Live at Packhorse on Monday, 26th November 2001
Mmmmm it's a bit nippy out! So I took the car, unfortunately the heater took so long to get going I was still cold (going blue actually) when I arrived. Thankfully they sell hot coffee at the packhorse for which I am really grateful. It was also free to get in before 9pm so when I got upstairs it was heaving with people and even more arrived after me. We were scattered everywhere and a lot of us just sat hunched up on the floor, very cosy and lovely and warm.
Cipher were up first, a recently formed guitar band, and not the same Cypher I saw at basement recently (shame). I think some experience and vocal work would work for them. They were ok as guitar bands go, but I've seen some truly excellent guitar bands recently so Cipher were a bit pale in comparison. Some of the harmonies worked well and the songs were ok - the kind of thing you could happily have on the background and not be distracted by (i.e., if it was dreadful you would turn it off, if it was amazing you would get caught up in it) but could, with a bit of practice become easily better.
Glissando come on next and I was a little unsure of what to expect. I was told ages and ages ago that I should go see them, but can't remember why. The website has little band info on it and I still can't get sound on the computer at home so I really had no idea what they would be like. There were just the two of them sat on chairs with electric guitars. They opened with a pulsing, echoing wall of sound, which was pretty cool and developed into a running melody, which turned into "Scarborough fair". She has a lovely pure clear singing voice and the combination was like a folk/electronica cross over. Very distinctive and worked really well. The audience certainly thought so and there were huge cheers. I'm not sure what any of the songs were called, but they were all sung with great emotion, ranging from shrieking/singing to softly spoken and switching back into that clear pure folk melodies kind of sound. The guitar harmonies working with, and built around the whole thing. Very interesting to listen to and I bought a CD as soon as she said they had some - as did most other people (only a pound too! Bargain.)
The Invention of Hands graced the small stage next and I noticed Diane had a sax with her this time as I have only seen her with a flute before. I've seen them twice now, and enjoyed them both times as they play a layered atmospheric kind of music I love. It conjures up images and whilst I was listening to them I thought it would be great music to set films/videos to. The Invention of Hands use both sampled and real vocals in their songs. They create epic tunes, great layered build ups crescendos falling into smooth swells of sounds, their sampled vocals appearing here and there as does the saxophone, and in a later song the flute playing a haunting harmony echoed by the guitars in a series of intertwining melodies. I wasn't too keen on the song they used a harmonica in, although it wasn't the harmonica I wasn't sure of, just that it seamed a little less together than the other songs tonight. I really enjoyed the rest of the set however as each song is subtly different to the last, although each one maintaining the overall sense of harmonious intertwined melodies. A stand-out song tonight for me was the one that starts with a sound effect like a finger running round a wet wine glass (think of the Tia Maria advert) with tenderly eerie vocals provided by Diana, with gentle rhythm from drums and guitars and keys. As I was sat on the floor quite close I could see up through the drums and follow the drummer (excellent! very interesting perspective) I bought their CD too...
Most of us on the floor have been using the gaps between bands to get up and stretch as it was a little crowded in there. No one seamed to mind and as we all sat down again, there was an amicable swap of places as everyone tried to sit somewhere with more legroom. Having had several people tread on me, I now had someone fall right on me while his friend trod on my fingers. I moved round again to get out the way and noticed members of 30 Day Hex UNplugging stuff (huh?)! It turned out that it was so the poet could read 2 poems to us. (Sorry I didn't catch his name) I'm not really a fan of poetry as I was forced to read and evaluate it at school and the sight of someone about to read some arty words in my direction always makes me cringe with the memory. He did very well though. The poems were both quite short and well delivered and the crowd was very enthusiastic about it. I'm not entirely sure myself though as the creeping paranoia that someone will ask me if I understood the inner meaning (s) and explain it to the class has a tendency to linger. I don't think I'm cut out to review poetry, so I don't think I'll attempt it here.
30 Day Hex finally took the stage amidst some weird and wonderful noises that made me wonder if we were getting the first song, or were they testing instruments/equipment (I want to know what the box thing with the long clear hose attached was, any ideas anyone?). This was because there were various members of the band still wandering around plugging stuff in and twiddling knobs and poking and moving things, but there was also an underlying sensation of some kind of structure here as well. As the band settle into their places the noises to on a more definite implication that this was indeed the first song. 30 Day Hex are certainly using more distortion and feedback in their sound than I remember them using before, and using it throughout the entire set. This is another band that creates epic songs with interwoven melodies, this time with occasional trumpet and a Darth Vader meets Cher type vocal effect. Sometimes I got the feeling that some of tunes were spiralling out of control and some of the melodic effect was lost due to guitar distortion sounds being so loud. There was a point were I could see both the drummer and the keyboard player doing things and couldn't hear either of them, the melodies crept back in as the sound levels came down and the layers achieved a distinct separation again. Its an interesting sound but doesn't make for the most relaxed listening after the final chilled song from Invention of Hands and the poet. It's the kind of thing I prefer to listen to when I have time to follow all the different bits, preferably with a few beers and time on my hands. There is a chaotic feel to part of it as the sounds swirl round each other. Again I am unsure of what each of the songs are called, but I think it was the second song that started slightly discordant. It was as though there were several threads and when they met at particular points they clashed with discordant note that came close but never quite, set my teeth on edge. The strobe light that appeared later was also in my direct line of sight and as I had people all around I couldn't move away. As I shut my eyes though I could concentrate on those threads of music and was able to hear it come together. Its clever stuff, but I can see that people who prefer more mainstream music, wanting something simpler. The final track has elements of everything that has gone before and as I was drifting along with it and listening to the sound effects beeping and gurgling away I wrote the first 2 things that came to mind - 2001 space odyssey and the clangers. It has that sort of sweeping hugeness of 2001 with these cute beeping/squeaking noises in it. I'm sure the band are ready to shoot me now so I'll stop.
My final words about the night:- thank you to all the lovely people I met (including the inebriated Icelander who joined in with some great comments/shouts to the whole room) and to the bands (+ poet) who provided a rich and diverse yet coherently themed evening of mostly melody filled epic greatness. Definitely need to have a few more of these I think. The stupid award however goes to the total idiot who decided that despite having a car park free of all other vehicles with the exception of mine, chose to reverse into my car. Thanks for that! And for those of you who don't know - the police can stop you and charge you if you can't see adequately out of your windows because it's illegal + constitutes dangerous driving (as my bumper clearly shows)!
Glissando is Richard Knox and Elly May Irving.