I Break Horses have just released their second album, Chiaroscuro, and it's prompting a real split between those who get lost in its kaleidoscope of sound, and those who wish the kaleidoscope itself would just get lost. I, personally, went into 2014 with only one album on pre-order, and that was this record, having seen them play live before, and really enjoyed their debut, Hearts. It seemed to be a secret that a lucky number were already aware of (given the sold out Village Underground), the fact that I Break Horses manage to humanise their music beyond measure live.

The evening started off with support from Bernard + Edith, a boy girl duo from Manchester, making music in a similar vein to I Break Horses and their more obvious influences. We were treated to a rather short warm-up set, and one that certainly presented the Mancunians as more experimental than their touring partners. Greta Carroll was certainly aware that she had a platform to pitch her music to the right crowd, but unfortunately the set was frequented by a jarring technical issue which left sound dropping out intermittently over the speakers. For the musicians, it must have been difficult, but they soldiered on (the issue did remedy itself as the evening went on, completely dying away shortly into the I Break Horses set). Greta Carroll seemed a little bit frozen up on stage, and admitted to the crowd that we were a big audience for the duo. However, she managed to fall into a good rhythm as the set went on, and all things considered Bernard + Edith did a good job of warming up a slightly reserved, Thursday-evening crowd.

The set finished, and I overheard one friend turn to another and ask, 'So what exactly is shoegaze then?'

It was a good question (and one I thought worth jotting down), and especially important at the moment, given the current state of the shoegaze and dream-pop worlds. I think it's easy to have the lines blurred between the two, and for someone to write both off, without fully wanting to commit to understanding their differences. For I Break Horses, it's tough to see where we draw the distinction in what they're aiming for; a lot of Hearts seemed to be straight shoegaze, but always with a rockier undercurrent. I would argue that anyone wanting to lump them in as dream-pop is someone not quite willing to give them a chance to break out of that world, which I believe they do, and do successfully. They've always had this exciting element that they may just be able to create something really important, and necessary. I'm not personally sure if Chiaroscuro is that statement I'm looking for, but it's a worthy addition for the band.

Coming onto the stage to some impressive lighting (lessons learned from their tour with Sigur Rós), they dive straight into 'Medicine Brush', an angsty, moody number, which is delivered with spectacle and, most importantly, noise. There was no imagining this was ever going to be a quiet gig, and the Village Underground provides the perfect atmosphere for their sound to inhabit. For the most part anyway, as will come up later. They follow the opener with another new track, "Berceuse", and perhaps encouraged by the receptive crowd, Maria Linden starts an after-song tradition of placing her hands together, and delivering a mini-courtesy in thanks after it finishes. And then we dive into 'Hearts'.

'Hearts' was always going to be the song which I thought would make or break the gig for me. It wasn't, importantly, which I am glad about, because it was a rather muddied version we got. From the opening beats, the excitement was palpable in the audience, and as the main theme crashed over the pulsating live percussion line (which doesn't appear on the album), it looked like everything was going well. That was until the vocals... well, didn't kick in. They did after a while, but quietly, and then feedback caused problems for the middle part of the track, and it all kinda felt a bit off from then on out with the track sadly. But, as we know, one off track doesn't ruin a gig, and I'm pleased to say that barring that one minor fuck up, the rest of the set went without a hitch.

'Denial' came up next, introduced as 'one of our more cheerful songs', and brought with it a rainbow light show, prompting smartphones to rise throughout the crowd (it was a lovely light show, in fairness). From hear on out, there wasn't much on offer that wasn't a delight. We had a dreamy rendition of 'Load Your Eyes' off Hearts, a suitably glum 'You Burn', a lovely run of 'Heart to Know' into 'Weigh True Words', and a lovely riff on 'Faith'. After exiting the stage and returning for the encore, the band wrapped up their set with a 'Ascension' off their latest record, with it's layered, textured keyboard, proving the bands more aspirational reach on their latest LP, and finally 'Winter Beats'. Unlike 'Hearts', if you were at the big just to hear 'Winter Beats', you ended up hearing something really special. Judging the build up perfectly, and delivering a wonderful ending to an evening that was truly enthralling. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but for those in the audience who knew what they were in for, you'd have been hard pressed to find something to complain about.

Before the final song, Maria Linden openly offered for those at the gig (a few hundred) to come to the hotel the group were staying at for an after-party. It's something you couldn't get away with as a larger band, but highlights just what makes I Break Horses vitally different, and possibly offers a reason why their latest album is dividing critics. See, I Break Horses' music, on the face of it, is cold, computerised, and unwelcoming. As soon as you break through that tough layer, what you then get is something incredible personal, something importantly human. Seeing them live, there is absolutely no doubting this from the very first moment they walk on stage. Sure, robots would have given us a note-perfect rendition of 'Hearts', but you'd lose so much more in the process.

For those who ventured a glimpse beneath the silicon skin of I Break Horses on Thursday, it was one wonderful gig, and will have gone a long way to winning the band some loyal fans in the process with their warm and fun presence.

Head here to view the full gallery from the gig.