CMU Artists Of The Year 2010 – #5: Warpaint

Warpaint’s debut EP, ‘Exquisite Corpse’, released in the UK in December last year, started a love affair with Warpaint’s music at CMU that has only grown as 2010 continued, with gigs of increasing capacities and one astonishing debut album.

Our first taste of their live show was a packed gig in a bar at the end of Brighton’s Palace Pier at this year’s Great Escape. It was too hot, we were squashed into a corner where it was difficult to see the stage and the sound was passable at best, but something shone through.

Of course, it helped that we’d been playing that EP on a loop for some time by that point, six tracks of delicate ambient rock with ghostly vocals that sound like they’re being sung through an electric fan. Live those songs jumped into life enough to override the discomfort of the setting and create a buzz of excitement amongst Team CMU that made them one of the bands we particularly enthused about for the rest of the weekend, and after the festival once we were safely back in London.

Their debut album, ‘The Fool’, was released in October, building markedly on the sound of that first EP (which, by that time, was actually more than two years old). Having ditched the weird vocal effects, the band more confidently pushed their multi-part vocal lines to the fore, on top of similarly intertwined guitar parts and solid but intricate drumming.

It instantly bobbed up the list of my favourite albums of the year but, once again, it was seeing the band play the songs live that really brought them to life for me. Seeing them at The Scala in London in late October was pretty unforgettable.

I’m sure it’s one of those shows that, as time goes on, more and more people will claim to have been at. That night it was already one of the year’s most talked about gigs, and with good reason. Having made a firm impression when a venue’s sound was not at its best, when it was spot on at The Scala they were positively jaw-dropping.

Now with a clear view of the stage, I could finally see just what good musicians they are, particularly guitarist Theresa Wayman, whose unusual style is a huge part of the band’s sound, and drummer Stella Mozgawa, whose movements when she plays are so fluid it makes her a joy to watch. Also, they dealt with a mid-song technical failure in the most unfazed manner I’ve seen in years – a guitar gave out, leading to an extended improvisation that actually improved the song they were playing. Most bands would have just stopped.

The show was so good, it all got a bit emotional, with their songs leaving me genuinely breathless at times. Their next trip to the UK will see them upgrade to a larger venue again, this time heading to the Shepherds Bush Empire. That venue’s been the location for some truly great live moments for me, so it’ll be very interesting how they go down there.

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