Mellah and his band arrive on stage almost three hours after the doors have opened, looking distinctly ordinary and everyman, particularly after the beguiling and enigmatic support act Pixx with her deep set black eye make up, wide white tie and nonchalant attitude. Their opening track ‘Round’ is a slow languid slog with some bizarre vocal distortion that seems to slow even time itself; for a moment I thought I was having a bad trip. This wasn’t the most auspicious of beginnings. Yet Mellah doesn’t seem to care for conventional grandstand introductions, and doesn’t seem to give much of a fuck for image or marketability either. With a name that derives from the title given to Jewish quarters within cities and towns in Morocco, you could’ve guessed. Thankfully, the rest of his set is a treasure full of whimsical and delightful songs.
A carpenter who created props for Black Mirror before having a song featured in the next season, this multi-instrumentalist from south London appears to have a close attachment to what’s real, and you can feel that in his songcraft. Second track ‘Nada’ is about death and how it confronted him abruptly following the sudden death of his father: ‘Morning rain, evening dust; Collect your name then pick your hearse.’ Lines as cutting as these are typical of Mellah’s adept use of language, while the chugging rhythm and carefree harmonica helps create an oddly freeing landscape of sound for such a macabre subject.
‘Numb,’ introduced casually: “Anyone feel numb ever? Constant feeling…”, is haunting and charms you with its mournful melodies, with frank and sober reflections on existence; ‘Cigarette Lighter’ features more acerbic verses that linger long in the mind; new song ‘Habit’ brings an entrancing guitar lick and circling, dizzying ‘oh’s’ that mimic the boredom and futility of unbreakable habits.
Although his array of enchanting, quaint indie songs are unlikely to lead Mellah up a gilded staircase to the glittering palaces of fame and success, his sharp lyrics and modest, earnest approach prove he’s got more integrity and talent than many who already reside there. The world would certainly be a lot brighter if there were more artists like him.