Live Review: ali e Ben Salter Elephant Eyes Workers club

1 April 2012 | 7:56 am | Alice Body

The rain has made it a little difficult to get to Ali E's Landless album launch on time, which is a shame because we arrive as Elephant Eyes are playing their last song. A full-bodied and multi-layered affair, it's what folk would sound like if it departed the Wesley Anne and mingled with the likes of soul or dub. Would've liked to have heard more.

Next up, Ben Salter. You might have heard the name before, in conjunction with acclaimed outfits such as The Gin Club, but are unaware that Salter has a solo thing going. If you get the chance you should get acquainted with it. Today he is sans backing band and delves into something beyond the old soul-searching chestnut. The (shamefully) small audience is transported by Salter's set, not least because his riffs consistently shun predictable directions. It seems that while Salter's voice invites you into familiar folk/country/rock territory, his guitar simultaneously pulls the rug from under your feet, dropping you into a refreshingly different aesthetic.

Finally the lady of the hour Ali E takes to the stage with her backing band. Ali E launched the very listenable single So It Goes a few months ago at Old Bar and it was a show that exhibited the potential of her solo work apart from playing in other bands Damn Terran and Ferry Tails (both of which, incidentally, are working on releases as well). Ali E is clearly a busy woman, which makes the fact that she is well on the road to realising this potential all the more admirable. Today's set is played with clarity and confidence, unapologetically illuminating the songs' stripped-back, shoegaze-y temperaments. So It Goes remains a firm favourite, for its sense of weightlessness achieved by an unusual compositional structure – hypnotic and pleasantly top-heavy. The majority of the set hangs off this gaunt/dense structure – particularly evident in the beautiful instrumental piece Rue Marcadet – while Lovely Water and Better Kind are made especially haunting by Brooke Penrose's backing vocal harmonies. There is an unmistakable and alluring Australian gothic feel to much of Ali E's music – a ruddy country sound mixed with a post-punk attitude to composition – though the real glitter of her set, for this scribe, lies in those diamonds left most rough.