Rachel Zeffira: Union Chapel, London – live reviewRachel Zeffira 

Union Chapel, London

April 9th 2013

Rachel Zeffira is probably best known as being the person who formed Cat’s Eyes (with Faris Badwan of The Horrors) in 2010. Following her debut album last year though she’s getting a reputation as being a talented solo artist as well and last month she took herself off on a wee tour of the UK. Louder Than War caught the London leg of it.

At school, some of us were unhappy when it came to music lessons.

It was only as teenagers that we realised that anyone could make a noise from an instrument without being asked, or told, what to do and that it really didn’t matter if we were any good or not because we were learning that it was the passion in our fingers that meant most not the orientation. The teachers never taught us that, we were left to work that out ourselves…well some of us anyway.

However it’s easily forgotten that some people in this world were encouraged at an early age to be taught what the standard principle of learning, writing and reading music was and as time went on these people either forgot what they had learnt, gave up or continued to practice for fun. Some even become very good at it, good enough to make it their career.

These people could probably turn up anywhere with a sheet of music and join in.

It’s the sort of thing that defines a “Real Musician” I suppose and with the right approach and decent result it is often worth applauding. But not if you end up like “Scouting for f*cking Girls”.

That’s often the downside

One of these type of beings who probably practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced is probably Rachel Zaffira who arrived here in the big smoke one day, got involved with a few “wrong ‘uns” (“oh you’re not going out to see those crazy kids with their goth haircuts AGAIN are you?”) and started to get involved in the kind of music that you and I are more accustomed to (noisy, guitar orientated foot stompers, with a bit of distortion and echo thrown in for good measure) namely “Cat’s eyes”, a collaboration with “The Horrors” Faris Badwan that gave us some welcome aural delights. Her solo album “The Deserters” is something we can only describe as one of the most beautiful albums you could currently get to hear.


Bringing out probably the album of the year (but which year?) during the first week in December may not be the best marketing move in the world but turning up to play a lot of it at London’s Union Chapel probably is. She’s played a few churches in her time and if churches had stuff like this inside it every sunday we’d probably spend half our weekends inside them and cancel our sky sports subscriptions.

There’s over a dozen other people on stage this evening. A horn section, a string section, a couple of people hitting things and a few more shaking things and singing backing vocals.

A proper band with proper instruments, in fact Rachel has three or four different things to prod hit and tinkle during the evening which she does very well.


The seated union Chapel is ideal for this. People sit quietly and applaud politely in between songs. The odd head is nodding, a couple of “whoops” when she quietly introduces each song and no complaints at the end when everyone is wondering where the fuck she has disappeared to and why we can still hear her singing (i’m guessing there’s another organ around the back she’s playing- remember ..it is a church)

It’s an obvious set to play tonight. Most if not all of the “Deserters” album including the “My Bloody Valentine” cover which I still struggle to recognise (“To Here Knows When”)- on a piano. and a “Beatles” song i also didn’t recognise. There’s the classical reminders that we used to get with Iceland’s “Sigor Ros” a few years ago.. the foot tapping bits that remind us of French band “AIR” ..

But it’s a sublime, hour of beauty, pitch perfect, note perfect music and not a bad hair cut in sight. Proper musicians, doing what the music teachers at school may or may not have envisaged ….. sublime.

Rachel’s facebook page is here. She’s also on Twitter.

All words by Keith Goldhangar. More of Keith’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here.

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Keith Goldhanger -- Spent the 90's as a frontman with London noisemerchants HEADBUTT - spent the 80's in "Peel favourites" BASTARD KESTREL. Spent a few years mashing up tunes and remixing bands as HIDEOUS WHEEL INVENTION. Is often out and about getting in the way of things and bumping his head on low ceilings - drinks real ale, takes photo's has made a few short films. Will give your band the time of day but will dislike any band that balances full pints of alcohol on the top of guitar amps (Not keen on lead singers that wear hats either).