Live Review: Hayden Calnin, Manor

25 July 2012 | 10:39 am | Bryget Chrisfield

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Pushing the door open to obtain entrance into the Toff, it's immediately apparent that punters have made an effort to get here early and catch this evening's support band, Manor. All attention is directed stageward and there's tutting if you try to queue to get a drink from the bar and accidentally obscure someone's view. Drink in hand, it's time to move down to fill the circle of fear down the front where there's plenty of room. Manor are actually a two-piece – vocalist/arranger Caitlin Duff and vocalist/instrumentalist Nathaniel Morse – but they recruit extra members for the live experience and the result is echoey goodness. Alternating the lead vocals between Duff and Morse adds interest and we're informed multiple times that all their music is available for free on the “interwebs”. All onstage sport very uni-student threads, which is cute if that's what they're going for. Closing track and current single Afghan Hound swirls us up into a marshmallow mind haze. Manor have a great, sound somewhat reminiscent of Alpine, and once they stop concentrating so much on their playing and project outwards they'll really be something.

There's no question that the success of Matt Corby has opened up appreciation societies for more output of this ilk. It's true there's a bit more Oliver Tank about Hayden Calnin with his looping prowess. Even a track this scribe failed to connect with in its recorded state (Summer) gets the thumbs up with the added benefit of witnessing its elaborate sonic construction as it comes to life. Calnin passes the easy on the ear AND eye test. When I slurp the final remnants of vodka through a straw, everyone turns around to cast accusatory glances – that's how quiet it is for set's duration. Slowly additional players (some recognisable from Manors) filter onstage to flesh out arrangements, which build to a Vocoder climax. Then suddenly all band members vacate the stage at once, which feels a bit clunky. Had the players disappeared one by one, tapering off until the final song, the show's structure would have been most commendable. Calnin's cover of Spanish Sahara by Foals is exquisite and he lovingly articulates every lyric: “Now I see you lying there/Like a lilo losing air” – what a brilliant metaphor! For My Help is captivating beyond belief and truly takes you on a reflective, emotional journey. The drummer freeform jazzes it up for an extended, mid-song segue. Calnin introduces a track as being “a cappella”, but when singing is accompanied by looped vocals, we're pretty sure this is cheating.

The last night of Calnin's Monday residency at the Toff is on 30 July, you owe it to your receptors to be there.