The audience seems timid about a diminutive elven figure behind a keyboard. 'You look cramped at the back', says Casey Dienel, one half of White Hinterland, 'come forward'. It seems to be typical behaviour of an uncertain audience, not wanting to push themselves to the front. I fought my feelings of self-consciousness and moved close to the tiny stage as soon as the band appeared ready, not wanting to miss a moment of this gig.
Latest album Kairos has seen continuous play with me since its release, the change in musical direction not feeling awkward at all but seeming a natural and fitting progression for Casey's incredible vocal talent. Thundering basslines and electronic loops are tempered by soaring, echoed vocals, weaving together to make captivating music.
It could be these thumping bass notes that are holding the audience back a little, produced as they are by the other half of White Hinterland, Sean Creedon, who towers over Casey. The Social doesn't seem quite big enough to hold the sounds. But more people are encouraged to move closer and the gig feels more comfortable for everyone. Even the small stage doesn't hamper the performance, given the departure from a traditional band on the latest album. And as White Hinterland now rely on the current set-up of a keyboard, a bench of sequencers, effects pedals, and tapes it doesn't really allow any older songs to be played. The band are promoting Kairos and there is a whole album to showcase.
I have a few favourites from the album I would be happy to hear, although I would understand the limited time may mean I don't get to hear them. I am truly delighted when the first song begins with the recognisable beat from Amsterdam, the one song I was really hoping would be played. And if that wasn't beautiful enough, it is followed by my other favourite, Moon Jam, which makes me tingle every time I hear it. I would be happy just to coast through the rest of the gig enjoying everything else White Hinterland play, but the third song in the set is the amazing Icarus. Maybe I simply have too many favourite songs on the new album.
It is simply fabulous to hear Casey sing live and to see how she recreates the studio recordings on stage. Her microphone is hooked to a sampler controlled by a pedal, which she uses to record one layer of vocals to play back as she adds a second, third, or fourth layer. The sampling is present in most songs, if fairly subtle in some, like Cataract, and is used to amazing effect in Thunderbird, which relies on multiple vocal tracks as the basis of the music. The gig finishes with the touching Huron, after which the band simply walks to one side and starts packing up, such is the low-key nature of this gig. Every song White Hinterland play tonight is beautiful and shows how strong Kairos is as an album, one that deserves a much larger audience than The Social can provide. It can only be a matter of time.