t l k – The Pergola at Breaking Bread, 04/08/21

t l k is the project of independent vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Tara Lily Klein, and with two singles behind her, this show at the empyrean Pergola was to be her first with a full band. Assembled is a full band of formidable talent – featuring Bethany Stenning (STANLÆY) on harp, synths and vocals, musical swiss army knife James Storm Otieno (GOYA)  on ‘low end’ and vocals, and Liam Twohig (Gabriel Templar) on drums. Taking cues from the melantronic work of James Blake, Thom Yorke, FKA Twigs and Moses Sumney, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the next hour or so as the tent gradually filled with people and an excitable hubbub developed beneath the velveteen canopy. 

Tara opens with an iridescent solo vocal canvas – gently and progressively layered on a single tone and ballooning into a shimmering, delicately panning aural formation through which snatches of language can be occasionally glimpsed like darting silver fish in shallow water. The band joins and the sound shifts into something decidedly more oblique. Hints of nu-jazz and krautrock build a scaffold for Tara’s vocals to shine, and we blissfully drift through the next few songs on a raft of gorgeous synths and a rhythm section screwed together so tightly you’d need an infinite volume of WD40 to get it unstuck. Highlights here include a rework of the darkly euphoric single ‘Frame of Ted’ and a truly exceptional cover of Moses Sumney’s ‘Don’t Bother Calling’ heralded by harp and built meticulously atop shoestring bass.

We close with a composition almost DnB-esque in its tempo and rugged drumming but not so in the delicacy of all that’s spun above it, and then the band bows to a standing ovation from a stunned crowd (myself included). Just exquisite – do yourself a favour and get yourself to their next one.

Words: Ed Hambly // Photos: James Koch

You can stream both singles from t l k, ‘Frame of Ted’ and ‘Next to the Mirror’, via Bandcamp.

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