Scala & Kolacny Brothers - Union Chapel, London
Deciding to make their UK live debut in the Gothic surroundings of Islington’s Union Chapel could not have been a more apt choice for Scala & Kolacny Brothers. Forget about the fact that the acoustics of the church made their sound reverberate and swell gorgeously around the surroundings; it was apt because by the end of their 90-minute set, the classically trained brothers and all-girls choir Scala had the audience in raptures.
Whether re-interpreting well-known rock efforts or turning their hand to their own compositions, everything was delivered flawlessly, aside from a minor false start which composer Stijn Kolacny gently ribs his brother Steven about. Scala's vocal harmonies are the star; Stijn keeping perfect timing in the little pockets of harmonies that develop into an all-encompassing wall of beautiful sound. One of numerous highlights comes when the choir move through the pews resulting in a stunning circle of harmonies with each individual contribution standing out and merging at the same time.
It’s not all sunshine though – their version of Marilyn Manson’s ‘The Beautiful People’ is notable for its foreboding tone and the childish joy you get from hearing a choir swear. Same goes for their oft-used cover of ‘Creep’, tonight accompanied by their striking image of a depressed clown, with their hushed delivery of the closing “I wish I was special” spinetingingly brilliant and appropriately creepy. It’s a direction that a fair amount of their original compositions take; a perfect mix of light and dark creating beguiling pieces of work. Even when they don’t fully hit the target, their uniqueness means that they’re never a dull listen.
And unique should probably be the keyword of the night. A ‘gig’ doesn’t seem like quite the right way to describe it, although the banter between the brothers would be worthy of We Are Scientists, and calling it an ‘event’ seems more appropriate. Not just because it was their first UK live show, but also that every aspect (the setting especially) fitted perfectly to make the night an “I was there” moment. That the setlist seemed determined to surprise as much as a read of Ryan Giggs’ personal diary, seemed oddly fitting as well. Perhaps most surprising of all was the filthy techno of set closer ‘I Fail’, its mix of beats and choral vocals really shouldn’t have worked and yet wouldn’t have felt out of place at a rave, rightly resulting in a huge standing ovation.
Thankfully that didn’t prove to be the end though and while it could have proved anti-climactic after a good few minutes of massive applause, superb renditions of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Solsbury Hill’ (the perkiest, most uplifting track of the night) and a beautiful and touching ‘With Or Without You’ ensured no-one could have been disappointed. As the brothers left Scala to perform on their own before they solemnly departed one-by-one as they had arrived on stage, thoughts immediately turned to when we’d be able to witness such a thing again.
Quite simply, if Scala & Kolacny Brothers are playing in the same country as you, find any way possibly to see them as they provide an experience that you won’t have ever seen before. Well, unless you’ve already seen them that is and, in that case, see them again!
WHEN DOVES CRY
NOTHING ELSE MATTERS
WITH OR WITHOUT YOU