One Eskimo – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, February 20th
One Eskimo are that very modern of phenomena – an animated band – with their sugar-coated cartoon characters conjured up by none other than Passion Pictures (the team behind Gorillaz) and their debut album All Balloons produced by Rollo from Faithless. Connected and cute, then. A penguin, eskimo, giraffe and monkey make up the band proper. Tonight though, the animations remain a fixture at the back of the stage, allowing the four humans lurking in the background to step into the spotlight and dazzle with their meandering, delicate sound…
And dazzle they do. We’d marvelled at the video animation for a couple of the tracks and wallowed in their laidback, melancholic sound pre-gig. But seeing the quartet live, we can tell that they really mean every word they sing and note they play. The band look like they’d give up seats to grannies on buses, clothed in jeans, woollen hats and comfy tops. All apart from singer Kristian Leontiou sit down for the entire gig: the drummer bangs a speaker and taps a keyboard; the bassist plucks lovingly; and guitarist number two spends some of the time blowing into a wind-propelled keyboard. The sounds they create are ambient, warm and familiar, the songs heartfelt and genuine. The hunched Leontiou’s voice is spine-tingling, rich and soulful, connecting with every lyric beautifully. It only takes a couple of songs for us to feel blissed out and totally immersed in the One Eskimo vibe – their sound is quirky like Gotye, touching like Damien Rice, chilled like Groove Armada.
If we had a criticism, it’s that the second half of the band’s set trailed off somewhat, with the songs blurring into one. New single Kandi was a highlight, with its urgency and fantastically uplifting chorus, and opening tracks Hometime and Simple Day showcased the band’s capabilities better, with highs, lows and all that’s in between. Singer Leontiou might want to work on his between-song patter too: apart from hoping that we liked the new single and thanking us for coming, he found it hard to look at the assembled throng and even disappeared inside his hoody two-thirds of the way into the set.
But these are things that can be worked on. Significantly, One Eskimo have the music, they have the animation, they have the technology. They’re never going to stadium fillers, but we reckon they’re going to be more than happy hiding behind their alter-egos of giraffe, monkey, penguin and eskimo.
One Eskimo’s single Kandi is out now. For more: www.oneeskimo.co.uk/home