The Leaf Cafe is near capacity for the debut Liverpool performance of Francois and the Atlas Mountains, the first French signing to legendary indie label Domino, The undeniable quality of their labelmates, (Animal Collective, Bonnie Prince Billy, Arctics et al) have proved to be a huge advantage in creating a buzz.

Folk artist Lizzie Nunnery, a long standing presence on the city’s music scene, showcases the new direction her sound has taken, her material now featuring a darker, looser feel. Aided by a drummer, the percussive element added to her songs brings a far richer sound palate, one explored to its full extent in a strong performance.

Up next Belfast trio Southern confidently stride through their set, the largely acoustic driven act reaching a highpoint on ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, possibly serving notice of greater things to come from the three-piece.

After a teasing wait, the Atlas Mountains assemble in front of the stage to write down their running order. As they take to the stage to pick up their instruments, mainman Francois meanders in the space between the stage and audience, as though he is still soundchecking, casually strumming a delay pedal figure, the room’s focus instantly settling on him.

Hopping up onto the stage to take up the lead vocal, the singer is a masterclass in studied Gallic cool, effortlessly commanding the room. Beginning with cuts similar in feel to fellow countrymen Orwell, who specialise in imaginary soundtracks to lost Francois Truffaut films, the light melodic gems are short and sweet in their approach.

Between vocals the charismatic frontman saunters around, interacting with the incredibly well-drilled band, every nuance of their sound captured ringingly. The complexity of the arrangements, layering sound upon sound sees the band reinvent the notion of pocket symphonies as they were called in the sixties, which was pop music to be played by a small electronic orchestra.

With a percussionist playing what looks some powder kegs assembled on a step ladder alongside a 1960's globe drinks cabinet and an octopus-armed drummer, the group’s strange looking instrumentation produce out note-perfect renditions of recent LP ‘Evolo Love’. Francois’ method acting meanwhile mimes throwing his heart to the wind expertly add drama to proceedings.

The beats grow louder as the gig progresses, shape-shifting from an almost hushed ambient affair at the outset to thudding French techno by the close. To the band’s vast credit, they take the audience every step of the way with them, segueing their last few tracks into one glorious Technicolor suite.

An explosive rendition of ‘Piscine’ sees the set climax with a glorious melding of Afrobeat and Ibizan dub, with all those who were previously seated leaping to their feet in a spontaneous standing ovation at the close. A brief thank You and the band sensibly depart, an encore surely feeling superfluous after gifting the audience such a dazzling performance.

The photographs that accompany this article were taken for Pennyblackmusic by Marie Hazelwood.

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