François and the Atlas Mountains open with a clutch of songs from brilliant new record Solide Mirage, including ‘Tendre Est l’Âme’ and the gorgeous calypso lilt ‘Apocalypse à Ipsos’, each of which turns on a variation of a single groove; peaking and dipping like a gentle wave.
The highlife-inflected ‘Grand Dérèglement’ is an early standout; a joyous, blue-sky riff taking flight over a brooding synth-pop groove.
I quickly find myself entranced, caught in a rhythmic spin-cycle I’ve no hope of disentangling myself from.
The high-tempo ‘Âpres Après’ sets pulses racing, as an insistent synth arpeggio wraps itself around a busy backbeat to the point of bursting before being sweetly interrupted by François Marry’s fey, pleasantly reedy vocal.
Reflecting on acts who have similarly captured me through the art of repetition, I find them to be generally cut of more extreme cloth (see Earth, Swans, Sunn O))) et al): rarely do an indie-pop band command this enviable power, but François and the Atlas Mountains certainly do.
More than being excellent performers, they’re also the sort of guys you just want to be friends with.
They convey an irrepressible bonhomie from the stage, flashing knowing grins at one another during a particularly sweet turn of musical phrase, or swaying in sync to the big refrain as easily as if they’d been at it since they were 10.
Gerard Black – a longtime fixture of the Glasgow music scene and better known for his work with Babe – joins the fivesome on an already cosy stage to add vocals and keys, and is instantly all smiles and jokes, like everyone’s favourite cousin unexpectedly dropping in to an already great party.
François and the Atlas Mountains impress me no end tonight: having never caught them live before, I’m taken aback by how genuinely uplifting their breezy indie-pop becomes when performed without inhibition for an eager, optimistic crowd.
It’s an immersive, social, and wholly positive experience: what glossy O2 adverts try to trick you into believing every soulless stadium rock show is like, well, a François and the Atlas Mountains show is really like.
A well-deserved shout-out goes to Glasgow’s own Spinning Coin, indie four-piece signed to Stephen Pastel’s Geographic imprint, who shine in support.
Marrying fuzzy squall with jangly sweetness as aptly as their label boss did in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it’s clear as day why they were snapped up as eagerly as they were – recent single ‘Raining On Hope Street’ is a real highlight.
Words: Graham Neil Gillespie