Tonight's gig comes at the end of Villagers' week-long stint supporting Grizzly Bear in significantly bigger venues around the UK ("I feel like I'm hallucinating: you all look so big", remarks lead Villager Conor O'Brien, referring to the cosy environs of the Borderline). Presented with an audience who've come especially to see them, Villagers unveil a raft of new songs from their forthcoming album, Awayland, due for release in January.
Those new songs are, in the best possible way, all over the place. My Lighthouse and another, unnamed song dedicated to "Mitt Romney's hair" represent Villagers at their most accessible; the former being a sweet, stripped-down acoustic number and the latter being a straightforward(-ish) rocker. Elsewhere, though, the new material suggests a band willing to move their music into all sorts of interesting and potentially risky new territories. Passing A Message is unexpectedly funky; the aptly-named Rhythm Composer begins as if the band are playing three different rhythms simultaneously, only for it all to come together during the closing section; The Bell, meanwhile, has the potential to be the darkest and most intense song Villagers have yet put to tape - it ends with O'Brien pounding a drum kit and emitting feral moans towards the venue's ceiling.
Strangest of all the new numbers might be The Waves. It begins like The xx of all people, with deep, almost dubstep-standard bass pulses and a Morse Code-style keyboard line. Then, just when the audience think they've got the measure of it, the song ends with an immense guitar freakout.
O'Brien remains an unnervingly intense live performer; his nest of tousled hair topping a pair of eyes that glower at the audience. As such, the remaining Villagers are in danger of being overlooked, but they really shouldn't be. The band always sound fully in command of even the most complex arrangements, while the backing vocals on Becoming A Jackal highlight Home are goosebump-inducing.
The new songs are all well-received by the appreciative audience. Nonetheless, hearing them all back-to-back makes for a demanding gig-going experience, so there's a palpable sense of relief when old favourites Ship Of Promises and On A Sunlit Stage are unveiled at the set's end. Tonight saw a captivating performance from a gifted and compellingly weird band.