Let’s Eat Grandma: Live Review, Eerie Gothicism and Grimey ‘Sludge pop’

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So, let’s get one thing straight: It’s been clear from the word go that these two 17-year-old musicians Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth (better known as Let’s Eat Grandma), have very little interest in adhering to the mainstream. In fact it would be more than fair to say that they deliberately drive their music in the opposite direction to create something that is certainly new, probably refreshing and decidedly strange.  They’ve dubbed their music ‘psychedelic sludge pop’ (whatever that means) but actually such a title probably isn’t too far off the money. There’s something grimey and grungy about their music that, when merged with heavy electronic sounds and the restorative edge of some old school instruments, ‘psychedelic sludge pop’ is probably fairly apt. In reality their music is very difficult to sum up and when describing Let’s Eat Grandma you find yourself saying  “well they’re kind of quirky” and then pulling a face that looks like you’re trying to force an over complicated thought out of your forehead.

But actually, this is exactly why they’re worth listening to. Their lack of definition gives them an experimental edge and, as a result, nothing that they produce is one dimensional. Their catalogue of quirk is multi-faceted in a way that throws some serious shade on the mainstreamers of this generation.  They are without doubt a hugely progressive and very musically capable pair of artists and the evolution of Let’s Eat Grandma is sure to be worth paying attention to.

Their debut album I Gemini sits in the space between reality and the dream world, in a kind of fairy tale whimsy coupled with nightmarish Gothic tones. Overly melodramatic in places but soothing and playful in others, I Gemini is an eclectic mix of gritty, bizarre solemnity and an impish charm. It reads rather like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale and is addictive in its strangeness, leaving you with that unsettling itch for more, annoyed that you’re at the end of the album but also somewhat relieved that it’s over. It is an album that is Kate Bushian in its enigmatic resonance and is a stark reminder that sometimes young musicians are very capable of producing something with far more gravity than a lot of seasoned adult artists. Such gravity is never more palpable than in LEG’s live performances, as their set at Latitude festival 2016 ultimately proves.

lets eat grandma

Unnerving synth sounds make a low rumble as Walton folds herself in half, her arms hanging limply over her body and her lengths of Rapunzel like hair brush against the stage floor. She rises like a marionette swaying gently on the spot seemingly lost in the trance of her performance. It’s not what one would call dancing, it’s rather more like a performance art piece, slow and unsettling, simultaneously cool and uncomfortable. Odd would be the word one would likely choose to sum it up, but it’s interesting, enchanting even, in fact the pair wouldn’t be out of place in a dark obscure London gallery but here they are on stage ruling over something that’s difficult to define. It’s not pop, it’s not indie, at least in the traditional sense, but it’s definitely brilliant.

‘Deep Six Textbook’ opens with a low and juddering beat which when coupled with patti cake hand clapping and the ominous growl of long organ noises it makes for an eerie dream like soundscape. It’s something not so far away from the work produced by Sigur Ross but it’s perhaps blended with something a little darker.

Vocally speaking, the pair have a surprising magnetism. They open their mouths and the voices that come out are not what you’d expect. It’s as though a young Bjork and an early Joanna Newsom have stepped into the bodies of two teenagers. That high resonating sound somehow merges perfectly with the darkness of their music. It’s an edgy concoction of elements that really shouldn’t work together but they do, perhaps it is a mark of LEG’s mastery of their craft. Their musical knowledge is exponential and throughout the set both Walton and Hollingworth switch between instruments with a fluidity that comes only with a centuries worth of practise, not 17 years.  Whether it’s the synth, saxophone, or even the generally dreaded school recorder, they can play them all. Walton jokes about her own mother banning the humble recorder from the family home. But, despite the recorder’s reputation for being a squeaky ‘non instrument’ often found exiled to the back of dusty charity shops, it works for LEG and sits quite comfortably in amongst the peculiarities of their world.

lets eat grandma

LEG have a habit of blithely reclaiming instruments that would send most of us into a frenzy of despair but the simple recorder is given pride of place in their track ‘Chocolate Sludge Cake.’ and in amongst a mishmash of other instruments it does at times sound as though the twosie have created some kind of instrumental amnesty, collecting together all of the instruments everyone hates and giving them a home in their album, but as I said it works, and what could be a terrible cacophony of noise actually melts together to form something like the Tim Burton of the musical world. Coco Rosie move over, Let’s Eat Grandma are on the rise.

Pushing aside their Marmitey, love it or hate it debut the wealth of musical talent that Walton and Hollingworth have managed to acquire in such a short period of time is astounding. Being accomplished enough to switch between instruments during a set with immeasurable confidence is certainly no mean feat, but to have that musical fluidity at the grand old age of 17 really is mind boggling. It seems though that the pair have been on the road to LEG for some time, having been friends for years they formed the idea at 13 and started writing their songs then and there. There is of course some naivety evident in the names of the songs but certainly not in the lyrics, the lyrics are poetic and often sobering again erring on the edge of something Newsom esk. It’s not difficult to imagine that the two might eventually end up becoming the next little Newsoms.

Let’s Eat Grandma in production is still a relatively new endeavour for these artists and the next few years look to be an exciting evolutionary process in the growth and discovery. Perhaps they’ll have a bash at playing two instruments at once, that could be interesting.

Let’s Eat Grandma have a hefty tour of the UK and the rest of Europe beginning in October so it will be worth checking them out live. The first of this leg begins in Bristol at The Old bookshop on Monday the 24th of October. Visit the Let’s Eat Grandma songkick for further details