Live Review: Adwaith, Protection Spells + Junodef at The Islington for Parallel Lines

Parallel Lines brought together an international line-up for a cold January night at The Islington pub. The Islington’s red-curtained back room is a chequered floor short of a Twin Peaks episode and I’ve always liked the high stage which offers everyone a great view of the bands and they have a great PA.

First on the bill were Junodef who hail from Sweden but are now based in London. I’d streamed a few tracks before the night and wasn’t convinced they were my cup of tea however two songs in I was hooked. They opened the show like they were closing it and nervous banter (during a pedal board cable failure) aside I was charmed by the interplay between the instruments and there’s a subtle confidence in the way all three musicians layer their overall sound. Both used light and dark notes; spiky accents and spread chords to weave a War Paint-like soundscape topped with striking vocals and a powerful core of acoustic and electronic drums. Their set convinced me that I will see them again and I would recommend listening to ‘Heights’ or the 2017 mini-LP Ocean.  I hope Junodef have a bright 2019 ahead of them.

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Protection Spells followed (featuring members from Minneapolis) and I immediately felt the spook of their (self-confessed) witchy-vibe. There was much arm waving and some mild twirling all whilst the guitarist lurked in the background crouching and weaving and looking like a man trying to avoid the stage lights. There’s a Wicker Man vibe to their performance but for me their sound feels like that moment when you’ve drunk too much and you’re just about to move from the happy high to wonky oblivion. But there are strong tunes here and fine voices to sing them. I like a band to make me feel uneasy (within reason) as it tells me to pay attention so if you like your Nico strained through a Let’s Eat Grandma shroud, jump in.

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As a big fan of the current Welsh music scene, 3-piece Adwaith had been the reason I’d bought a ticket having been introduced to them on the Joyzine podcast which played the repeat-worthy ‘Y Diweddaraf’. I bought the album Melyn (on the excellent Libertino label) and loved it. There’s an assurance in the songs and I fell for their ability to mix the laid back beauty of ‘Fel i Fod’ or ‘O Dan y Haenau’ with the grit of ‘Colli Golwg’. I don’t expect anyone to reproduce the album live (the recorded songs should be friends but not identical twins to the live songs) but I thought the flaw in the set was a clutch of songs that felt written in more naïve times but which needed to make way for the more confident sound of the tracks on Melyn. But don’t think I’m being negative about the gig, far from it. Adwaith are entertaining, solid performers with a fine line in banter. The thing I love about seeing bands early in their genesis is that when the foundation of writing, playing and performing is so good you know they can only get stronger. I delight in how they play with sweet and sour song writing where, just as you think a song is going in one direction: too sweet, too clichéd, too gritty, they switch it up and wow you with something different.  Lush!

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Review and Photography by Paul F Cook

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