Live review: Bella Union Christmas Service

Bewitching multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick steals the show at the indie label’s festive showcase and celebration at Islington’s Union Chapel.

Already home to clutch of superb acts including critics’ faves Fleet Foxes and Midlake, Bella Union have been riding high on inspired signings in recent years.

This seasonal trio of Peter Broderick, Alessi’s Ark and Lanterns On The Lake are some of the latest feathers in the label’s cap, and the enchantingly atmospheric (and, for once, warm!) environs of the Union Chapel was an ideal spot to watch them stretch their wings, bolstered by Christmas hats and crackers.

Headliner Peter Broderick took top honours with a spellbinding, intimate set leaping between electric guitar, piano, violin and delay pedals. Building on a catalogue of instrumental work, his latest pieces have explored ethereal folk, and tonight he conjured with both.

One minute it was waves of piano so dense they evoked brass and strings too, the next he stood amid the crowd with lonely voice and violin. But most striking was his delay pedal work, looping and layering piano or guitar and his own vocal riffs to invigorating crescendos, each more intense than the next.

A special word too for Lanterns On The Lake, whose luscious, cinematic set made for a mesmeric opener. Straddling the kingdoms of post-rock and dream-pop, their music soared and swooned like Sigur Ros fronted by an English rose.

Only Alessi’s Ark disappointed, with a clutch of what felt like formless folksy songs on first listen, ambling along before quietly making their excuses.

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But with a voice like a blousier Kathryn Wiliams, there could be hidden promise within.

Despite Philip Selway’s illness preventing him from performing too, when it hit its peaks this was a night of celestial magic.

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