Live Review: Mansionair at the Oxford Art Factory

Since releasing their debut track Hold Me Down almost a year ago, Sydney trio Mansionair have become a go-to, permanent fixture in many people’s music catalogs. They’ve racked up millions of streams, toured some of the biggest and best festivals in the country and got to take their talents to the US, UK and Europe to support CHVRCHES on tour.

Their genre-defying sound has earned them near universal acclaim from the likes of NME, BBC Radio, Stereogum and of course your humble correspondent here at Howl & Echoes. And for good reason too: their idiosyncratic brand of incandescently beautiful indie-electronica will lift you up and carry you away. Lead singer Jack Frogatt’s hypnotic falsetto holds you down from the moment it begins. So it was with great pleasure that I was able to catch them at their Sydney show at the Oxford Art Factory on Saturday night.

Sold-out and crammed full of eager punters wanting to hear the three-piece ensemble, there was an inquisitive air hanging about. Having released just four of their own original songs thus far, what else would be played to fill the hour long set? Turns out quite a lot.

Forbes native and opening act Vera Blue got the crowd started with Hold, a soothing and sultry track that was the perfect entree to the rest of the night. Pick Me Up, their latest release, was an effervescent affair, the soaring vocals of Frogatt highlighted by the atmospheric instrumentals of band members Alex Nicholls and Lachlan Bostock. The crowd stood transfixed, letting the melodious sounds sway them ever so gently as heads bopped up and down in euphoric enjoyment.

One of the best songs in Mansionair’s repertoire happens to belong to someone else; Future Islands to be exact. But their incredible cover on Like A Version for Triple J made it their own. The hauntingly bittersweet rendition of Seasons (Waiting On You) was a treat, the live performance amplifying that raw and visceral texture that Mansionair’s cover made possible. It may have been one of the best songs of the night, but it’s also one of the best covers of the year.

The seemingly portmanteau-ed of the name ‘Mansionair’ is an apt description of what the band offers. A palatial soundscape imbued with a gentle magnitude that is as light as ‘air’. Nowhere was this more apparent than during the performance of Speak Easy, the track currently making continuous rounds on the Triple J airwaves and a beloved favourite. The ephemeral quality of Froggatt’s vocals were lush and heady, sweeping everyone up like a gust of warm summer wind.

For the devout followers of Mansionair, any new material is quickly devoured and played repeatedly on loop. So when when the crowd got to hear new songs, which we will all hopefully hear on the forthcoming album, it felt incredibly generous and intimate. It’s always a bit difficult to gauge brand new material from a live experience, but the so-called Shadows was a showstopper. The worst part was their was no actual track I could go and listen to obsessively afterwards.

Finishing with their most renowned track was a no-brainer, and Hold Me Down entranced. The set was surreal, the lyricism more potent when sung directly at you, endemic of the band’s adept songwriting skills. Now the real question remained: when would a full length album finally come out? Hold me down, but don’t hold out on us for too long guys.