Chartreuse dust down the winter blues at Hare and Hounds for Independent Venue Week

Words by Sophie Hack / Pics by Emily Doyle

Hosted via Independent Venue Week, the black country quartet Chartreuse came home to the Hare and Hounds on Thursday, 1 February before heading to the USA on tour in March.

Showcasing their newest material from debut album Morning Ritual, Chartreuse’s unique blend of folk, jazz, and flickers of soul permeated through the sold-out Kings Heath crowd, a perfect introduction to the brighter, warmer days on the horizon.

Opener Wildforms (Dan Cippico) takes on a shape of their own with their handcrafted electronic sounds plucked straight from nature. Inside a web of wires, he takes what he’s foraged from his walks; creaking trees, swallow calls and underwater beetle chirps, and bends and shapes them into complex layers that build up a beautiful scenery.

Visuals from Guri Bosh show shoes warping into the grass similar to Midsommar and foxes backtrack away from the camera – the latter shot in Cippico’s back garden: “I set it up because I thought someone was coming into my garden, but it was a load of foxes and badgers. I gave some of it to Guri Bosh… the visuals were improvised off a previous set.”

Throughout the set Wildforms impressively commands the unpredictability of nature, flitting between one instrument to the next instinctively as the set morphs from whimsical, woodwind-led electronic to a scurry of drum and bass beats at the set’s climax.

This busyness is a translation of what’s going on inside his head: “As a teenager, the outdoors was always an escape – I had a really bad stammer and I wanted to get out and away from people, I didn’t feel judged by nature. With Wildforms, I was thinking: how can I translate what’s going on in my busy head and combine it all into one thing?”

The namesake of their debut album, Morning Ritual, is the first song that ushers in Chartreuse, a song that pours over the anxiety of not being good enough for a lover. The slightly spoken word track is the perfect introduction to the band’s glowing performance, with the popular ‘Switch It On Switch It Off’ following, which feels like the nostalgia and comfort from the low hum of the late summer.

Founding members Mike Wagstaff and Harriet Wilson’s folk beginnings are ghostly present in the band’s latest material, expanding into jazz and soul thanks to the addition of Mike’s brother Rory on drums and Perry Lovering on bass and keys.

Not much for talking, but with no need to explain, intimate lyrics shared between Wagstaff and Wilson occupy the room and linger between the more tender musical moments in ‘Whippet’ and ‘Swedish Water’. The brisker ‘Backstroke’ is a reminder of Radiohead’s lyrical rhythm on ‘In Rainbows’, while crowd favourites ‘Deep Fat’ and ‘Keep Checking Up On Me’ ache with loneliness and a despondent feeling for small town living.

The penultimate track ‘All Seeing All The Time’ swells with a sense of paranoia as drums keep pace, a mirror opposite to the last song ‘Sorcerer’s Eyes’, which calmly closes the show with a reflection on the ever-changing pace of life.

Throughout their five-year discography, Chartreuse have always been masters at capturing emotion from within the most unassuming places. Feeling listless in a new home and small town, the longing that stretches the span of both distance and time between lovers, and seeing the joy in a child’s small book on a train.

They take these small instances and construct something from the soul that breathes with life when performed live, serendipitous as this set feels like the perfect way to welcome in pinker skies from lighter days and the warmer months coming.

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