It would appear that no one has told SG Lewis that obituaries for Chill Wave were written years ago. All its main purveyors, Blood Orange, Washed Out and Ariel Pink, annoyingly distanced themselves from the genre, unwilling to associate themselves with a club that would have them as members. Which is a shame, as the down tempo and processed loops easily justified their own genre, even if it was made up, something which hardly distinguishes it from every music category. The stage containing two synths, a drum kit Phil Collins’ would eat for breakfast, a guitar and an apple Mac is a promising start.
Off the back of his nocturnally flecked R&B singles, you’d be forgiven for thinking SG Lewis was the new white soul hope, but the opening songs of extended balearica, like a deep house/nu disco DJ set being played live by the studio that made it, is baffling. As the vocals kick in, and no one’s singing, things get increasingly confusing. Who is SG Lewis? Are they a band, a person? You are left wondering if the three studio dudes are actually playing anything, but it’s irrelevant when this immersive – prog rockers will be turning in their graves. It’s soon revealed , after soul-searching guitar joins the lush beats, that it’s SG Lewis centre stage. He thanks the young crowd for coming, genuinely chuffed at having sold out Hackney’s Oslo. There are so many teenagers that it’s unlikely anyone in Hackney can get a babysitter tonight.
Some intimacy is sadly lost through the playback vocals, so it’s a relief when JP Cooper bounces on, looking like London’s 90s acid jazz scene never died, and sings Shivers. It’s electro-soul perfection, a warmly sincere love letter to how music can save us. ‘I heard old men sing with youth in their voice/When that old-time record plays.’
We have barely recovered before 19-year old Zac Abel bounces onto stage like he’s missed the One Direction tour bus. It’s hard to know what he’s more pleased with, his jumper or his hair. He gamely postures about to the breakbeats and cascading synths of Higher Ground, but no amount of enthusiasm can compensate for a song that’s already trying too hard.
They close with the lush All Night , which is the sound of M83 writing a hit, and getting it. This is music for when you have time on your hands, like cafe del mar still meant something. A reference probably lost on the crowd, but with a few more songs and a resident vocalist, SG Lewis could find himself with something very special.