LAURIE CHEN reviews the languid quartet’s recent London gig.
Following the release of their debut LP Timeline last October, Mild High Club have steadily acquired a small but devoted cult following on both sides of the Atlantic. The ragtag collective of musicians that make up the band is spearheaded by Alex Brettin, a prolific musician and songwriter who has previously collaborated with the likes of Mac DeMarco and Ariel Pink. His brand of scuzzy, jazz-influenced psych rock certainly contains echoes of both artists, but it would do Mild High Club a disservice to simply write them off as another California slacker band reviving the ghosts of Pavement and cohort.
While it’s true that Brettin and co cannot help but radiate supremely mellow vibes out of every pore, it is clear from the onset that these guys are also serious musicians: their timing is impeccably tight, and their technical skill is never in doubt – even when it is being passed off as effortless nonchalance. At first, they saunter onstage, decked out in outfits so wonderfully camp (tropical prints and velvet, anyone?) that their total lack of self-consciousness bypasses the point of ridicule and becomes indefinably cool instead. It’s a refreshing change from the try-hard aesthetic of the identikit, angsty young London bands with whom the Shacklewell’s regulars are sadly all too familiar.
Tonight, the small, cave-like venue is rammed full of punters who look way too happy for a cold, miserable February evening. Brettin’s laid-back charm works miracles, bringing the West Coast to Hackney with his music’s sun-drenched harmonies and hazy walls of reverb. However, the gig is far from soporific, as Mild High Club’s dreamy shoegaze takes on a much more engaging quality when performed live. Instead of being slumped in a blissful marijuana haze, the crowd are actively swaying and grooving to the beat. It’s what you might imagine a Conan Mockasin gig to be like, except without the questionable debauchery.
The band take us through several memorable songs from Timeline at a pace that, while brisk, never feels too rushed. The louche, ballad-like ‘Undeniable’ and ‘You and Me’ provoke loud cheers, and the comfortable familiarity of ‘Note to Self’ feels like the musical equivalent of sinking into a large Chesterfield sofa, wine glass, and the essential spliff, in hand. Their new material is equally well-received by the audience, even if no particularly catchy riffs stick in the mind afterwards. It’s a suitably satisfying evening nonetheless, as their live performance adds a welcome sense of depth and warmth to their recorded material.
Mile High Club played The Shacklewell Arms on Thursday 11th February.