Responsible Use of Looping
Two City Sounds is, as one might imagine, a collaborative arts project involving artistes from two cities – in this instance, Coventry and Hull.
The evening in question at Tin Music Arts featured four acts, two from each city and a Mancunian host who informed the crowd that they “wanted to get Guy Garvey, but he was too busy.”
The first of the Coventry acts, “Delightful Young Mothers”, the main alias of Matthew Campbell, described himself as an “angry confused, punk fusion accordionist.” That might not be far off the mark. The first time I saw him play some years ago, two of the highlights of his regular sets were his versions of “Golden Brown” by the Stranglers and “London Calling” by The Clash. On this occasion, the set entirely consisted of his own material, “Ophelia” being a particular favourite of mine. It’s to Matthew’s real credit that I’m really struggling to liken him to or compare him with any other musician. He’s a real one-off. The only way in which I can describe him to anyone who hasn’t heard him would be to encourage one to imagine Alex Harvey being accompanied by an accordion.
The second set from a Coventry act came courtesy of “He is a Pegasus” the nom-de-plume of David Butler. As I’ve mentioned before, David can be best described as a slight man with a big voice. I’m very fond of his own material which one might be able to market as Jeff Buckley meets Radiohead. However, for me, David’s greatest strength is his interpretation of old gospel standards. During these numbers, his capacity for being able to completely compel an audience becomes extremely apparent. One could hear a pin drop as he performs these numbers, mostly a capella but sometimes accompanying himself on percussion.
The first set from an act from Hull came from “My Pleasure” which is the pseudonym of singer/songwriter, Lewis Young. His set-up was fairly basic. He was accompanying himself on guitar and drum machine. Whilst I enjoyed some of the songs, I found his set rather derivative and a little ordinary in comparison with the other acts. There was very little interaction with the audience. A disappointing set all in all.
Thankfully, the second Hull act, “The Dyr Sister”, the alter-ego of multi-instrumentalist Sally Currie, was really quite remarkable. She’s also the first “responsible looper” to appear in this article. She looped her vocals, her violin playing and her use of percussion instruments. She seems to have a whole host of musical influences and her singing reminded me most of Rosie Cuckston who fronted 90s Birmingham based experimentalists “Pram”. She proudly boasted that “Hull isn’t a crap town anymore!!” On the basis of her set that evening I’d say she has a point!!
The Nursery Tavern night in February this year saw the welcome return of singer and songwriter Al Britten, who these days is trading under the name “Last Dog Hung”. This marks a complete change of musical direction for Britten who seems to have abandoned (for the time being at least) being a sensitive acoustic balladeer and has instead adopted a very imaginative approach to blues of the pre-war country variant. Britten is the second of the “responsible loopers” that I referred to earlier, accompanying himself on guitar and harmonica. With his blend of blues and his rapping of Public Enemy’s “Black Steel” in one of the numbers, I was reminded of Beck – specifically the “Mellow Gold” and “Odelay” albums from the mid 90s.
Also on the bill that evening, there was a performance poet named Chris O’Connell. Whilst he seemed to be angry about the right things, his two pieces were a tad overlong I thought. As is so often the case in my experience, there are many poets who know how to write but don’t know how to perform. Whilst I’ve no doubt that O’Connell has potential as a poet, in my view he needs a few lessons in performing it and editing it.
The sensational Kristy Gallacher came next on the bill, and I’d describe her set that evening as an “unashamedly gives the fans what they want set!!” As a big fan of KG, both musically and personally, this is absolutely fine by me. I doubt I’ll ever tire of hearing “Fending off the Frost” or “Quicksand”. The songs are beautiful and guitar picking is first class.
Headlining said evening was the great Cliff Hands, who has the rather dubious honour of being the very first person I saw play at Tin Music Arts (Taylor John’s House as it was then known) back in 2006. His 2012 album, “Street Shanties” remains one of my favourite ever records by a Coventrian musician and whilst most albums are too long, that one isn’t long enough. there were selections from that in the set, as well as tracks from his forthcoming album, for which I can’t wait (due out later this year). There was even a duet with the aforementioned Kristy Gallacher on the beautiful “Sail Away”.
Next month, “Mustard and Blood” “Ditch the TV” and more….