Photography by Rita McNeill
Ella Hooper’s solo venture has been a long time coming. Apart from the occasional episode of Spicks and Specks, my knowledge of Hooper’s contribution to music was limited to the early 2000s, when she headed Killing Heidi. With this as my only reference point, I approached the ‘Low High’ single launch at The Northcote Social Club on Friday night expecting elements of the younger Hooper’s style to resonate in her new music – and I found none of that. Hooper’s new identity was disarming and refreshing.
The Northcote Social Club band room was an intimate setting for her solo debut. Hooper first graced the stage to join support act Jack Colwell for a rendition of The Motels ‘Total Control.’ It was at this point that I knew I had to reframe my expectations for the show. ‘Total Control’ is a favourite of mine and is an undeniably sexy song; Hooper’s powerful voice did justice to Martha Davis’ 1979 masterpiece.
The tone shifted when Hooper took the stage with her three-piece support band. Showcasing her forthcoming solo album ‘In Tongues’, Hooper expertly demonstrated her musical prowess. The set spanned a vast range of genres, taking the audience on a deeply personal journey from start to end. Featured early on was the enchanting, trip-hop inspired track ‘Häxan’ (the title borrowed from a 1922 Scandinavian horror film which examined witchcraft) contained elements of the genre made famous by 90’s band Portishead; this led into the pop-esque, electronic undertones of title track ‘In Tongues.’ The hauntingly raw break up song ‘Everything Was a Sign’ revealed Hooper’s vulnerability and brought the crowd to a standstill; this contrasted with the hypnotic synth of disco track ‘Dead Star’, which produced an eruption of dance, while her charismatic vocals in the catchy track ‘Low High’ towards the completion of the set charmed those in the room.
What remains of Hooper from the early 2000’s is her unique and enigmatic voice: sassy and seductive with a huge vocal range, she has the ability to command a room and enchant an audience. The ‘Low High’ single launch displayed Hooper’s maturity as an artist – and for this alone, it was worth the long wait.