Cat Malojian, Ruby Colley
As far as I'm concerned gigs in crime-orientated bookshops are the way forward. The acoustics are perfect, with the bookshelves acting as natural soundproofing, and the people are lovely; It's just like getting invited into someone's living room (albeit someone with a somewhat lurid taste in literature).
Once we're settled in amongst the Carl Hiaasen and Raymond Chandler with a cheeky glass of wine, Ruby Colley takes to the stage. Some would argue that the loop pedal has been abused - it's become a staple of the open mic night that someone explores the novelty potential of the effect - yet Colley's use of the device never seems contrived or unnatural.
Her work is purely instrumental and violin based, but avoids the cliches of the Irish tradition, her music poerateing more within the eastern European style - think Devotchka or Gogol Bordello as opposed to the Pogues or Enya. The music would not seem out of place sound tracking a Peter Jackson film: it's big, it's epic and takes no prisoners.
This is its strength and also its weakness. �Her set goes on for too long, and the music is just much too intense. She's clearly a talented artist but in this case less is more, with even her more upbeat tunes proving to be hard going. Half an hour would be just right for her cathartic material, but by the end of the set the audience are left emotionally drained (in a good way).
Cat Malojian then take to the stage. The band is the musical equivalent of an old woolly jumper or a big floppy Labrador - very, very comfortable. For those who have never had the pleasure before, think West Coast psychedelic folk, a Lurgan version of the Byrds, or an Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison for the Nintendo generation.
Now a three-piece, in our mind, Cat Malojian's previous incarnation was hindered by the "same old, same old" singer-songwriter shtick, but the inclusion of Rachel Toman has elevated them to "real, genuine contender band" status.
Bringing percussion, oboe and (whisper it) synth to the table, she adds an extra dimension to the bands music, beefing it up and enhancing the toe tapping sensibilities. But that's just window dressing for the songwriting on display.
Cat Malojian could teach the art of songwriting. What they lack in style they more than make up for in substance, taking the old art of "verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus" and making it sit up and beg. �Eugene', a cautionary tale of embarrassing disease, bubbles with easygoing charm, while �Mario' laments the loss of childhood to a video game.
Cat Malojian haven't really played the "scene game" and with tunes like this they don't have to. One gets the impression that it's only really a matter of time before the collective conscience stumbles upon "that tune" (which tune? Take your pick) and the secret is out.