The Stars of Aviation appear on the Good Ship’s stage after a brief appearance by Thomas Denver Jonsson, a personable singer-songwriter. Alone on stage, he looked a little small.

With nine people and a variety of instruments crowded on to the same stage half an hour later, things are beginning to look a lot more crowded. The wall behind the band is bare white and there is a single white spotlight illuminating them from the front, making the whole thing look like a strange setup. It’s almost as though they’re shooting a modernist, sparse music video – Belle and Sebastian meets 'A Clockwork Orange', maybe.

Fortunately, the music, courtesy of joint male-and-female vocals and that variety of instruments, provides all the colour we need. Let’s tot up what’s on stage: there are several guitars, a drum kit, vocal microphones, an accordion, two keyboards, a violin, a recorder, a trumpet and a bassoon. In the wrong hands, that could be a recipe for disaster. Or a scene from a Carry On film, at least.

Fortunately, Stars of Aviation’s hands are not just right, they’re hugely, unfairly talented, as well, as are both lead singers, husband and wife Jonny and Louise Anstead. Things kick off with a quiet bossa nova rhythm picked out on the keyboard. Gradually, the other band members start to join in, layering the sound like a dry stone wall. Once it’s done, vocalist Jonny Anstead announces the reason why there are so many people on stage: “We’ve brought in special reinforcements tonight, on violin, trumpet, and bassoon. Later on we’ll be playing some bassoon-nova…”

Again with the second song, the sound builds up from simple beginnings, until it’s assumed a surprisingly full body, as you realise everybody on stage is involved. The presence of the accordion, as well as the light touch of the vocals, keeps things heady and pastoral, however.

Last year’s single, 'Marie et l’accordeon', is next, a poppy, summery slip of a tune with a repeated refrain about “le soleil”. It’s a little more twee than the rest of the set, but it’s pleasant enough, and the superbly languid trumpet solo towards the end brings it back down to earth. It’s followed by that single’s b-side, “All is Quiet on the Western Front”, a haunting, ethereal song about a wartime romance. It’s a suitably reflective counterpoint to the jaunty 'Marie'. Anstead says afterward, “That was a song about war. This is a song about summer”, shifting the mood back to a major key. There’s a new one after that, and the set is wrapped up with a couple of racier numbers, providing a fine balance between light and dark.

The Stars of Aviation have been going for a few years now, and this kind of confident, low-key gig does them no harm at all, building up an audience by impressing them with the quality of the music. Major recognition can’t be far away now.

















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