The way you view a venue – a stage, even – can change instantly when watching two different acts perform one after another. This couldn’t have been clearer when witnessing Norwegian indie-pop darlings Highasakite perform a sell-out show in Hackney ahead of releasing their new album; this comes after their debut album Silent Treatment broke Norwegian records, after being in the top 40 for over 92 weeks.
Within the tiered, saloon-style walls of Hoxton Hall, it felt like the support act - Oslo’s Apothek - were engulfed by the sheer space around them. With 3 performers multi-tasking to trigger every sound created, it was surprising to see such a calm, introverted performance. Their stillness contributed to a mellow electronic experience similar to that of Atoms For Peace, particularly during haunting single 'Family'.
The lead singer’s persona seemed shy when the music stopped; when singing, he appeared engagingly vulnerable, although his voice actually conjured up visions of the likes of Ezra Furman or Jack Steadman, albeit within a far more melancholy environment. In the context of Hoxton Hall, a music hall first established in the 19th century that’s used to big, bold performances, the Norwegian band didn’t quite manage to fill the room, but you can quite easily imagine them bringing the house down in a more modern, less cavernous space.
In stark contrast, 5-piece Highasakite almost felt crammed into the performance space with little room to manoeuvre. Lead singer Ingrid Helene Håvik almost seemed trapped in the centre of the stage, while the other members appeared to tone down their movement for fear of knocking lights over. This fear was justified – along with those provided by Hoxton Hall, there were multiple stage lights blaring out on occasion to stun the audience. Whether it was fabulous or cluttered, it provided the main difference between support and headline: Highasakite really know how to put on a show.
Playing a combination of songs from previous releases and upcoming singles from their album Camp Echo, which is currently available to pre-order, the whole group brought a theatrical thrill to proceedings. Håvik in particular revelled in the drama – her fascinating voice could pull off powerful melodies and soft, Ellie Goulding-like inflections in equal measure.
Her choreographed moves during each song were perfectly polished, and this was reflected in the whole show – the band seemed not only comfortable onstage, but every movement and expression was prepared, perfected. This can often be considered a criticism, but in this case, it felt like a lovingly crafted theatrical performance, tailored exactly to the fans’ desires.
As a band, Highasakite feel hugely inspired by two genres – slow, ghostly indie-folk and unashamed pop. Often, such as in 'Since Last Wednesday', the intro to the track will be slow, ethereal to the point of sounding close to the ambience of Sigur Rós. Before long however, the beat will come in and drag the song in a different direction, occasionally even featuring Eastern influences. It’s an interesting place to be musically, and not something they should necessarily change, since they are so gifted at both.
Judging by their performance, it’s clear the band seem more inclined to stomping pop anthems, but while they keep the quirks, they will continue to preserve their individuality and gain more fans. Using a cello bow to create a scratchy, sustained bass guitar sound, the appearance of the lesser-spotted flugabone and its subsequent looping are just some of the little intricacies that Highasakite should look to keep – it is, after all, part of what makes them who they are. Their show suggested that they can easily fill bigger stages than that of Hoxton Hall; whether they can recreate that imperious yet intimate atmosphere remains to be seen, but they continue to be destined, and prepared, for big things.