Meursault: The Duchess, 4/11/12

The voice of Meursault’s Neil Pennycook quite often creeps in to my head late at night. With a sound so hauntingly hard to shake off, would an entire evening with the Edinburgh septet mean that he’d just never, ever leave?

Quite soon after arriving, I decide it’s an inconvenience I’m willing to live with. Beginning with a guitar-heavy version of ‘Flittin’’, it’s immediately evident the band have tightened up their performance since supporting Los Campesinos earlier this year. Though still a little awkward on stage, a string breaks a few songs in forcing a chatty interlude from Pennycook. The band has come a long way since they mumbled at people to move forward in an oversized Glastonbury tent. Indeed, the crowd here soon move forward of their own volition after ‘Dull Spark’’s line ‘for every angel there’s a devil’ becomes luringly anthemic, despite seeming rather uninspired on the album.

With this year’s release of the Something for the Weakened album, Meursault are certainly gravitating back to the acoustic-folk from which they rose. Yet they blend songs such as ‘Crank Resolutions’ from the more indie-rock ‘All Creatures Will Make Merry’ with crafted fluidity. The band claim this shift is just because their laptop broke. But after a stripped back rendition of ‘The Dirt and The Roots’, with all band members contributing for the chorus’ vocals, I feel it’s a blessing in disguise.

Mid-set, I’m a little disappointed when Pennycook produces a sampler to aid with ‘Settling’ which seems unnecessary for the most raw and intimate song under the band’s belt. All is forgiven though as we drift in to ‘William Henry Miller’. Based on the true story of a dying man’s request to be buried face down so as to watch the sinners burn in hell, Pennycook’s reverberating and saintly yowls seemed entirely appropriate.

The band gradually climb again in to the riffs of ‘Dearly Distracted’, indulging quite rightly in a guitar instrumental lasting several minutes and I am reminded there is certainly more to Meursault than their notorious front man. As the chords fade and the lights go down, I can’t help but feel the timid, bespectacled keyboardist had been somewhat neglected this evening. Then, as though Pennycook were pervading my thoughts again, a blue light falls to that very instrument and he begins the astonishingly delicate ‘Hole’. As Pennycook’s voice permeates the darkness, there is a sense of omnipresence – his softer vocals cracking at the perfect apex of chord progressions.

Yes, I do leave with a ‘bald Scottish man and his friends wailing’ in my head (his words not mine), but I feel strangely uplifted for it. I’ll allow him to stay a while.

Alice Lawrence