Live Review: Maria Minerva, Lost Animal, Fox & Sui

3 September 2012 | 3:12 pm | Guido Farnell

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Tonight at the Toff is not meant to be just another gig: It is an opportunity for the artists on the bill to not only perform but also talk about the process of songwriting and provide us with some insight into what inspired their songs. By all accounts Fox & Sui deliver a short but simply delightful set that captures everyone's imagination. Their set has everyone talking about it as they wait for Lost Animal and the more they talk about Fox & Sui, the more disappointed we become we arrived late and only managed to catch the very end of their set.

RRR presenter Simon Winkler, caught in the spotlight like a possum, nervously introduces the next act as the curtains go up on Lost Animal. 2012 has been a good year for Lost Animal, as the now-familiar duo headed up by Jarrod Quarrell on keys and vox have treated us to a plethora of gigs across town, showcasing last year's debut Ex Tropical. The backing track from Quarrell's laptop accounts for most of the mix while Shags Chamberlain's bass bumps and grinds to the beat. Much like the album, the live arrangements are soft and breezy with an electronic '80s feel. Quarrell's vocal stands out in the mix as he charismatically delivers his lyrics with a streetwise, inner-city sneer. “I don't want to jinx myself and talk about songwriting just in case I never write another decent song again,” says Quarrell self-effacingly and with a deprecating smile. He is more concerned that people inevitably misinterpret his lyrics and claims that they are not as dark as we might imagine. Beat Goes On is celebratory, he explains, because where there is a beat, or a heartbeat, there is life. Despite the bummed-out, jaded exterior, Lost Animal seem to be romantics at heart. Quarrell doesn't seem to see himself as a songwriter, claiming that he just tries to string a few chords together and that his vocals are just improvised when the microphone is put in front of him in the studio. Lost Animal don't reveal too much about how they write their songs, but as we revel in their music they conclude their set with obvious crowd pleasers Say No To Thugs and Lose The Baby.
Maria Minerva continues the indie-electro theme of the evening with her flimsy, electro-pop constructions that irresistibly bounce to wonky, bedroom-disco beats. Last year Minerva captured our hearts with the innocent charm of Cabaret Cixous but tonight she follows the instructions of the Writers Festival and instead showcases her music and treats the gig almost like an interview. Minerva acknowledges that she tends to self-mythologise herself when she deals with journalists, but tonight she is keen to talk candidly about her music. The handful of tunes she plays inevitably feature her caterwauling like a post punk into heavy reverb and creating vocal loops that are accompanied by solid beats and electronic blips and bleeps. It rides a lot rougher than what we are used to hearing from her on record. Minerva confesses that she likes to use a lot of reverb on her voice because it reminds her of her dad singing in the shower. Her father apparently liked listening to acts such as Erasure, Soft Cell, Pet Shop Boys and Marc Almond when she was a child, so Minerva laughingly wonders how he ever managed to have her.

As Minerva talks the night away we learn that she is thrilled to be appearing for the Writers Festival: She can't quite believe that she managed to party the night away with Germaine Greer the night before. We are all invited to Liberty Social where she is DJing later, except she admits she has not brought her records with her so isn't exactly sure what she will play. Minerva doesn't tell us much about life in Estonia, but gives us amusing tales of London: Like the time an old Jamaican lady told her that she saw her “poum poum” when she was wearing a short dress, but she had no idea what the Jamaican lady was talking about. With a wink and a smile she suggests that she has a crush on John Maus “because he is so handsome”. She then giggles about the time a suitor emailed her a YouTube link to Akon and Snoop Dogg's I Want To Fuck You after a date. It is hard to imagine the kind of men Minerva's beautiful Estonian looks attract, especially when she talks about the toothless guy who made her a 2,000-track compilation of library music and who likes to draw album covers for imaginary albums by imaginary heavy metal artists.

Minerva suggests that her life experiences are what inspire the music she produces and is grateful her work has found an appreciative audience. Her anecdotes connect with the audience but the songs she plays seem to be inserted for illustrative purposes only.

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