Live at West Yorkshire Playhouse on Thursday, 11th May 2006
A barmy warm night and an audience that looks like a life-style magazine for relaxed funky living, a perfect setting for some Folktronica and old school hippydom. The Fuse Festival has brought together two rising (nay rocketing) stars of the contemporary folk scene and sandwiched in the middle a lentil burger whom many of the same rising stars can't stop quoting as a major influence.
First up are Tunng whose charm stems from looking like 5 people you'd really enjoy spending some time with. The entire set is spent smiling at each other and the audience, grinning like it's a bit naughty to be making this kind of music in this kind of setting. They achieve an amazing consistency of sound despite fitting a catalogue of percussion instruments, electronic beeps and bops, not to mention crackles, whirs and samples into every song. It's held together wonderfully well by the tender guitar picking and smiley vocals. At times it is reminiscent of the early Beta Band or Badly Drawn Boy in his more mischievous days. In the main we are treated to tracks from the bands forthcoming second album "Comments of The Inner Chorus". Highlights include the rolling sweet lament of Jenny Again and set closer The Wind Up Bird which of course includes a wooden bird as an instrument. All too soon Tunng are gone and the crush for the understaffed bar can recommence.
To describe Vashti Bunyan as a cult would be coming up short. She made Kate Bush's break between albums appear like a long weekend. Having released an album in 1970 that has in recent times become an essential asset to quote amongst your influences, Vashti decided to come out of obscurity and release the follow up 35 years later. Vashti mania has even seen her distinctive breathy falsetto tremolo voice being used on TV adverts, but surely the original hippy donated all the cash to a donkey sanctuary. It's hard not to like her as she looks like your friends mum who always encourages you to have another slice of home baked cake. After each song she beams a smile of disbelief that people actually know who she is and after all humility and music so rarely go together. However you can't help but feel this is purely an occasion for reminiscing. Next to the contemporary works of Adem and Tunng her hippy poetry is exposed as being somewhat dated. In an era where we are all about engaging rather than dropping out it's hard to relate to the idyllic 70's picture of an English country garden where the sun is always shining. Despite this, the elements of the audience still wearing clothes with bits of mirror sewn in seem satiated and that is surely the point.
Adem's diminutive frame enters stage right with his multi-tasking band. After tonight's performance Harmonium is the new word on the streets giving of a purring hum like nothing the Playhouse has heard before. It is only made more captivating by the pedalling action of the player's feet sticking out of the front. Adem may have only penned two solo albums but it is easy to get lost in the wonderful soundscapes on offer tonight. The songs seem to expand from those on record to be glowing mini-symphonies. New album Love and Other Planets gets the bulk of the set with the upbeat Something's Going To Come and the engulfing Crashlander to the tender stripped back Spirals all sounding majestic. Debut Homesongs is not ignored either closing the set with the brilliant These Are Your Friends and the slow chant of There Will Always Be. An unexpected encore of Pillows sends everyone off to bed happy and dreaming of theirs.