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Live review: New Look

New Look are my new favourites, in spite of how they’ve been hanging around since 2008. Now signed to !K7 and with an album in the pipeline, it’s their time – with due cause. The effortless structure of the Canadian duo’s songs is magnificent, the way a simple vocal line builds and amplifies – the way they reimagine Chicago house as a dream, combining its mangled synths with Sarah Ruba’s angelic vocals.

Tonight at the perfectly-suited Shacklewell Arms, they leave us leaves us fist-pumping a resounding ‘yes’ at the entirety of the set. It’s a huge relief that instead of merely performing mp3s, they breathe life into that sense of mystique. There’s always a risk that with just a producer/DJ and vocalist in a live show, it’ll feel like a YouTube clip – but we needn’t have feared. New Look’s songs are in no rush to blossom, and latest single ‘The Ballad’ sounds just perfect – a mix of coy lightness with heart-wrenching power.

Ruba’s delivery on ‘Relax Your Mind’ is impeccably smooth and natural, New Look’s shining light. The clipped beats and pop hooks are undeniably a blogger’s paradise, but more than that – they’ve got a seriousness, a grown-up restraint that doesn’t just fall crashing out of the studio.

The distance between the audience and the lyrics in ‘Make It Over’ is a perfect example, multiple vocals building into sensuous stride. “My heart is a black hole,” sings a blank-faced Ruba, as another vocal line cuts its uncertain shape in the space, before suddenly freezing as the song ends.

While DJ/producer Adam Pavao isn’t the liveliest performer, Sarah Ruba is utterly captivating. There’s a hypnosis in the way she sings her seraphic love-obsessed lyrics, which wonderfully manages to pit the essence of disco against stuttering, harsh synths buried deep down low – and this show is a blinding coming-to-life for music so unusually entrancing.


-Natalie Shaw

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