Reviewed on Tuesday February 4

The eager early arrivals tonight were treated to a set of new solo material from Pond frontman Nick Allbrook. Allbrook’s junk-addled flamboyance at Pond gigs nominates him as a grotesque character. However, Pond’s widescreen psychedelia mostly obscures the details of Allbrook’s peculiarities. Tonight he was alone onstage wielding a reverby Fender Mustang and backed by rudimentary drum programming, which proved the optimal foundation for conveying his surreal strengths.

Singing with a grainy Australian inflection, Allbrook depicted a variety of concrete scenes – ranging from spying on a crush through a bakery window, to watching the cricket with his grandfather, and fearing his Qantas flight would crash. Allbrook knows where to find a classic pop melody but on the majority of these songs opted for a strangled outcry rather than an obvious melodic refrain. His irregular phrasing coupled with explicit lyrical whimsy would sound something like The Birthday Party if their violent imagery were replaced by fight-for-life urgency. The set only lasted for half an hour, suggesting Allbrook is still determining what his ‘solo’ personality is, but he commanded attention nonetheless.

Speaking of grotesque characters, London’s Archy Marshall AKA King Krule seems sent from another time. The skittish jazz sound of King Krule’s 2013 debut 6 Feet Beneath The Moon doesn’t confer with much else on the ‘hip’ list, but Marshall’s mixture of soulful-to-mournful crooning, hip hop phrasing and britpop melodies makes it anything but academic. Similarly, he might look like Beaker from The Muppets but tonight his toughened confidence and virility rubbished populist standards of ‘cool’.

Opening with ‘Has This Hit’, Marshall could hardly contain himself, moving with a possessed jerk that matched the music’s uneven accents. His bristling wordplay came out in hot gusts, suggesting the tunes haven’t lost any weight of significance. The consistent beat emphasis lets his South London origins shine through, especially evident when he put his guitar down to writhe inside the dub-like grooves of ‘The Krockadile’.

His band consists of players’ players, yet they look like Midlands ruffians, thuggishly backing up Marshall with punchy finesse. One slight disappointment was the full-band update of ‘Easy Easy’. The song was still a highlight, but to hear Marshall’s gravelly croak and guitar alone would have been a soothing balm to the otherwise frenetic display.

Nevertheless, the beyond-capacity OAF crowd (including Lorde, Jehnny from Savages, Flume and Jagwar Ma) were tuned right into the King’s broadcast throughout.

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