Gig review: Julie Byrne at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Julie Byrne
Julie Byrne
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Two songs into her set and Julie Byrne asks if the lights can be turned down to create mood.

Returning for an encore, the New York-based musician wonders whether they can be dimmed further.

This results in her playing in near darkness yet her increasing invisibility chimes with her compositions, which are so hushed they barely exist. Superficially indebted to the Greenwich Village folk scene, the softly fingerpicked ‘Follow My Voice’ and ‘Melting Grid’ nonetheless transcend the 60s with their ambient sound-scapes.

For the most part these atmospherics are akin to woozy echoes in space but on a couple of tracks Eric Littmann gets a more integral role: triggering the gentle ripple of waves on ‘Sea As It Glides’ and on somnolent set closer ‘I Live Now As A Singer’ he essentially plays the synth part on Mazzy Star’s ‘Look On Down From The Bridge’.

These minimal arrangements mirror Byrne’s lyrical motifs of absence borne of travel, dislocation and psycho-geological landscapes. “I lived my life alone before you,” she confesses on opening track ‘Sleepwalker’, her voice little more than a conversational murmur.

It’s a sense of solitude that’s only broken by ‘Marmalade’, from her 2014 debut Rooms With Walls And Windows. A domestic yearning for children and root vegetables, there’s something in its picket-fence clichés that suggest this is nothing more than the self-delusional dreams of someone trying to combat wanderlust.

This restlessness has, however, helped to nurture gauzy songs that almost evaporate in anticipation of her next flight. On her first visit to Leeds, they were well worth the journey.

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