Ever since hearing about the popular “lamp show” performances of multi-instrumental Derbyshire trio Haiku Salut, I had wanted to see one in action. The setting was Hallé St Peter’s in Manchester, a Grade II listed, de-consecrated church situated in the former industrial suburb of Ancoats, right next door to the Northern Quarter which is known for its fine selection of music venues. Originally built in 1859, Hallé St Peter’s had stood empty since 1960s before recently being given a make over in order to provide the Hallé Orchestra with rehearsal and recording space. As well as small concerts, it also hosts wedding receptions and other such events.
The main floor space was filled with an assortment of about a dozen or so charity shop lamps, some big and some small, which were scattered between a vast array of instruments and programmed to flicker and flash in time with the music. These aren’t the kind of shows Haiku Salut put on every time they play, mainly saving them for special occasions. The special occasion this time being as part of a five city tour in support of their second album, Etch and Etch Deep, released at the end of July to a very positive reviews. If you’ve never heard their music before it’s probably best described as the old world meeting the new, featuring an intelligent, colourful and playful blend of electronica, traditional folk and baroque pop.
Support for the evening was provided by local musician Elle Mary, who performed a solo set but also plays with The Bad Men. The Hallé St Peter’s acoustics were the perfect setting for her slow-paced, folky-bluesy minimalism, with a heavy dose of noir and a hint of tension. Her wonderful voice and quiet-loud approach using an electric guitar with a clean tone was given plenty of room to breathe inside the once hallowed building. By the time Elle Mary had finished, the tiered seating had started to fill up close to capacity with a nice mix of old and young, all of whom were eagerly anticipating the start of the main event.
Haiku Salut kicked off their set with “Say It,” the short introduction from their 2013 debut Tricolore, before going straight into the tense and utterly fantastic “Things Were Happening and They Were Strange” from their new album. They jumped quickly into the glockenspiel-led “Glocklebar,” from their debut, after which came two tracks from Etch and Etch Deep, delightful album closer “Foreign Pollen” and a thumping performance of “You Dance a Particular Algorithm.” The wonderful “Sounds Like There’s a Pacman Crunching Away at Your Heart” then follows, beginning with plucked Spanish guitar, keyboard piano and accordion, before a series of instrument switching takes place involving drums, keyboard loops and a trumpet-led Beirut-style ending.
Next up was a run of three tracks from their new album, ending with the opening track, lead single and perfect example of their multi-genre, multi-instrumental sound, “Bleak and Beautiful (All Things).” Another two singles came after this, the first from their debut, “Los Elefantes,” with its Parisian-like beginning which then takes a slightly eerie turn. They ended their set in style with the second-single from their latest album, “Hearts Not Parts,” which starts out with acoustic guitar and accordion, before a break in the middle featuring some rare vocals, then it bursts into life.
After a big round of applause, they disappeared momentarily before returning to perform an encore of electro-pop closer from Tricolore, “No, You Say It,” bringing the evening to a rousing finish. Given the frequent instrument hopping throughout their performance, it was surprising that none of the lamps were knocked over or broken. Not a word was spoken by the trio during the whole performance, but they didn’t have to. Their fantastic blend of electronic sounds and traditional folk instrumentation does all the talking. Haiku Salut are a truly unique band and an absolute must see.
Things Were Happening and They Were Strange
You Dance a Particular Algorithm
Sounds Like There’s a Pacman Crunching Away at Your Heart
Divided by Surfaces and Silence
The No-Colour of Rain and Dust
Bleak and Beautiful (All Things)
Hearts Not Parts
No, You Say It