British alternative musical duo Aquilo kicked off their North American tour in Cambridge at the Sinclair on Oct. 3. The band’s two members, Ben Fletcher and Tom Higham, are known for their ambient, dream-like sound, teeming with piercing vocals and sleek production. Bringing their talent to the States, Aquilo gave a memorable performance at the Sinclair, playing seven songs from their newest album “Silhouette.”
The band opened with “I Could Fight on a Wall,” a song emblematic of Aquilo’s velvety sound. Pianist and vocalist Ben Fletcher was giddy with emotion, exclaiming how excited they were to start their North American journey in Cambridge. Quite shy at first, the duo got more comfortable with the audience as the show went on and began to banter. Their energy and passion became palpable in both their banter and body language.
Later into the show, Ben spoke about the inspiration behind their album track “Better Off Without You”: “This song is about Tom’s ex-girlfriend. She was nice, but not to Tom.” Every time they stopped playing the music and started talking to the audience, they spoke with an unshakeable sense of sincerity.
While the music was melodious and whimsically disarming, many of the songs seemed to bleed into one another. The band alternated between soft triumph and lonely despair, making it hard to differentiate one song from the next. There were some distinct songs that broke the monotony, such as “Complication,” which drew inspiration from funk. The duo’s tendency to play loops from previous songs while transitioning to their next particularly didn’t help them break away from this auditory uniformity.
That is not to say, however, that the show was not enjoyable. The duo has immense talent and a great sound. With their sensual vocals and haunting ambience, Aquilo lulled the audience into a state of quiet introspection. However, this lulling teetered on the edge of lullaby and would have been better had it been complemented with a more varied or better-structured set list.
Aquilo’s opener, Yoke Lore, was an excellent taste of what was to come. A musical duo from New York, Yoke Lore played some high energy synthpop to pump up the crowd. Accompanying their layered sound with banjo acoustics, Yoke Lore achieved a unique sound that set the tone for the rest of the night.
As is typical for the Sinclair, a venue with a stylish warehouse vibe, a mix of concrete and classic red brick flooring, and a tall ceiling, the show’s production was superb. Outside of one or two instances when percussion instruments obscured the vocals, the sound was phenomenally crisp. The colored dynamic lighting was also a welcome addition to the show. Often bathed in a soft red or blue light, the duo were complemented by the constant dynamic interplay of shadows and light, working seamlessly with their eerie sound.
Aquilo ended the night with the title song of their newest album: “Silhouette.” Much like the song, the concert began quietly, with both the audience and artist unsure of which direction the show was going. However, once the duo became comfortable with the audience, every song gained a certain gravity. Each word and melody became part of a symphonic sound as they allowed their music to build gradually and dissipate naturally. A bit of a slow burn, Aquilo’s show may have left spectators who left early disappointed, but, for those who stayed for the whole show, it was a treat.