Maria BC @ The Glad Cafe, Glasgow, 30 Oct
Maria BC is on haunting, revelatory form on their Glasgow debut
Buoyed by last week’s release of their magnificent second record and Sacred Bones debut, Spike Field, Maria BC lands in town with the air of someone moving into a new role: one of the key figures in the new wave of avant-singer-songwriters. Spike Field is a wounded, lonely record, but when brought to the live arena, it’s a gorgeous, simultaneously melancholy and uplifting experience.
They are, by their own admission, battered by jet lag, so anything approaching stage banter is replaced by them blearily staring out at the crowd from under their cap, silently willing themself not fall asleep. It makes for an even more stunning revelation when one of the most purely beautiful voices you’ll ever hear emerges from them. In person it takes on that quality Elizabeth Fraser possesses of being genuinely otherworldly, the precision and expansiveness so perfect that it seems absurd to be coming from a human body. Their state of exhaustion seems to bring them deeper into themself, eyes burning straight ahead, coldly locked into a core of totally disarming quiet intensity. The crowd at The Glad Cafe, admittedly not a riotous bunch at their most energetic, are on particularly hushed and reverential form today, a silent bed of gentle awe that this voice drifts over.
But as much as Maria BC is someone clearly on the up and up, special mention must go to their sometime-collaborator and onstage companion, Isabelle Thorn, aka Dear Laika. Stationed stage left amid a pile of keyboards, she ekes out the perfect complements to Maria’s vocals and guitar arpeggios; sometimes organ throbs, sometimes glistening flickers of electronics, occasionally replicating the gorgeous harmonies she brought to Spike Field. For music that speaks to such a sense of loneliness and isolation, it’s heartening to watch the conversational musical relationship between the two. Thorn’s responding to the textures and rolling delay on Maria’s guitar lines leads to the best moments of the set; these arching crescendos of gently driving emotional penetration.
The set feels brief, but, with such emotional heft in the performance it does well not to outstay its welcome and tip over into feeling mawkish. Instead it dissipates in a somnambular haze, some of the most weightless music you’ll ever hear that seems to be in a constant sense of searching upwards. This set marks another indicator of Maria BC as a truly exciting talent.