|Spiritual Front, Sleeping
Pictures, Matt Howden, Colin Potter
It was another eclectic line-up from Hinoeuma Malediction for their Valentines Day special bringing together electronic experimentalists, acoustic neo-folkers and the classical strains of one of the UK's finest composers.
Almost obscured behind a bank of electronic equipment, sound contraptions and a bunch of wires from which Colin Potter, tonight's opening act, skilfully coaxed an array of sounds. Solitary and studious he filled the room with his ever-evolving set that ranged from ambient drone, that washed over the audience in a dreamlike haze, to the sound of bagpipes, children's laughter to rhythmic and guitar interludes. Potter is proprietor of ICR studios, the favoured engineer of Nurse With Wound and Current Ninety Three, and a pivotal member of the Ora collective. Perhaps criminally I've overlooked releases from Colin Potter but on the basis of tonight's set this is something I'll rectify. I won't even mention the planned collaboration with Jonathon Coleclough that didn't take place this evening - even though I'm sure something similar happened with a Coleclough and Andrew Chalk collaboration at an earlier Hinoeuma event.
Over the past year or so Sleeping Pictures have aroused quite a bit of interest through their conributions to various compilations, but a major factor in their increased profile is because their debut CD, Neither Edge, features contributions from John Murphy, Tony Wakeford and Matt Howden.
For tonight's performance Marc Blackie and Gary Parsons are aided by members of Naevus, Knifeladder, and Renée Rosen (that's Mrs Tony Wakeford to you). They provide an acoustic sound but they don't appear too drawn to apocalyptic, mystical or mythical themes. Sleeping Pictures concerns are more grounded in personal existentialism, and unrequited love. In fact, 'Soap Opera Life' almost sounded like Soft Cell in its kitchen sink style. Not all of their tracks work so well, however. Marc possesses a relatively weak voice and when it's only backed by guitar the sound is less than convincing. When they opt for something more powerful and direct where the bass throb kicks in, Renée's violin soars then Sleeping Pictures do command attention. It's early days for them and with Matt Howden at the production helm of Neither Edge then I'm sure any soft edges will be filled by stirring violin and string segments.
Before they perform a note one wag in the audience quipped: Are you the Bad Seeds? That comment held true almost all evening. Long haired, suited and with the odd Cowboy hat Spiritual Front may as well have been. Simone, the vocalist may be a pretty face, with the latest in boy-band punk hair but he's fronting a very musically accomplished outfit that call to mind Nick Cave and the Swans. They are a particularly slick group delivering folky ballads comprising guitars, percussion and a keyboard sound redolent of times past. The vocals are particularly croaky and half-spoken, kinda like Michael Gira. Spiritual Front were a nice scoop for the Hinoeuma club but I suspect they were playing to the uninitiated. The scattered collection Songs For the Will and Nihilist Cocktails for Calypso Inferno or the upcoming release on Hau Ruck may well be useful entry points for those, like myself, not versed in the works of this Italian project.
Sieben featuring the composer Matt Howden completed the evening with a selection of tracks from their latest release, A Solitary Confinement. Matt was a lone figure providing vocals and violin, against a series of electronic and rhythmic backing tapes. Matt is something of a musical virtuoso, and musical workaholic: he's violinist and producer of Sol Invictus, records solo and is also an accomplished composer - figuring in Radio 3's Young Composer of the Year, a year or so ago. This solo performance - Sieben's now an entirely solo project - was intense if somewhat hindered by some slight monitor problems. It's enthralling to watch Matt solo; to focus on his concentration, as the sound of his violin sweeps, and soars with some interesting looped effects on the violin.
A Solitary Confinement is based upon a collaboration with Danish photographer Kristine Haffgaard, whose arcane work is populated with ghostly figures to which Howden has attempted to bring to life. The ache of Howden's strings would perfectly complement Haffgaards's grainy, ancient looking visuals. It's just a pity that tonight's performance didn't showcase the visuals, and that Sieben's performance was moved to the twilight slot when most were already making their way home.
Colin Potter - www.icstudio.co.uk
Sieben - www.matthowden.com
Sleeping Pictures - www.sleepingpictures.co.uk
Spiritual Front - http://www.spiritualfront.com