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Effortlessly shrouded: Slim Twig live in London

04 December 2015, 13:30 | Written by Jazz Monroe

Max Turnbull, the sometime actor and prolific songwriter known professionally as Slim Twig, has a great deal of hair, which he wears down his back in a long, squirrel’s tail rug under a Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap.

Right now he’s standing in the venue, a backroom afterthought in Dalston known as The Victoria, somewhere off to the side, mentally preparing to play songs from his 2015 DFA album Thank You for Stickin' With Twig.

Onstage the cap comes off and Twig’s hair surges forth and encrypts his face, which is mousey and slightly French. He tests his guitar with blaring, crooked strums and asks somebody to dim the lights. He intends to convey "sexy lighting", because he likes a dark room; his command is obeyed, so we squint. As rock stars go he is offbeat, wearing a hefty guitar and all that hair, but also trackie bottoms and a hoodie, to complicate things. He plays rock songs so intangibly skewed you sense he’s perverse, and outré psych songs so perversely pop you suspect he’s a maverick.

Tonight (2nd December), Twig stands stage left and two paces back of the bassist and co-singer Carlyn Bezic, a woman whose prominence centre-stage is either a bulwark against shy frontman syndrome, a mystifying logistical move, or a finger to patriarchy. The music is a dual attack on the body and spirit, with bass and rhythms that pummel your bones while two airborne, blazing guitars work on your imagination. Twig’s voice, while acrobatic, rather matches his face: he has a way of seeming to mumble even when he roars, effortlessly shrouded.

A surplus of inert bodies forces Meg Remy, aka 4AD songwriter US Girls, who is Twig’s partner in crime and marriage, to thrash up a pit. Her efforts cause much confusion and misplaced bemusement. A bald man from the venue frowns and peers over, concerned. In what is suddenly the background, the Slim Twig band gather velocity and zeal, darting nimbly into one of the more puckish tracks from _Thank You..._. The song resembles a Van Dyke Parks being performed with loud guitars by post-electroshock hippies. The immobile crowd now seems less disinterested than shocked-still, rapt.

Having hit its groove the set ascends into a rendering of twisted rock music that longs for or succumbs to something less ordinary and finds and surrenders to it. With a crash the songs end and after the show we hear Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and think of opulent purple lights and funny dancing. Jumping around the room Remy sings along to Adele, and says, "I love it, the biggest capitalist music shit!", a statement understood and appreciated by everybody in the dark room. When the lights come up, everybody leaves.

  • Photo by Cristiana Rubbio
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