live review ~ hidden machine ~ new ancestors, silences & his new atlas ~ voodoo, belfast

Tonight Encore NI found itself in Voodoo for Belfast's newest exciting gig night 'Hidden Machine'. Ran by Blast FM's  awesome 'Through The Wall' team James Magill and Nikki MacRae, tonight saw the promotion of some of the countries best acoustic tinged rock acts, including the highly anticipated return of New Ancestors, formerly The 1930's. With a great venue, stunning line-up and exquisite atmosphere all was in place for a memorable night, though would the bands live up to their billing? Taylor Johnson had the chance to see...

Opening the evening came the ethereal beauty of His New Atlas (also known as teenage singer/songwriter Eoghan O'Hagan), fresh from a UK tour and sounding remarkably rejuvenated for it. Armed with a new backing band to elevate his sparse soundscapes, the County Armagh native has taken the lovelorn poetry of his early EP's and added a haunting delicacy that takes no time to fill the room and capture the gathered crowd. Older tracks such as 'Blood' shimmer like never before, flourishing under the lights of a stage you can see His New Atlas relishing. The quiet precision of his backing band provide a steadfast backbone upon which songs are given the chance to grow, his roaring vocals a mesmerising nod to Charlie Simpson at his most revealing, resting upon the post-rock splendor of US veterans Explosions In The Sky. A stunning combination indeed.

Even a major technical fault which disastrously saw two guitars simultaneously break on stage couldn't halt the youngsters onslaught of emotion, as O'Hagan simply handled the situation with a charismatic charm well beyond his young years. As an earlier track drew to a close the young songwriter had quipped with a wry smile, "That's about as optimistic as tonight's gonna get...".  He needn't worry. Desolation has never sounded so good.

Second on the bill came the ever enigmatic Silences, the Lurgan based five piece looking to give tracks from their recent 'Nevernames' EP a further run out to a steadily increasing Belfast audience. Swaggering with the burning intensity of a Parachutes-era Coldplay, Silences waste no time in bursting to life in a show of exhilarating brilliance in 'All These Crimes'. The tracks unexpected, yet welcome ejection of almost screamed delivery from frontman Conchur White leaves a resonating aftermath of awe in his wake. Latest single 'Santa Cruz' sways effortlessly, much like The Thrills classic of the same name. Newer additions to a watertight set highlighted the groups ear for harmonies, 'Chase Me Home' a prime example. It was the heartrending 'Closer' however, that acted as the highlight of a stunning set.

Finally along came the triumphant return of New Ancestors. The relentless gigging circuit of Scotland's musical mecca Glasgow has clearly helped craft their tightly knit folk-pop. At times crashing like a wave of adrenaline, New Ancestors ability to switch seamlessly from the high tempo folk of their 1930's origins, to the carefully crafted expansions of songs like 'If You Let Me' was a joy to behold.

Slowing down proceedings with pure acoustic numbers, "1930's style!", added a pinch of nostalgia to a set billowing with class. Being joined on stage by local teenage musician Gregg Reid  proved also a loving touch and further confirmation of the bands commitment to their Belfast roots. As the night drew to a close it was the foot-stomping 'Sisters and Brothers' that had the venue really dancing for the first time in a chorus of hand claps and poorly executed Irish dancing. Inevitably, a now relentless crowd demanded an encore and that is exactly what they got. A fitting end to a brilliantly ran night of local music.

Bravo Hidden Machines, a beautifully assembled line-up, expertly ran and ultimately a proud night for Belfast.

Taylor Johnson

For all official Hidden Machine news and future line-ups, follow the links below.


(New Ancestor's latest EP''s 'Dagger' & 'Rose'  are out now...)

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