After taking London by storm last summer in Koko, the reggae-infused German folktronica duo Rehbein and Dausch is back in London with a sold out show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Incidentally, it’s understandable if the phrase “reggae-infused German folktronica” makes you wince/roll your eyes/a combination of both, but hear me out: these two are, in addition to being refreshingly unpretentious and undeniably chill, pretty damn talented. The combination of an effortless mellow vibe with incredible skill at seamlessly blending genres make for slick songs with a raw, wistful edge that leave you nonplussed as to why the hell you haven’t heard of them before.
Throughout the evening, Empire feels less like it’s hosting a gig than a house party where somebody spontaneously whipped out a guitar and put up a DJ stand, every balcony and aisle filled with people dancing and swaying and grinning between joining in with Rehbein’s throaty vocals. They start with the gentler, dreamier numbers – Down By The River, Running, the folksier on the band’s wide-ranging musical spectrum – and crescendo towards the jams. Their accidental stroke-of-luck viral hit Stolen Dance that propelled them to indie fame is the clear sing-along favourite, but it’s Flashed Junk Mind that sends the crowd into full-blown dance mode.
Their performance is also stripped of any excess, in a way that it almost stark if you’re used to a lot of melodrama with your music. The sincere commitment to music itself contrasts curiously with their carefree, we’re-not-wearing-these-Hawaiian-shirts-ironically beach party vibe. Whether due to shyness, total focus on bringing their A game sonically, or simply disinclination towards rockstar antics, there’s no rambling or self indulgent monologuing between songs, no theatrics or tearing up the stage. While Dausch tosses himself back and forth behind his table, Rehbein just unhurriedly bops along to his own guitar twangs, soulfully belting out lyrics about wasting away youth; apart from a single friendly interjection towards the end, there’s hardly any interaction with the audience. It’s charming, in its own way – these guys clearly have no inflated egos to bolster and are comfortable letting their music speak for itself.
And speak for itself it does – the show feels like a sliver of summer itself in the middle of a wet February night, like a bubble of air trapped in amber.