Live Review: Talos @ Live at St. Luke’s, Cork, 22 Dec 2017

Photo by Shane J Horan

Live at St. Luke’s promises “a spiritual experience, amazing music in a unique environment”. A working church from 1889 to 2003, St. Luke’s now serves as a cultural centre and music venue; a stage is set up where you’d expect to see an altar, a colossal organ moved off to one side and a make-shift backstage on the other. Decorative stained glass windows can be admired from any angle, and gig-goers pile into the church pews, cans of beer in hand. Suffice to say, “unique environment” is a fair assertation. But, the spiritual experience, the amazing music? That’s a more difficult sell.

Tonight, St Luke’s find their answer in indie-electronic outfit Talos.

2017 saw the release of Talos’ long-anticipated debut album, Wild Alee. The work of Cork-native Eoin French, it melds dynamic, spacious synth with emotive falsetto and poetic, reflective lyricism. Part James Blake, Anonhi, and Bon Iver – but completely unique in its own right – Wild Alee delivered on the promise of Eoin’s early work. The live show too has grown in kind, from a tentative duo and trio to tonight’s six-strong outfit. On stage, there is an obvious chemistry amongst the group that affords Eoin the support needed to successfully translate his atmospheric brand of pop music to a live setting. There is an ease and soulful quality to Eoin’s vocal that means a solo set would far from underwhelm us, but given the scale of St Luke’s this ensemble incarnation feels only appropriate.

Talos – barely visible – take silently to a dark stage, and already the crowd are cheering loudly in appreciation. They open their set with bittersweet ballad ‘Odyssey’, Eoin singing the first verse with sparse accompaniment before the full band are gradually introduced, respectively highlighting the talents of each. Though permeated with emotion – and a certain endearing vulnerability – Eoin’s falsetto has a power that soars impressively above the full ensemble. Eoin himself is clad in all-black, an assuming t-shirt and jeans, and save for some expressive hand gestures allows his vocals to take centre stage in the performance. There is no pretence or need for distraction here.

‘Tethered Bones’ marked the beginning of Talos back in 2014, and here – making full use of two sets of drums, two guitars, bass, and synth – it showcases the expansive nature of their work in a gradual, mesmerizing, crescendo. The brooding post-dubstep of B-side ‘Bloom’ is similarly hypnotic and provides another opportunity to showcase Eoin’s vocals, haunting and memorable. Bowed guitar and textured electronics are reminiscent of Sigur Rós (coincidentally Talos has worked with Sigur Rós collaborator Valgeir Sigurðsson in the past) while strobe lighting further evokes the dark and eerie undercurrent of the track. Throughout the night the lighting is simple but effective, serving not to distract from the music but to further immerse the audience within it. This comes as no surprise given Talos’ longstanding and fruitful relationship with music label and creative company Feel Good Lost, who are also responsible for Talos’ cinematic music videos.

Piano ballad ‘Pieces’ has the soothing quality of a lullaby, and despite Eoin’s classical piano training it is the simplicity of the melody, along with its hymn-like vocals, that lend the track it’s distinction. In contrast, it is the thunderous drums and conviction of recent single Voices that demand attention, and help bring this (strangely life-affirming) album closer to life, “either now we live or we don’t, we are ghosts on islands, either now we live or we don’t …”.

In Time offers Eoin his sole opportunity to sing without the distraction of simultaneous guitar or keyboard-playing, while an extended instrumental outro offers the full band a chance to further highlight their skill. This bodes well for electric guitar in particular, lending the track a heavier, more rock-orientated slant that the original. The same can be said for older EP track Reborn, a dreamy and melancholic affair that offers up an immense climatic moment of crashing symbols and crescendo of electric guitar.

It is only surpassed by triumphant set closer ‘Your Love is an Island’. In anticipation of the tracks rousing repetitive hook, the crowd start cheering and clapping along, and soon the entire audience are on their feet. The masterful pacing and energy of the track invigorate new and old fans alike, and it would come as no surprise to hear there are some converts in St. Luke’s here tonight. When Live at St. Luke’s began over two years ago, Talos were the first band to grace their stage, and tonight they’ve returned – the second of two sold-out shows – to prove they were worth the hype. That spiritual experience of amazing music in a unique environment? Well, Cork agrees that Talos delivered.

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