25th November | Thekla
There are few frontwomen out there with as much unbridled energy as Pumarosa’s Isabel Munoz-Newsome. On stage, she’s rarely still, always either dancing around or tinkering with the assortment of vocal effects pedals in front of her. Each time she puts her microphone back in its stand, she pulls it out again a few seconds later so she can move around again.
This fidgetiness is something that’s always been present in the music Pumarosa makes as well. Across their two albums, they’ve dabbled in an array of sounds, from the earthy spiritualism of songs like ‘Priestess’ to the restless electronica of ‘Fall Apart’.
The group’s Thekla performance shows them expertly pulling these different threads together. After arriving on stage, they kick things off with ‘Into the Woods’ from their latest album Devastation. It’s a song that creaks with tension, always sounding as though it’s about to teeter off the edge of a cliff before pulling back at the last second. Munoz-Newsome’s vocals float over the song as she beckons to the audience like a spiritual guide.
Pumarosa’s new songs sound stunning live, slotting in seamlessly alongside old favourites. ‘Fall Apart’ is a dizzying tornado of percussion and reverb, while ‘Heaven’, as you’d hope from its title, soars high. Built around a stuttering drum loop, the song slowly grows into something bigger, reaching its climax with the glorious vocal hook on the chorus.
Between songs, Munoz-Newsome chats with the audience, talking about her own memories of Bristol and Thekla. Though now based in London, she talks about how she used to hitch rides to the boat to go dancing. “Let’s just sail away and do this forever,” she says.
Though Munoz-Newsome’s charismatic stage presence is an easy highlight of Pumarosa’s performance, Nicholas Owen’s drumming is just as impressive. On tracks like the drum and bass-inspired ‘Adam’s Song’, his intricate drumming style acts as the glue that holds everything together. Similarly great are Tomoya Suzuki’s keys and occasional saxophone solos, which help give certain songs an extra flourish of drama.
Fan favourite, ‘Priestess’ gets the biggest response of the night; it’s a swirling showcase of why the band are so deeply loved. The song builds from a single humming synth to an all-out dance party, whipping the crowd up into a frenzy. Pumarosa follow it up with the equally excellent ‘Fall Apart’ which serves as the set’s loud, shuddering conclusion.
After a brief encore break, the band return to the stage for a couple more songs, Munoz-Newsome armed with a bottle of wine. ‘Lose Control’ is transformative live; the band draw the song out with a lengthy club-ready outro, daring the audience not dancing along. Finally, ‘Devastation’ acts as the perfect closer – a tender piano ballad that erupts into something else during its epic conclusion, thanks to Suzuki’s saxophone charging in.
As a live act, Pumarosa are as enchanting as they’ve ever been. The best live shows are the ones that succeed in completely whisking you away to another world for an hour or two. Out of the many Pumarosa shows I’ve been to, they’ve yet to fail at doing that.
See the video for ‘Fall Apart’ here: