Arriving at the sparkling facade of the Moth Club just in time to catch the wonderful, string-strewn, punk-driven cacophony of POZI, I’m ready to be blown away by Manchester artist Kiran Leonard once again.
Opening with the first track from his new album Western Culture, ‘The Universe Knows No Smile’ immediately draws us into the whirring, twinkling splendour and multiple sonic elements of Leonard’s creations. Following, as does the album, with ‘Paralysed Force’, we bear witness to an immense raw emotion and impassioned majesty that casts us under Leonard’s spell in an instant. Angst-driven, yet dreamily euphoric; discordant, yet eerily beautiful; he wails, and he whispers, captivating the ears and not losing focus for a second. Showcasing his innovative song-writing skill with rich, multi-layered soundscapes and an epic intensity, Leonard continues to captivate as his soaring falsetto soars amid immense whirring hooks and mind-blowing, clattering cowbell-heavy beats.
Reflecting on the state of society with a spine-tingling poignancy, ‘Working People’ flows with intricate finger-picking and the distinct, visceral emotion of Leonard’s vocals, providing an utterly engrossing and lyrically rich offering, resonating with a subtle power. Continuing the run of album tracks, ‘An Easel’ (“ a song about power and responsibility…”) emanates a racing sense of urgency.
Interrupting the order of tracks from Western Culture, we’re treated to a “long song” from 2016’s Grapefruit. With fluid finger-picked hooks and swirling layers of sound, throughout ‘Don’t Make Friends With Good People’, Leonard blasts out immense shocks of energy interwoven with moments of quiet reflection, as frenzied beats are juxtaposed with an intricate musicality, building to create an utterly blissful cacophony. Continuing with another “old song”, and personal favourite, ‘Secret Police’ oozes its stirring anthemic grandeur and cinematic, goosebump-inducing power, leaving me as spellbound as the first time I heard it, back at Green Man Festival a few years back.
And back to the new album. Inspired by a conversation with a friend about stress, ‘Shuddering Instance’ races with scuzzy, discordant hooks and a gritty, seething passion before ‘Unreflective Life’ (“a song about selfies”) and ‘Suspension’ whirr with a raw ferocity.
Closing with ‘Geraldo’s Farm’, from 2013’s debut Bowler Hat Soup, a magnificent wall of sound of epic proportions is created, as each of the four band members offer their own intense sonic force, spiralling to a potent, dramatic climax to end the set.
And once again, Kiran Leonard has succeeded in taking my breath away. This being perhaps the fifth time I’ve seen him live, I was a little worried – as with any favourite – that this time wouldn’t be as impressive as the last, but I certainly had nothing to fear. A perfectly balanced set of songs new and old, Kiran Leonard and his band continue to offer something entirely unique and unforgettably poignant. The emotion and hypnotic sense of awe generated whilst watching Leonard live is unparalleled to any other performance I’ve seen. Although I have compared him to the likes of underrated ‘90s grunge outfit, Slint, in the past – and the similarities remain – it is safe to say that Kiran Leonard is truly one of a kind. And I can’t wait to hear where he might take our ears next.
Western Culture, the new album from Kiran Leonard, is out now.