An hour and a half before the show, I overhear the crowd queuing for Spooky Black and Psymun in front of Birthdays in Dalston, discussing how fast the tickets to his show sold out back in December – in a mere two hours, my friend tells me, as the entire line of casual yet cool people await in the cold to see Soundcloud sensation Spooky Black, now known by his real name Corbin. Some people have even come up all the way from Brighton and even Germany, and the excitement is palpable in the air, as this is one of Corbin’s only dates in Europe.
Corbin, an American teenager whose music video Without U went viral back in 2014, is, to put it simply, impressive on the stage. Rather than make use of superficial sounds and take detours in his music, he delves deep into the songs of his latest album, Black Silk, and his EP Leaving. Covering also Radiohead’s Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Corbin delivers everything that his online presence promises – a bizarre, yet sensuous show that doesn’t care what you think. It is too busy being good to care.
Paired with the exceptional Psymun on the guitar, the atmosphere quickly shifts from warm and impatient to a haze of dancing bodies slowly entering a trance. Corbin also sings a song which he will ‘never release’, a mixture of a funky, groovy tune and chilled R’n’B – not exactly a departure from his dreamy, sleepy-like songs, but still quite different. It’s touching, gentle, fresh, new and probably one of the most promising sounds of the year.
This is an artist who leaves you thinking ‘this is what music should be about’ after every track: restless young people changing the face of music without artifices, bringing us back to the days of the dark’n’dirty gigs in the basements of dubious venues. A small and dark room of sweaty, scantily-clad bodies chanting desolate tunes and jumping up and down when hearing their favourite song come up (the crowd responded amazingly to every song, and the climax came when he finally performed Without U).
Corbin’s stage presence was perfect, and although unpretentious it came off as shy – he remained simple on stage, with no dramatic lighting or smoke, which turned out to be a smooth decision since it allowed him to deliver everything in his songs. At his peak, his performance was ethereal, anxious, perfect, thrilling, gentle and ferocious at the same time – it’s not Spooky anymore, it’s Corbin and we’re glad he’s owning up to his talent. His voice suddenly enriches all the possibilities of R’n’B and makes you wonder why he isn’t a much bigger deal – because he should.
Corbin’s gig was a haunting siren’s call for the deepest parts of us –the longing, the yearning, and the beautiful. Atmospheric, and slightly erotic (as all good music is), his ghost-like voice is complimented by the excellent Psymun, who, although always there, is sometimes not given enough credit. Corbin takes his music seriously –just the way he languorously clutches at the microphone, eyes half closed and pushing himself to deliver on certain parts of a song.
The show was definitely a must-see and one that remained flawless, and we cannot wait to follow his next steps – Corbin is heading in the right direction.