The Cabaret Voltaire is surprisingly busy for a week night. This is undoubtedly in part a testimony to successful local promoters I Fly Spitfires who have recently both celebrated their second anniversary and also staged their fiftieth gig. It is, however, also a reflection too on the rapid ascension of headliners the Twilight Sad.

When the Twilight Sad were last in Edinburgh at the beginning of September, they played the 100-capacity only Bannerman's Pub. Just twelve short weeks later, as a result of word-of-mouth since then and with their debut album, 'Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters' appearing on many critics’ end-of year polls and having just been made Album of the Year in local free music paper ‘The Skinny’, the brooding Glaswegian post-rockers have shifted 50 metres around the corner from Bannerman's and to the next street where they are now packing out the 250-head Cabaret Voltaire.

The front cover of 'Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters' has a drawing of a boy in a paper mask being pushed away by his mother who stares forlornly down at the table in front of her. Another drawing on the Twilight Sad’s My Space site shows the same child still wearing the mask about to suffocate the mother with a pillow as she sleeps in her bed.

Frontman James Graham's lyrics are kept similarly deliberately oblique. Whether they are at least in some way partially autobiographical, or whether they are the subject of a bleak, but abrasive imagination is unclear. With words such as "they're standing outside and they're looking in/the kids are on fire in the bedroom" from first single 'That Summer, At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy', and "these walls are filled with blades/ and she has cut herself with stained-glass windows/ and is playing with her toys" on the similarly elliptically-titled 'Mapped By What Surrounded Them', they come from the darkest and saddest of places, hinting of awful tragedy and conjuring up a Boschian-style picture of hell. Graham is matched in this by the rest of the group, guitarist Andy MacFarlane, bassist Craig Orzel and drummer Mark Devine, who create with the epic-sounding layered sculptures of their soundscapes some of the most majestic and mournful music this side of Joy Division.

While the Twilight Sad have been together since 2003, they only started playing live a year and a half ago. It is obvious that they don’t yet feel comfortable on stage. Graham spends most of the 40 minutes set with his body coiled away from the audience facing one of the side walls of the venue, his head stooped and hunched over his microphone rarely looking up as he jerks around the stage against the surging backdrop of his band. The other members of the group too have their heads down, their eyes piercing the ground, like Graham locked into their own thoughts. Yet this discomfort, however, far from detracting from the music, only adds to and builds further on its intensity.

The group, with the occasional minor diversion, play ‘Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters’ largely in its running order. ‘That Summer, At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy‘ is thrown in early, briefly breaking the spell of the almost entirely hushed audience’s silence as they erupt into applause.

Halfway through they are joined by special guest, Rod Jones from Idlewild, who spends the remaining four songs of the set sat stooped over a keyboard in the corner, his sharp flurries of piano chords resonating with the tumultuous cascades of MacFarlane and Orzel’s guitars, Devine’s heavy drum beats and the thickset, muscular Glaswegian brogue of Graham’s vocals. It ends with the shimmering echoes and stormy white noise of second single, ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ and then in a hazy, noisy final rush the album’s last vocal track, ‘I’m Taking the Train Home.’

There is no encore. There is no need for one. Growing steadily louder over the set the Twilight Sad have peaked. They leave the stage, as the audience finally fully unmuted erupts into applause. With this short but forceful performance, the Twilight Sad have out of their nervousness and awkwardness provided a set that that has been as moving as it has been visceral and in in its grandscale sense of epicness magnificent.














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