Run Toto Run - Favela Chic, Shoreditch
I first experienced Manchester based Run Toto Run about a year ago when they were a lot more akin to some lo-fi indie version of A Mid-Summer Night's Dream and likely to conjure up magical animal heads alongside violins and mandolins, charmingly drenched in twee.
A year later they are firmly ensconced in a more beat driven place, courtesy of synths and drum pads. The only instruments on stage tonight in Shoreditch are electronics, and to quote something they said a while back, they now keep the 'twee' in a box and only let it out in small doses. That's the case with most of the finer things in life, less really is more. Silver and gold wouldn't be so precious if they made trains out of it. They are playing Favela Chic on a Wednesday night, implausibly squeezed between two post-punk indie rock outfits that I had a polite listen to, were nice enough, but ... let's just leave them damned with faint praise.
What is it then that sets Run Toto Run apart and makes people, myself included, keep coming back?
The answer to this are some bloody good tunes, but more essentially it is the charm that singer Rachael Kichenside brings to this. Not just in a 'what a nice person' sort of way but via stage presence in bucket loads. It was strange to be half chatting with the band beforehand and then see the artistic transformation take place. For all its pretence at finery, Favela Chic is basically a bar with a stage. Denied a readily accessible dressing room, Rachael crouches in a corner of the stage while the two guys in the band set up, then at the given moment she steps up and adopts a bent and angular pose like someone playing solo Twister. As the synths kick in she comes to life. She writhes and moves with the music, but then there are moments of stillness when she pauses in time and space; there is a glance out from under her fringe coupled with a half smile. Matt and Mike both hover away doing mysterious things hunched over synths and drum pads, which does more than provide a launch pad for Rachael's vocal take-off, they are bloody good in their own right these two.
Back in their fairy spells period, they caused a minor internet sensation with a completely gorgeous cover of Passion Pit's 'Sleepyhead', the best moment of which was when all of them collapse giggling at the end. They didn't play this tonight, and I think it shows some determination not to play the closest thing they have had to a hit. What carries over from that however, is the sense of theatrical fun.
The music that comes out of them now is typified by songs like 'Fall Back' and 'Did You Hear That' - the 'that' in question being "...the sound of me losing respect for you..". It might be coming out of Roland 808s and their ilk, but the keyboard sound still has plenty of twinkle and sparkle alongside some frankly danceable lines. Rachael's voice is intimate, slightly breathy, addictive in its charm, while the overall sound carries out a deft balancing act between 'quirky' and Ibiza cliff-drop synths.
They've got an album in the can. Come on guys, get it out there. We're waiting!