On a Friday evening ending one of those Indian Summer September days, Westminster Reference Library was filled with people curious about discovering something new. Not necessarily through books this time. Hushed yet with a curious hum there was a sense that something a little magical could be about to begin. Looking like the eccentric living room of a crazy great aunt, lamps of all shapes and sizes dotted the stage positioned in front of Education, just left of Travel and right of Art. Gig in a library. Gig in a bloody library. My two favourite things mixing together in perfect alchemy. Gig. In. A. Library. And not only this, but a mesmerising light show, as an orchestra of charity shop lamps flash, flicker and dance in time to the music. Because this is how Haiku Salut roll.
Heavily cinematic and authentically exploratory, Haiku Salut are enigmatic to extremes. They don’t speak once. It’s dark, so there’s no audience interaction. Dressed in black the band members passed enigmatically through the shadows to swap instruments and change position, taking second place to the music at all times. Gemma, Louise and Sophie work together and almost seem to be a mouthpiece for the music that has a sense of being authentic, basal, drifting up from the ether.
Textured and sensual. theirs is a performance that challenges the rules, mixing folk, classical and electronic influences through their own emotions and drives until it is entirely original. Tensions tustle in the music, the outcome feeling balanced, like an old fashioned call and response arrangement. Each instrument, each sound, each flash and flicker feel perfectly in place, incandescent, poignant, and at ease.
Timed to the beat, not missing even a flicker of a second, the lamps added a visual element to the rapid delicate pulsation of the band’s music. It’s another dimension to an act already dripping in them. Electronic definitely, there is something in their style that also seems old fashioned – it’s probably the only band I’ve seen where three quarters of the band played the accordion, and the glockenspiel felt by far the most central instrument to proceedings. Digital deftness mingles with folk melodies and instrumental dalliances, tinkling rhythms and deliberate beats working together in a magical mix.
It’s a beautiful, contagious and inventive show that captivates and entrances in its poetic wonder, and has grown in grandeur without losing any of its intimacy. Lights, books, music – a perfect Friday night.