Mutual Benefit

Mutual Benefit


The last time I saw Jordan Lee, aka Mutual Benefit, was a couple of years back at the Deaf Institute, where he was coming off the back of his much lauded and much loved debut Love’s Crushing Diamond, and it was wonderful. Lee was timid and shy, but his gloriously understated folk soared that night, and by the end he was asking the crowd to boo him instead of cheer for an encore, an episode which he references tonight (when he asked for louder boo-ing, someone shouted at the top of their voice ‘you’re a c*nt’ and it was somehow the most perfect thing ever). Lee is back in Manchester tonight with his 3 piece band in tow, on the back of his sophomore effort Skip A Sinking Stone which builds nicely on his debut into something a bit fuller and more robust, songs punctuated by bridging instrumentals, it really is a gorgeous piece of ‘folk’ music.

Lee hasn’t changed much, still rake thin, long hair pushed behind his ears, endearingly shy and geeky, he’s not the archetypal front man. But this doesn’t matter one bit, as when he and his band start building their opening sound collage from looped keyboards, guitars, even a flute, it’s utterly beguiling. This is their version of a wall of noise, but it’s more like a curtain, gently building and enveloping the audience in it’s twinkling wonder. It’s straight into ‘Skip A Sinking Stone’ and ‘Closer Still’ from his new album, and all I can do is grin like a cheshire cat and sway into the dreamy atmosphere the band are creating. ‘Let’s Play/Statue of a Man’ is the first song we get from their stunning debut, and it fits into the newer songs like it’s from a double album, probably the highest compliment I can pay to the new songs.

Lee swaps his guitar for a banjo, joking that he’s just found it on the streets today and he hopes it’s like playing a guitar, and plays ‘Lost Dreamers’ and Not For Nothing’, the intricately plucked banjo the centre piece of both. ‘Strong Swimmer’, my very favourite of their songs, is transformed tonight with the addition of an almost tropical rhythm, the drummer tapping away gently on bongos, if I close my eyes I can almost imagine I’m in Hawaii…almost. Two other debut album cuts ‘Light That’s Blinding’ and ‘Advanced Falconry’ are gorgeous, and so enraptured am I by the gentle wonder the band are creating I almost forget we’re in a room above a pub; they create such an intimate feeling that I could be in my bedroom watching them. I want everyone to know about the quiet glory of Mutual Benefit, they are a special band that hold a special place in my heart.

A quick note on the support band, Saint Sister. Halfway through the night Lee says ‘we usually book support bands who are worse than us…we fucked up this time’ in reference to the duo who played before them. I walked into the room halfway through their set, completely unaware of them, and the crowd were completely silent, mesmerised by the two women on stage singing with no accompaniment but each other’s angelic voices, it’s properly stunning stuff. They play a couple more songs in the same vein, playing a harp and synth, and I love it – if you see them on a bill somewhere, make sure you make an effort to see them.

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