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Review: Rhodes @ KOKO 9/10/15

There’s a spark of anticipation in the air as the lights dip to a low glow and the bassist, cellist, rhythm guitarist, and drummer who form RHODES’ band let a growing hum ripple through the venue, surging over the crowd and filling the room. When RHODES himself glides onstage he acknowledges the crowd with nothing more than a demure nod. The night is about the music, nothing more, and this entrance says as much.

To coincide with the release of his debut album Wishes, RHODES played to a sold out Koko in Camden and brought a sound that was the epitome of atmospheric. Despite releasing numerous EPs and singles since 2013, notably including Morning and Let It All Go (written and performed with Birdy), Wishes is RHODES’ first official album. Playing perfectly through the most part of his set, he proved that it has enough diversity to give each track a unique appeal, but with enough unity to grace them all with a distinct sound that self-defines.

That sound is one of deep, pulsing chords with lighter, swirling, long notes tumbling over the top. RHODES’ sublime voice echoes through, defying the notion that such a thing as too much reverb could ever exist. Switching from extended chords that grew louder and bolder to rising, chasing choruses, each song held a spark of eminence. Of particular note were ‘Close Your Eyes’ and ‘Breathe’, which combined his trademark loud serenity with elegant choral tones that overpowered the room yet somehow remained delicate and fragile – a contrast that truly impacted in such a grand, live venue.

Throughout the hour-long set RHODES said just a handful of words, all of them spoken softly and most of them used to humbly thank his crowd. His tall frame clad head-to-toe in black, he opted for strong and slow stances while playing. He occasionally let a hand reach up from his guitar to stretch out in slow-mo air grab, as though conducting his music through the air as it poured into the auditorium. It was a stance that might have seemed pretentious were it not part of a dignified, elegant persona that echoed the quality of the music and gave the impression that something higher was happening onstage.

You might not be able to sing along to Wishes as you dance around your kitchen making toast. Instead it’s an album that deserves to be listened to in the right way. Blast it through a set of headphones on full volume, let it surround you, steal you and transport you to somewhere special. Even better: hear it played live.

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