Eartheater at Village Underground review: enchanting, raw experimental pop

 (Sebastian Gardner )
(Sebastian Gardner )

Another crowd could have become restless as they waited for Eartheater, but the lace-clad twentysomethings were content to hunker down in Shoreditch's Village Underground and tinker with their vintage camcorders while they waited. And when she finally emerged, it sent the crowd into raptures.

Eartheater – real name Alexandra Drewchin – is a multi-instrumentalist and experimental musician with a siren-like voice, based in Queens, New York. Once describing herself as “conceptually claustrophobic”, she doesn’t feel the need to choose between harsh digital noise and the gentle plucking of a harp.

With abstract and at times seemingly nonsensical lyrics that harness the strength and power of the natural world (her song titles include Mitosis, Volcano, Metamorphlexible, RIP Chrysalis, and Diamond in the Bedrock) she unpacks what it means to change.

But how would this all translate to a live setting? Instead of setting out to replicate the visuals of previous music videos in a small venue like Village Underground, in this show she offered something more stripped back and raw, with less of a focus on theatrics.

Support came from Brooklyn-based composer and performer Concrete Husband, which, to give a sense of the night's vibe, included an epic half-hour flute marathon.

Following the fashionable delay, Eartheater then took to the stage, and was met by a chorus of clicks and cries of adoration. Despite a slightly shaky opening which included a few restarts, some intermittent vaping, and an emergency glove removal that required the assistance of two people, the show gained power and momentum with each number. The energy she brought to pulsing tracks like High Tide offset against the raw vulnerability of How to Fight, where it felt like just Drewchin and her guitar.

The first half of Eartheater’s set was dominated by the sweeter, gushing tracks of her latest album Powders, which came out in September this year. Later, she dipped into her highly eclectic discography that spans more than eight albums.

As much as Eartheater embraces the so-called bimbo-core aesthetic in a way that feels both a parody but also a challenge (why should women have to prove their intelligence or fulfil particular criteria in order to be taken seriously), there is a burning core of sharp wit and poeticism simmering beneath her music.

This was apparent throughout the performance, where she giggled, moaned or staged faux-tantrums, before delivering blistering takes on womanhood. In Below the Clavicle, she sings “I’m a clever girl, to keep my mouth shut".

Elsewhere, there were dramatised displays of restrained power. Twinkly electronic track Pure Smile Snake Venom sees her reassure the object of her affection: “I choose not to bite you, in spite of my venom." As she jumped and skipped around the front of the stage, the crowd hollered every word with her.

Of the many instruments she can play, Drewchin’s vocal cords were the MVP, reaching a crescendo during tracks like Volcano or Below the Clavicle, and striking blows that managed to be both guttural and enchanting.

Eartheater once promised on a podcast that anyone who tattooed her image on their body would secure themselves free concert tickets for life – this seems an offer worth accepting for anyone who finds themselves strapped for cash next time she graces London with her presence.