Saint Sister – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton – 8th December 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

It’s not often that The Hope & Ruin, a venue synonymous with underground punk and DIY rock and roll, gets a night of sophisticated pop – and on a Saturday night no less. This is what happened when Irish duo Saint Sister came to town. A pop band steeped in the modernist pop of Sampha and The xx with a more heavenly slant, the duo performed an elegant, euphoric and intrinsic take on electronica.

Kicking off the night were South London outfit Balcony, who composed an incredibly confident set of lowkey, brooding pop. A band who have impressively released music under their own label, Entourage Recordings, the four-piece played a set of their singles including brand-new song ‘Parking Lots’. A song that sounds like it’s more influenced by the autotuned hip-hop revolution like The Weeknd, it’s instantly clear that the band have crafted their very own niche in the indie world. Meditative and expansive, it was an excellent display of brilliant pop music.

Irish singer-songwriter Ciaran Lavery, who is providing the main support for Saint Sister’s entire tour, offered a slight change in tempo. With just him on stage with his guitar, the talented singer performed a self-proclaimed “greatest hits set”, showing the confidence and the bravado to silence the Saturday night Hope & Ruin crowd. Performing the likes of ‘Shame’ and ‘Your Artist’, his brand of folk similarly evokes Vance Joy and Luke Sital-Singh, but it’s his on-stage talk that provides the biggest entertainment. Talking about how he used to be in a punk band, as well as the conversations he’s overheard while on stage, there’s a laid back attitude to Lavery that is refreshing.

Thus, the night was set for Saint Sister to return to Brighton and conquer The Hope & Ruin stage. Showcasing their debut album, Shape of Silence, for the first time on the South Coast, the band executed their unique brand of electronica-meets-folk sublimely. An early outing of single ‘Twin Peaks’ set the tone for the evening with its gorgeous vocals and breezy synth lines whirling around the intimate venue. Instantly it’s clear the chemistry between both Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre and the love they have for the music they’ve created together.

‘Tin Man’, ‘Madrid’ and ‘The Shape of Silence’ swiftly followed and exhibited the duo’s sophisti-pop even further. With Doherty’s harp adding an atmospheric, hazy aura, as well as both Doherty and MacIntyre’s haunting vocals boosting the aura, it’s an incredibly unique experience for this venue. With a beautiful album under their belt this year, as well as this exceptional performance, Saint Sister have proved themselves as one of the most exciting acts the UK has to offer.

Liam McMillen