Great Lake Swimmers and Dusted – Bush Hall, London 26/11/12

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A dark soggy night in Shepherd’s Bush and two Canadian bands who in different ways evoke an atmosphere with their music: the one bare, at times bleak and electric; the other warm, hopeful and acoustic. Both light up the kind acoustics of Bush Hall, banishing the damp night outside.

First up Brian Borcherdt’s (Holy Fuck) side project Dusted –a collaboration with drummer Leon Taheny who produced a bare, atmospheric fuzz filled album, Total Dust, earlier in the year. The album showcased a collection of bleakly reflective songs with a poetic depth. On stage the bare arrangements (Borcherdt on Guitar, Taheny on keyboards and drums) come over well, with stark opener ‘Dusted’ setting the tone – slow, sparse and spine tingling, with a hint of menace. This continues with the title track of the album ‘All Comes Down’ and songs like ‘Cut Them Free’. Borcherdt lets the pace quicken as the gig warms up. Like birds singing at dusk on a telegraph wire, the beauty and spareness of the sound highlights the quality of the songs. It ends with a positively boppy ‘(Into the) Atmosphere”. A great opening act.

Then onto the modest, introspective, fragile and ruggedly beautiful world of Tony Dekker and the Great Lake Swimmers. Their second outing in this country this year, they mostly played songs from the new album New Wild Everywhere with a few tracks from third album Ongiara that didn’t seem to make it on the last tour.

The new songs have worn in well, gaining a lived in quality that adds depth to their sparkling demeanour on the record. The opener is a loose, slow, waltzy-dancey song about New Orleans (‘I Think You Might be Wrong’). The band’s lilt, powered by Miranda Mulholland’s violin, swings loosely and easily along, underpinning Dekker’s quietly determined vocals. The whole band are so at one with the music and Dekker’s shy presence , the vulnerability of the voice a counterpoint to the determination of the message. Other songs, such as ‘The Great Exhale’ and ‘Pulling on a Line’ from Lost Channels get the band swinging and rocking – you can’t sit still while they whirl you around Dekker’s world of man and nature at odds yet in harmony.

The poetry of the words and music are heightened by the sound in Bush Hall – airy and light but with depth. Other highlights include ‘Ballad of a Fisherman’s Wife’ and the quiet reflection of ‘Where in the World Are You’ and the remarkable ‘On the Water’ – a song about a near death experience. Then they gently let go with ‘Palmistry’, ‘Easy Come Easy Go’ and ‘Rivers Edge’ from the expanded Lost Channels. For the encore they roll out acoustic number ‘Still’ – a glorious hymn to the small individual in a vast and amazing universe. “I’m still tuning myself to the great key” says Dekker. That is part of the reason why they are such a great live band, they’re always questioning everything they do.