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Gloomy, insular and introverted, Glass Animals didn’t immediately strike as the type of band that could sell out a venue on their first tour of the country. But, with only a handful of songs to their name, there was a definite feeling of hype in the air at the Oxford Art Factory, even before the young UK foursome took to the stage to play a few Triple J-driven favourites and some preview material from their upcoming LP, ZABA.
While Glass Animals aren’t obvious showmen, it was the little quirks that ensured the band’s charm was spread efficiently. From opening number Psylla, it was clear that there is something intensely intriguing about this band. Lead singer Dave Bayley danced anxiously while the three members perched behind him entered their own world of sporadic beats and glistening keys.
Psylla, like a number of the tracks the band played, drew obvious comparisons to fellow oddballs Alt-J. However, there was something that became more apparent as the night went on. It was as if the band had taken subtle pointers from Wild Beasts and then injected some ’90s nostalgia in the way of Outkast’s slinky beats and R. Kelly’s intimate soul.
The band’s R&B cues were what impressed the most. A slow groove took over the crowd throughout, ensuring that even the unheard newer numbers were received with some grinding dance moves. Bayley’s voice was enticing and brooding, lifted by his hip-hop inspired flow. Occasionally he thrashed around with a guitar, but for the most part he lulled into the after-dark beats churned out from behind him.
Each song climaxed ever so subtly, but with enough effect to keep the audience in a wide-eyed gaze. Exxus was the best demonstration of this, with a metronome-like drum that escalated into crushing, atmospheric percussion. Black Mambo was another that benefitted from the perfect cross-section of electronic and live-instrumentation.
With only a few publicly-known songs, it was always going to be interesting to see how the band carried a full set, but they did so effortlessly. Some of the unheard album tracks packed a real punch, from an intrinsically downbeat R&B number, to the most upbeat track’s subtle nods to deep house.
Despite this, there was the inevitable calls for the band’s flagship track, Gooey. At one point, one punter even handed a jar of peanut butter to Bayley. The band made the crowd wait until the final track to get the hint, delivering a gloriously icky version. For the first time, Bayley was not a solitary voice. He was joined by a choir of fans all singing “My little pooh bear“.
The 45-minute set was just enough for the band to show off their achievements so far, and give a window into what is to come. Based off the songs heard, ZABA will follow closely in the vein of Gooey. The reactions the band received at the Oxford Art Factory suggests that this will be no problem at all.