RM Hubbert @ Electric Circus, Edinburgh, 21 Nov

Live Review by Will Fitzpatrick | 23 Nov 2016

The parts shouldn't really add up to the whole. Man with acoustic guitar, playing music derived from flamenco stylings and the dynamics of mid-90s post-rock, largely instrumental... who'd have thought that these puzzle pieces would form a jigsaw so riddled with emotional resonance?

RM Hubbert is a survivor. 20 years ago he played with (the recently-reformed) sonic adventurers El Hombre Trajeado, traversing the distance between Minutemen-esque post-punk, textured soundscapes and blistering math-rock, before the band called it a day after a decade together. Since then he's recontextualised those influences via the nylon-string guitar, creating a catalogue of deftly-composed, beautifully performed pieces that nod to familiar forms while remaining totally idiosyncratic to his unique muse. Throughout the show he jokes about the continuing influence of depression on his work; sometimes the crowd shuffles uncomfortably, other times they laugh warmly. It's an odd yet comforting atmosphere for odd yet comforting music.

So affable is his between-song chat that it feels as much a part of the show as his playing, but once those fingers begin dancing across the fretboard, we're simply rapt. Songs such as I Can Hold You Back, originally written with Liverpudlian folk singer Kathryn Williams, and Bolt are stark, powerful pieces with lyrical punches rarely pulled ('He broke his heart / You broke his jaw' goes the latter, appropriately), while other times there's a rare optimism emanating from the stage, transcending the wordless pieces and creating something rather more profound.

Hubby leaves us with the words of Daniel Johnston: 'True love will find you in the end.' That's as may be, but we're already well and truly smitten.