Until this show got announced, I've never listened to a single Esmerine song, nor was I even aware of their existence. Nonetheless this show was a pretty positive surprise!
In contrast to every show I saw at Urban Spree till now, this one started pretty early and actually took place in the (not so warm) gallery rather than in the main concert room. The setting was cozy, there was no stage and they had put up benches to sit on - something I strongly support, especially considering the music that was about to happen.
Esmerine are a Canadian band from the Godspeed You! Black Emperor/A Silver Mt. Zion surrounding. Because I like both of these bands, I was curious about how Esmerine would turn out to be live. Their style is often described as modern chamber music and when I took a look at the stage the first thing I noticed was the lack of guitars and the presence of some "unusual" instruments: a large stage xylophone, some oriental looking string-instruments, several percussion instruments and a small horn. The concert began with a brief introduction and started out very post rock sounding with the xylophone player stroking the bars with a bow and the cellist and contrabass player joining in. In the beginning this sounded not too different to other post-rock bands. There were spheric sounds and song structures that built up on another, letting everything sound very melodic.
Yet that changed significantly when more percussive elements joined in. Esmerine were on tour with a guest musician with whom they also wrote and recorded their last record Dalmak together in Istanbul. That setting obviously had a great impact on their music. The additional member played a variety of traditional turkish percussion instruments and his style of playing strongly influenced the mood and feel of the whole music. While there still were obvious aspects of "Western" classical and chamber music (also represented by what instruments they used) and while you could not deny the post-rock background of at least some of the band's members, their songs now got way more rhythmic and Oriental sounding. They mostly played songs from that last record and I really liked how these worked live. The mixture of these different sound elements and unusual instruments and the blending of "Western" and "Eastern" influences created a very special mood and feeling that made this band stand out from any of their probably better-known earlier bands.
Towards the end of the set, Esmerine threw in a couple of older songs, mostly performed without the additional percussions. They announced a last song after which the audience applauded wildly, making the band come back twice to play an encore. The show ended with a song on a more or less out-of-tune piano and although I wasn't that thrilled anymore by the older songs, this was a pretty nice live experience.