Jemima Surrender @ Cafe Kino, Bristol, 21/03/2014

Jemima SurrenderPlaying a gig in a vegan café, after the airing of two short films disparaging the drudgery and waste of potential that office work demands of its employees, makes certain demands on a performer’s authenticity. Or it would, if the performer had not chosen to play there. Jemima Surrender do tonight to launch their exceptional EP Ask Me Again.

Kino is a tricky venue. You’re almost too close, there’s a worry about totally bopping out in case you poach someone’s quiddity, and the acoustics are clearly difficult to work with. Early in the first set, the band have to restart a song because drummer Adam can’t hear his snare and misses his intro. There’s only one other similar issue. It’s a comment on the quality of Jemima Surrender’s musicianship that the unfurled density of their songs suffers no other smudge, apart from Millie missing a note at the beginning of another song. She’s quick to blame it on her father’s attendance, whose smile approves that if he no longer has the power to make his daughter strictly nervous, she’s charming enough to pretend so. Surrender’s intensity, which Millie supplies with an incredible sense of purpose – she’s an exceptionally natural musician - and the physicality of their songs also serve the paradoxical purpose of encouraging the audience to forget it’s their EP launch. Millie only seems to intermittently recall that there’s an EP to sell, and a duty to inform before plunging back in for more.

This concentration also prevents it from becoming apparent just how good a unit they are and just how talented a guitarist Millie is until a few songs in. Jemima Surrender go from making a tremendously cohesive charged racket– something which Hysterical Injury bassist Annie Gardiner smilingly approves of from the audience – to a jiggling flamenco shuffle with stunningly casual style. “Anathema” begins with a deft web of finger picking which quickly tears into a gallop. Millie’s tone shimmers between a clean bluesy shmeck and a riot of huge scuzzy warmth all while she sings with immense emotional urgency (but control!) and a flagrantly perceptible need to sing her songs that really is worth noting for its rarity. She’s focused entirely on her performance to the point she almost seems not to notice the audience; which increases the intimacy of the gig, as though we’ve stumbled into a private performance she’s been holding.

Their second set contains a song in French that’s belted out. To say that it’s easy to imagine Millie playing guitar in a subway in Paris would be to diminish her as a cliché, but it is. Her pronunciation’s quite sterling and nobody appears to understand a word. “Ask Me Again” is played in its entirety; “My Brother” containing this lyric about childhood: “He keeps a cloud in a jar, by his bedside”, which just soars in its triumph as an image. They close with “If you sit in a barbers shop long enough you’re gonna get a fuckin’ haircut” which is a howling, climactic demand of the universe to reveal its mysteries and will hopefully be stretched out as they play more. A song to dance to in reckless solitude. Next gig is Start the Bus on 11th of April. Don’t miss out.

Jemima Surrender premiered their song “Anathema” on DrunkenWerewolf in March here. Read our review of the EP in the current issue of the magazine. Clue: we really like it.

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