Sleep Thieves don’t just trundle on stage in that meek half embarrassed fashion-they are a band who arrives. No introductory pleasantries, no fiddling around with instruments, as the darkness envelopes the room their complete confidence flickers into life as they bravely open with a new track ‘Is This Ready?’ Their trademark pitch-black electro floods the stage as if they were beamed in from a basement bar in Berlin.
This alluring, dynamic atmosphere is enforced by the captivating self-assured stage presence of lead singer Sorcha Brennan. She bewitches as she coils like smoke around the microphone lead, a tangle of curls, a flash of gold and fringing, twisting – she is a pale ghost conjured up by the throbbing iciness of the album title track and recent single ‘You Want the Night’, her fragile vocals fluttering and soaring through the relentless, grinding beats . With barely time to gain composure the cinematic ‘Ishimura’ is unfurled, it’s snapping synths battling the fog of the stage as it swirls around in motion to the ricocheting, dreamy guitars to a dramatic climax-a soundtrack for a film yet to be made.
Blitzing into the deep sensuality of ‘French Kiss’ it is Anita Lane at her most inky or Bat for Lashes at their most magnetic, the rumbling almost Peter Hookesque bass-line hypnotises as the vocals jump from kittenish vulnerability to full-blooded commandments, it encapsulates that certain brand of black magic that Sleep Thieves can intoxicate a crowd with. The band injects the room with a heavy weather with sombre violent hues. They can create an atmosphere that is so overwhelming and with such intensity and ferocity that breaks out in a live setting like an animal unleashed, that at times it is hard to believe there are only three people on stage creating such a powerful, heady brew.
The chinks of light through this brooding ambience come in the form of the whirring robotics of the Spotify–smashing ‘City of Hearts’, that builds and bursts into metallic beauty amid the aching isolation of the lyrics and the delicate perfection of their bona fide chrome pop moment ‘Sparks’. Every inch of ‘Sparks’ is graffitied with dazzling hooks, the air filling with heady lust as the crowd responds to their siren song about the search for love with cheers and twirls on the sticky dance floor. Old favourite ‘Islands’ is given a muscular live make over, whose irresistible ’80s beats and melody once tangibly recalled images of Winona enrobed in her thrift shop finest staring longingly into the middle distance, it now packs a new forceful punch. It echoes and swoops, the tender melodrama of its lyrics writ large, the pain of loss amplified into a trembling crescendo.
Finishing with the opaque wonder of ‘Oceans’ pulsing with menace, it is the unending battle between their lightness of touch and brawny melodies captured in one song as Sorcha’s pin sharp falsetto snakes around the sinister boom of synth/guitarist Wayne’s Knife-style altered vocals. With that, Sleep Thieves exit the stage acknowledging the audience with heartfelt ‘thank yous’ before disappearing as enigmatically as they arrived. As one of the country’s most exciting and exhilarating live acts we should cherish them before they depart to dominate the cities, dance-floors and hearts of faraway places that are surely to fall under their seductive spell.
Sleep Thieves play Forbidden Fruit on Sunday