Photos by Tim Boddy

Walking into the darkness of the stage at London’s Scala tonight, Maria Lindén - I Break Horses' simmering Swedish front woman - is a shadowy silhouette of tousled dark hair and understated cool.

The duo haven’t played a show in the UK since December and are pretty new to touring in this country at all, but their heavily (and largely justifiably) hyped debut album from last year, Hearts, has now so firmly made its way into the cool books of the London blog scene, that the band seem to hold a level of awe and respect from the hushed crowd this evening, before they even get on to the stage. That apparent Scandinavian superiority we’re always wary of is showing through again, it seems.

The aura isn’t dispelled by the menacing low lights, either, which hover around Lindén, bandmate Fredrik Balck, and their three accomplices on stage, covering them in low red, then blue, then green, never letting us see their faces.

The set starts with glowing, growing surges of electro noise, and continues to flow, seemingly endlessly. Each song bleeds with fluid accuracy into the next, so that by the time there’s a pause long enough for applause, long minutes, and three or four songs have disappeared into a time warp of shoegaze-i-ness.


By the time the incandescent snare noise of ‘Load Your Eyes’ pierces the woozy membrane of sound covering the room, it’s impossible to tell if the band have been on for five minutes or five hours. This may not be the most challenging music you’ll hear this year, but it’s certainly music to lose yourself to.

Most of Hearts floats or pulsates by in some incarnation at some point during the set, largely with a little more power and beat to it than comes across on the album, but there doesn’t seem a lot of point picking out individual songs. Tonight is a whole, a single experience that needs no breaking down to be analysed. If the record is the fluid heartbeat of someone who’s calmly accepted their deathly fate, the band live is the same heart, having been shown the glimmer of hope that everything might be OK after all.

It’s strange then, that despite the thumping pace of the impressive electronic drums emanating from a drum pad, snare, and Fredrik Balck’s repetitively flailing sticks, the crowd stay irritatingly still. Lost in themselves, or just a bit too cool, it’s hard to tell. A few people sway, there’s one man somewhere near the front whose hand occasionally reaches into the air before nervously being lowered, but by far the most physical anyone is getting to the music, is two people in the corner of the room who seem to be far more into, erm, each other, than watching the band. You know the kind of people I mean.

Never the less, by the time the band have wandered off the stage and back on again for their encore - ‘I Kill Love, Baby’ - it seems like they’ve hardly been on any time at all, and we’re willing them to stay.

They don’t, of course, wilting from the stage one by one, until all that’s left is the beat. It’s been a strange kind of show, really, and the hushed atmosphere seems to remain as people file out into the night, or hang around the stage wide-eyed in hope of a set list being passed their way. It may not have been a show to set the world on fire, and the band still have a little way to go in being fully confident live, but it’s certainly left an impression, and has done nothing to dispel that rumour of Scandinavian superiority.