5th April | Rough Trade
“It feels so good to actually share this music in a real live experience, rather than just online,” Nabihah Iqbal says, expressing, with a warmth and humility, her gratitude to everyone for coming out tonight and supporting her music. And this conveys the atmosphere of the evening; there’s a kind of magical intimacy throughout as Iqbal and her bandmate, Max Campbell create inviting swathes of flickering beats, cascading chord progressions and twinkling, atmospheric synths.
Taking to the stage first, Haseeb Iqbal, Nabihah Iqbal’s brother, performs a series of poems inspired by the same paintings and poetry that influenced his sister when writing the tracks on Weighing of the Heart. Delivering his poems with such a captivating vitality and eloquence, it’s evident that this talent for words and rhythms runs in the family.
As Nabihah Iqbal opens her set with the hypnotic ‘Eden Piece,’ ethereal, hushed vocals and flowing piano melodies swirl and settle like a dream-like mist, before punchy 80s-style drum beats kick in and shimmering guitar chords soar through with a resonant radiance. There’s a crystalline quality to each of the sounds that form this richly textural tapestry, both in the infectious rhythms of ‘Something More’ or ‘Zone 1 to 6000,’ Iqbal’s ode to William Blake’s poem, ‘London,’ and in the graceful and pensive ‘Slowly’ or the lo-fi and lingering ‘Feels So Right.’
The expansive sonic landscape that Iqbal purveys live is entirely mesmerising. As she talks about the visual and poetic art that inspired certain tracks, the poeticism and vibrancy of her own music is apparent, as is its transcendental capabilities. ‘Something More’ offers a dreamy fusion of driving beats and glistening, spiralling synths, over which Iqbal’s airy vocals cascade, whilst ‘Alone Together’ purveys a certain heady resonance, as reverb-soaked chords echo with a sun-drenched brightness.
Weaving so many nuanced layers of detail into the set, Iqbal and her bandmate possess this impressive ability to create such a vast and all-encompassing sound, that carries you to a nostalgia-tinged, otherworldly realm. “One of the main responses I’ve been getting from people who are listening to the record,” Iqbal tells us between tracks, “well, there are two main comments that keep coming up again and again. One of them is a lot of people are saying that it’s reminding them of distant memories and making them think about things they haven’t thought about for ages
The other thing is that people keep writing to me saying my album’s making them cry…I hope it’s in a good way,” she says, adding, “but to be fair, to hear that as the maker of the music, it’s just insane. My only aim with the music that I make is just to evoke some sort of emotional response, so even if it works for one person, then my job is done.” She’s certainly making more of an impression than that.
Iqbal closes with a suitably brooding cover of The Cure’s ‘A Forest.’ It’s a perfect ending to an utterly spellbinding show, filled with layers upon layers of 80s-influenced, dazzling sounds that beckon you in and transport you to a sonic reverie that you don’t really want to leave.