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Review: Louis Culture @ Dareshack

Louis' set was opened by an equally innovative Bristol local, both challengers in their sounds that maintained smiles throughout the night.

By Benji ChapmanCo-Deputy Music Editor

A rising star in the UK rap scene, Louis Culture turned heads with his debut album Smile Soundsystem. The title and grinning expression which emblaze the front cover suggest from the get-go that Louis' music is profoundly joyful. Make no mistake, Louis is no newcomer to grime however: founding Elevation Meditation alongside contemporaries P-Rallel and Lord Apex in 2020. His performance was expectedly full of cheery energy balanced with consummate respect for fellow collaborators- particularly opener HANAH.

The opening of the night from HANAH is one which I feel obligated to mention, with the performance attaching symbiotically to Louis' subsequent set. Often I find that opening artists must either bear the burden of warming up a begrudging crowd, or are overlooked by their touring host, however this time things were different.

Bristol-based ambient artist HANAH has been lovingly referred to by many names and most notably as 'young Björk' by Louis. Frankly I can see why, with her marriage of mysterious and resplendent soundscapes with a raw vocal delivery which features on Smile Soundsystem. The tweeting birds and fizzy synthesisers of her live sound shimmered and splattered the blank canvas of Dareshack's concert room, producing a wash of gorgeous sound complete with atmosphere from the lighting bar and smokescreen.

Previewing unreleased tracks, HANAH debuted pieces to an audience who quickly became transfixed by her melodies that cut through the ambience. She opened her set with hazy soundscapes but soon changed things up as she lifted her guitar for the track 'Looking In'. A reverberated guitar in open tuning weaves its way through the fog as a crooning voice hums and bounces off of the warm chords.

Speaking to HANAH after her set, I gave thanks for her final song, that was written in memoriam and in celebration of her grandma. Emotionally reaching the crowd, she dedicated the song 'Solo' to those in the audience who have "loved and lost".

Stood in her grandma's shirt of her favourite electric blue colour, the charged energy of the performance felt spacey in its open sound and simultaneously shocking to the touch with the knowledge of the song's backstory, lyrics and tortured yet touching delivery.

The song was a personal touchstone for me and evidently the audience who were also enamoured by her set, the likes of which I haven't seen in Bristol for some time. As I blabber afterwards, it was my favourite of the year so far. A definite standout show and one which progressively elevated the levels of emotional intensity in preparation of Louis' show to come.

HANAH @ Dareshack | Benji Chapman

After a short break, the ambient sounds are reeled in as Louis' DJ introduces bouncy instrumentals full of rattling hi-hats and soft bass notes. The lively rapper, bursting with vivacity, is far more keen to explore the stage as he runs from end to end of the space in a blur of smiles and lyrics.

It's no surprise the artist boasting a debut album named Smile Soundsystem is so cheery, still his energy has an airtight closeness to his collaborators; shouting out HANAH and exclaiming "I'm so happy we're on tour together". Referencing his previous shows at Thekla and Exchange, Louis proved his enthusiasm within Bristol's music scene was one which predates his show at Dareshack.

Wearing his bright red t-shirt which boasted the tour's name, Louis stands out in the foreground against the stark backdrop of the room's front, with a bold stage presence. Continuing to engage with the crowd he tackles the melancholic topics of his songs with a humble wittiness onstage, "how can I talk about no love when I got you guys!"

Louis Culture @ Dareshack | Benji Chapman

Something about the performance was wholly unifying: perhaps it’s the fact that HANAH's brother who designed her merchandise is in the crowd with us, because HANAH herself is watching the stage to our left, or even the small interactions that featured in the night between fans. It may have simply been that both artists so strongly engaged everyone in the room with their positive energy.

Whatever guided the shared sense of reverence in the room it was a series of factors that left a potent feeling of meaningfulness as Louis exclaimed, "don't give up on love… make some noise if you believe in yourself" when his set reached a close. Playing his hit 'Part 2', before a brief encore, the night was marked by hidden gems from early Soundcloud days as well as bigger tracks off his new releases.

I was compelled to thank HANAH after the show as she greeted and chatted with fans. Her career will certainly be one to watch, and I am certain that good things lie on the horizon regarding her musical offerings. My only complaint during the evening, one shared with two fans I chatted to in a line for the toilet, was that the show was not so short. We were simply ravenous for more of the artists' live offerings.

Featured Image: Benji Chapman

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