When openers Sleep Thieves clamber onto the stage upstairs at Whelan’s there can be no more than a dozen people in attendance, but it doesn’t seem to matter to the Dublin three-piece. Their synth-heavy electro rock is stunningly delicate and naÃ¯ve at times, showcasing the bands impressive ability to swap roles and instrumentation. Sleep Thieves aren’t quite the finished article yet, with a live sound that’s still a little rustic and rough around the edges, but in songs like Winter there’s potential practically oozing from the three of them.
By the time Midori Hirano arrives the Sunday night crowd has filled out substantially, and most stop mid-conversation to glance around in confusion when the Japanese starlet takes to the stage. Midori opens her set with the metronomic beat of what sounds like half a dozen musically aware clocks, doing so entirely unannounced and without laying an eye on the audience. In fact, ten minutes into her set and still in the midst of her first layered instrumental, you could get good odds on whether she knows she’s playing to an audience at all. As shy and retiring as she is, however, Midori’s sounds are truly mesmerising.
The metronomic ticking is layered with the gentle keyboard sounds of an evidently accomplished piano player, producing an often-wordless soundtrack that seems to change the pace of the world around it. The majority of the audience spend most of Midori’s 50-minute, 4-song set gaping open mouthed and silent at the stage, only occasionally leaving their trance for long enough to sip a beer or applaud and whoop vocally between tunes. It’s difficult not to think of falling petals, or the world accelerating to twice the speed outside Whelan’s window while inside time grinds to a standstill.
When Midori does sing – there are perhaps two minutes of vocals in her entire set – her voice is just another finely tuned instrument, adding to the carefully layered, trance-inducing chill out she’s already throwing together with noticeable ease. Remarkably Midori performs the entire set with only the gentlest of movements: a quick flick of her Mac’s mouse pad, an elegant turn between her two angled keyboards and a spattering of intimate vocals: at times she looks like a casually-dressed office worker idling time away at her desk. Her sound, however, is subtle, complex and compelling, and despite the lack of stage presence, nobody in Whelan’s can take their eyes of her. Sensational.