Listen to Lo Moon’s suave debut album and it’s easy to imagine the trio in polo necks and impeccably tailored suits, two hunched over their instruments as the vocalist sways gently at the mic stand.
Reality’s a little different. Admittedly guitarist Samuel Stewart is the epitome of cool as he seduces shimmering, echoing, interstellar tones out of his Fender Jaguar. And, whether she’s playing her bass or creating brooding synth textures, Crisanta Baker never looks like she’s going to break a sweat.
But frontman Matt Lowell, dressed in matching black jeans and T-shirt, is every inch the indie rock star, playing his Gibson SG with such vigour that, at one point, the strap comes off. Unperturbed, he props it up on his keyboard stool and continues the instrumental outro. Otherwise, he makes the most of Omeara’s cramped stage, frequently moving towards the back to jam with touring drummer Sterling Laws.
Graced with a molten caramel voice that’s equal parts Bryan Ferry, a-ha’s Morten Harket, and Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, Lowell is just as comfortable crooning from behind his keyboard. And he’s certainly not averse to switching from one instrument to the other as tempos and moods change during the course of a song.
Those sonic shifts are an integral part of the Los Angeles band’s DNA. And live the dynamics are pushed to breaking point. Starting with the uplifting This Is It, which kicks off their self-titled LP and tonight’s performance, the highs are more intense, the subtleties more dramatic, and the silences more poised.
Songs like Thorns (sumptuous ‘80s electro-pop that wouldn’t have been out of place on the Drive movie soundtrack), Tried To Make You My Own (rearranged for even greater emotional weight), and debut single Loveless (which wraps the show on a celebratory note) all benefit from the tension of contrasts.
Even the set’s breathtaking cover version (a minimalist, piano and voice take on Prefab Sprout’s Bonny that transforms into a brooding guitar-led rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s State Trooper) is a glorious showcase of that old adage: the spaces between the notes are as important as the notes themselves.
But there’s certainly a lot more to the trio than alternating restraint and release. With its glistening synths and pounding heartbeat, Wonderful Life is a bonafide club thumper. And All In, which Lowell transforms into a spare ballad, tonight relies on nothing more than his haunted vocals and the melancholy notes he coaxes from his keyboard.
Whatever its tempo or mood, each song is greeted with cheers, whoops, and cries of adulation from a particularly vocal London crowd. It’s a crowd that, no doubt, will have grown dramatically when Lo Moon inevitably make their return.
Review of Lo Moon at Omeara on 22nd May by Nils van der Linden. Photography by Kalpesh Patel.