John Wills, guitarist of Pumajaw, the musical pairing behind Song Noir, entered the room and crossed the stage, barely acknowledging the audience as he picked up his electric guitar and pressed a button on his laptop. A rattle of a rhythm, almost industrial sounding, juddered through the room as Pinkie Maclure, similarly silent and dressed illustriously in a velvet, funereal dress, entered and sauntered to the microphone. As the chilling chords of the electric guitar shook with acoustic perfection, Maclure raised her sultry eyes to the audience and began to sing.
Considering silence that had come before (replaced by an unsettling noir backdrop of samples both visual and aural), the effect of her voice could not be more potent. It possesses an echoic depth that draws the audience into introspection, and a rasp that jars the bones and relaxes the body in equal measure. As she reveals the extent of her vocal range, so too does she reveal her technical discipline. The voice that emerged betrayed all expectation, and continued only to affirm this sentiment as the show progressed.
Let us not do Wills an injustice, either. His work on the synthetic harmonies are crucial to the overall feel of the piece, even if some of the visuals feel a little contrived. His aptitude with guitar and keyboard was clear, and he is, figuratively and literally, in tune with every vocal inflection and every harmonic nuance of his counterpart.
The respect that the entire show exhibits for atmosphere distends simply the songs themselves. Everything about Song Noir is a tightly orchestrated performance. Maclure says only a handful of words, Wills even fewer as he maintains an almost Lurch-like demeanour, as they choose to let the songs speak for themselves. She submits to an almost narcotic state as the hour progresses, swaying and moving with a kind of hallucinogenic abandon. This was a state to which it was hard not to concede.
The show ended as it started. Maclure turned her back on the audience and left the room in silence. Wills put down his guitar and followed. Song Noir is the Blues, but one song will probably suffice to change our entire understanding of the genre.