Friday, February 26, 2010

Many happy returns

A mere two-and-a-bit months after the event - the Silent Words Speak Loudest write-up of ATP's 10th birthday party, in three installments:




Saturday, February 20, 2010

Two night stand (and a lunch date)

Think About Life
Shoreditch Cargo. 15feb10.
Farringdon Pure Groove. 16feb10.
Spitalfields 93 Feet East. 17feb10.

Montreal’s Think About Life stop in London lasted but four days but in that time they were able to squeeze in five shows. So taken was I with their first, I attended the second and fourth as well. Never let it be said that I don't put in the leg-work when appraising a band.

Their week began with an opening slot supporting tUnE-YaRdS (who, incidentally, was just astonishing from her very first vocal note) in front of a red hot sold out crowd at Cargo. London crowds tend to need more than a little ‘warming’, so thankfully we were met square in the eyes by a band that project an exuberance you could spring a mattress with.

For the other two gigs they had much less to work with, 93 Feet East being largely empty, whilst their lunchtime set at Pure Groove saw them delivering tune to about twenty seated customers sipping tea and weighing up the merits of the homemade millionaire shortbread. Yet the bigger gaps in the room didn’t lead to holes being torn in the energy of their performance.

In terms of that, they remind me a bit of Baltimore’s Future Islands who in similar way, I became instantly fond of last year. Like them Islands, there is the almost relentless enthusiasm, the child-like bounce, and the ability to prompt an espirit du corps involving both band and audience, regardless of how big it is.

This is also partly thanks to frontman Martin Cesar’s rascally giddiness and ability to get carried away. Within a couple of songs at Cargo he was telling us “London, we love you!” before pondering that he may be coming on too strong too soon and reappraising that to ‘like’. Recounting this tale less than a day later at Pure Groove, he decided that we happy few sitting attentively and nursing a hot drink had convinced him to fall in love after all. Mind you, we might partly attribute this bundling of effusive affection to the jet-lag as they later took time to laud British coverage of the Winter Olympics over their equivalent at home; thus spoke bassist and fellow vocalist Caila Thompson-Hannant, “No commercials!!…you got your TV down!”

Scatty wittering aside, Cesar is a commanding presence with his burly frame, dark glasses and soul-soaked voice that recalls TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe. He bounds around, often in a vaguely choreographed manner with Thompson-Hannant. For example, they power down like sharply unplugged androids when Johanna collapses in on itself, before firing up again amidst sparks and flicker as the song reboots.

Band leader Graham Van Pelt throws shapes with his guitars but never loses sight of his sampler duties, at one point during the 93 Feet East show depressing one switch with his nose whilst mid-riff. Behind all three, drummer Matt Shane ripples like trees in a breeze.

In terms of tunes, they’ve got a good set of eccentric pop songs to tout. Havin’ My Baby and Sweet Sixteen cycle amphetamine vocal samples to underpin some grandstanding work from Van Pelt and Cesar while fuzz-funk piece Young Hearts pauses twice for mystical spoken word to saunter out of the speakers. However, Wizzzard is the big high, as the main synth motif scythes like a young Amish farmhand eagerly getting amongst his first harvest, stabs like a staccato Psycho and swings like one whose car keys have taken their chances in the party punch bowl.

Hopefully they’ve returned to Canada with enough London love left to warrant their swift return.

Think About Life @ MySpace


Monday, February 01, 2010

Sons, and a daughter

Sons Of Noel & Adrian, Alessi’s Ark.
Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. 27jan10.

Alessi Laurent-Marke might have a lot in common with hippie-era folk musicians of the 1960’s but she knows nothing of your 1980’s, let alone two decades prior, being only four days older than Gazza’s Turin tears. Her onstage mannerisms often betray this, all scampishness and whimsy, little sisterish I guess, shy and self-effacing. Looking out into the attentive crowd, a mirror-ball whirling, she says, semi-awkwardly, “it’s like a disco, but without uplifting music…but it’s coming…this one’s about a dog.”

Her vocal is pretty distinctive as well, seemingly quite affected, pushed out on a breath but all chewy and purring. The general demeanour does suggest she might be the type to go all Vashti Bunyan, release one record then go to ground for thirty years, sheltering feral cats and knitting shreoes.

While the tempo of her music might not be high-octane, it is certainly more mature than her mannerisms might imply, and for her to suggest it is not uplifting is to be a little too self-deprecating. Her work evokes flickering embers, snapping twigs and dark clearings, and if there is a coolness, it is one which is made cosy; tucked up inside a blanket, particularly when she is joined by several members of the Wilkommen Collective to flesh out her brittle acoustic sound.

The Collective are a Brighton-based musical community and Sons of Noel and Adrian are, like The Leisure Society, Shoreline and The Miserable Rich, one of the acts to come from within their creative kibbutz. One might argue the Sons pull on a disproportionate amount of the collective resource, given that they are ten members strong. Amongst the instrumentation this evening can be found an oboe, a trumpet, a flute, a cello, an accordion and an additional bass drum plinthed on two multipacks of toilet roll. However, this is a best case scenario, as they have been known to turn out with half that number in their ranks.

Given the power of their assembled sounds though, one imagines that the greater they number in terms of parts, the greater the whole. Tonight they sound burgeoning and beefy. Whilst they might be termed a folk band, they certainly do not share Alessi’s feyness, instead rolling and tumbling like a vessel through tempestuous waves, their arrangements as ambitious as a blueprint for a belfry.

These arrangements are vaguely reminiscent of the work Craig Fortnam does with the North Sea Radio Orchestra, with the lean towards the earthily muscular rather than light chamber operatics. Not that they are without fragility as Jacob Richardson’s vocal gnarled porch drawl is often filtered through a Devendra Banhart-esque petrified warble.

Like I say though the key is the collective and when they crash their heels to the floor for an additional percussive thump (during several songs, not least the wonderful opener Inside Olympia), or whistle in unison (as on The Wreck Is Not A Boat), it is a cooperative show of strength. By and large, with one or two exceptions, Sons of Noel and Adrian’s songs all come in at around the five minute mark, but all feel ‘epic’ in terms of their aspirations.

Sons Of Noel & Adrian @ MySpace
Alessi's Ark @ MySpace