter, ever since they delivered their powerful debut, If You Leave. An album so sombre, so minimal and so painfully executed it baffles me to this day how the band have gained such a following.  This is not to say it is not deserved, of course, they are a great band. Their live shows are strong, the banter is non-existent, the minimal approach to their songwriting sometimes borders uncomfortable and the intensity walks a fine line of grand to…erm not very grand.  Despite all this, there is something that clearly works for this 3 piece and although we still can’t put out finger on it, they again deliver an hour and half of the most tense, uneasy and miserable music we have heard in recent times.

Playing to a sold out show, the band play through a set that could quite happily form the background of horror movies. Each song, as on their albums are eerie, unsettled and uncertain, evoked by Tonra’s quivering and effect laden voice, Haefeli’s sweeping distorted guitar, swimming through space and Agueilla’s rolling, disconcerting drum rhythms.  There are no smiles in the audience as they deliver first song of the night “How, just intense transfixed stare and a gentle sway, not knowing if the audience is tired, entranced or bored.  The rapture at the end of each song confirms it definitely is not the latter.

After what sounded like a nervous and shaky start, Daughter find their feet six songs in with “Human” and steadily take it to the first of many beautiful crescendos, helped by the some excellent lighting effects and the respectful silence of the crowd.

The banter from Haefeli through the set tonight eased the tension and had Tonra raising many smiles with quietly spoken “Thank you’ s”. An honest sense of appreciation for selling out her show tonight.  Some funny comments were made about the accumulation of glass ware that she had on stage, 3 glasses of different sizes were raised to the audience that turned into a “Cheers”.

“Smother” was delivered with intensity and fragility and provided the next beautiful crescendo for the evening. It’s stripped back sound and drawn out pauses sounded better live then it does in the studio.  Crowd pleaser (68M listens on Spotify!) “Youth” made the young ones in the crowd happy (in a miserable kind of way) with the loudest applause tonight, the biggest gentle sing-a-long we have ever heard (touching actually).

Closing with “Fossa”, their most energetic song they have written, it is a nice idea track to play out but doesn’t have the intensity we would have hoped for. Perhaps because we were so inner-drawn with the intensity of minimalism and silence, the wall of noise was a bit overwhelming.  Either way, with no encore tonight, the band raised their hands, offered an applause to us and left everyone with the most damaged and bitter hearts. It is a wonderful thing, stuff made of beautiful nightmares.

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