Laila Sakini and Thomas Bush – Tangible Intimacy

Blog March 13 2023

Laila Sakini and Thomas Bush live, 3th of March 2023 at Ideal Bar/VEGA – Review by Ivna Franic

After a quiet winter period that offered very few exciting gigs, March has seen the new concert season kick off in full swing. FELT – the Copenhagen-based record label/promoter entity run by Perko – provided a real treat on 3th of March in the form of a double bill featuring Laila Sakini and Thomas Bush.

To be perfectly honest, the name Thomas Bush didn’t exactly ring a bell at first, but a quick post-show internet search revealed that we were dealing with a UK musician based in Malmö who has a release on Gothenburg’s Mammas Mysteriska Jukebox and a guest spot on Come Around, Carla dal Forno’s 2022 album, among other things.

Bush quietly took the stage armed with a notebook and a charming posture of a kid forced to recite something in front of the whole school, and somehow left the audience instantly spellbound. Trying to place his music into a context while listening to his set proved to be a bit of a challenge, with possible references ranging from the spoken-word post-punk tradition and lo-fi bedroom pop, through ambient and field recordings, all the way to traditional folk ballads and the esoteric UK underground world of England’s Hidden Reverse. One of the final songs in his set, for example, turned out to be “Willie o Winsbury”. Performed over a pulsating beat, the song is in fact a traditional Scottish ballad from the 18th century, perhaps known to some thanks to cover versions by the legendary British folk bands Fairport Convention and Pentangle. 

Although his set might have been a little uneven, with moments of total bliss interrupted by experiments and works-in-process, Bush undeniably possesses a certain charisma that makes his deconstructive approach to different genres sound both abstract and heavily grounded. In any case, as far as event curation goes, Bush seemed like a good fit for the evening, his lonesome sensibility matching that of Sakini’s.

Laila Sakini has put out some of the most beautiful music of the last few years and it was great to learn that someone had booked her in Copenhagen – it feels like we could definitely use more aptly-timed international guest appearances such as this one.

The glass of wine Sakini brings to the stage as she begins her set quickly finds itself contributing to the soundscape. We hear her breath, a click of the glass against the microphone, a sip of wine, hands rubbing, fingers snapping. These all might seem like little more than the usual ASMR suspects, but in Laila Sakini’s live performance, they take on an important mood-building role. Posing as live field recordings, the additional sounds help create a tangibly intimate setting that’s essential to Sakini’s music. At different points in the performance, different touchstones emerge, such as the Grouper-esque vibe of the lovely “Talk My Way” or the overall tangibility of sound not unlike that displayed in Claire Rousay’s music. It’s important to note, however, that none of that takes any magic away from the performance, quite the contrary.

Listening to Sakini’s music on records, it’s easy to focus primarily on the fragile piano melodies. In the intimate setting of a small live show, though, various little details start to stand out. Taken together, these details invite the listeners into her world. The intimacy of these details lets the audience in on the secret of what makes her largely instrumental work sound so remarkably relatable. She walks off the stage leaving the pre-recorded sound on, letting it merge with the background noise coming from some other place inside VEGA. Loud people from the hidden hallway become like just another field recording; they fade into the backdrop and slowly evaporate into the air. The audience is no longer spellbound, but what a spell it had been.