Navigating through the huddle of smokers shivering at the doorway and into the comforting warmth of the Shacklewell Arms, it is evident that winter has well and truly arrived. In recent weeks the chill has begun to bite, but the bodies packing out the drab backroom at the trendy East London venue are not here merely to shelter from the cold. The buzz in the air is courtesy of Jerkcurb, the principle musical vessel of Jacob Read, an enigmatic artist hailing from South East London.
Jerkcurb, with a rich offering of ambient, low-fi melodies, has amassed something of a cult following and tonight’s show is understandably sold-out; an achievement made all the more impressive considering the relative lack of released material under the Jerkcurb name. Debut single Night on Earth – for which the 24 year old, also a talented illustrator, designed the artwork – was released only this summer, inevitably turning heads at the likes of Noisey and NME.
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Also a member of promising four-piece Horsey, the dexterous Read forms part of a nebulous crop of emerging artists centred around the creatively-fecund streets of Peckham; a heritage which subtly oozes into his musical output, with minimalist, jazz-tinged nuances giving that particular part of the capital something of a distinctive sound.
The first half of the set is performed solo. Opening with ‘Shadow Show’ the woozy, aesthetic nature of Jerkcurbs repertoire is laid bare as Read sways demurely under the spotlight.
Whilst sharing musical similarities, Jerkcurb cannot simply be pigeonholed as a hazy singer-songwriter somewhere between Mac Demarco and former-collaborator King Krule. Lyrically he is obscure and explorative, delving readily into the eerie and arcane on Somerton Beach; a song evoking the Mystery of the Somerton Man. Incidentally Read created the accompanying video animation for that track, furthering his credentials as an accomplished multimedia creative.
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The arrival of The Jerks – Jerkcurbs indeterminable backing band – midway through the show cramps the small stage but adds depth to the intimate, stripped-back solo numbers.
Midnight Snack, B-side to the debut single, is a delightful phantasm; the two female vocalists complementing Read perfectly as he serenades the crowd with his tale of nocturnal indulgence (“peanut butter and jelly”) and wistful insomnia.
In a room packed out with disaffected millennials, it is not hard to imagine Read singing on defiant as the ship submerges below the dark, icy waters of 2016; an image perfectly encapsulated in closing song Night on Earth, a sublime apocalyptic love ballad.
Under the motionless mirror ball, it’s end-of-days disco for irreverent youth.
You can catch Jerkcurb at London’s Electrowerkz on 07 March 2017.