Songs Of My Lap
Visiting the T-Wells Forum on a Friday night is often a mixed bag of an experience; one is never sure whether to expect full thrash guitar blown heavy metal or quirky, intellectualised Indie-kid music. There is a case to be made that the best nights are often those wherein there is a significantly smaller amount of people inside our hallowed toilet. The Music, a couple of years ago, for example, attracted an insignificant number of people when compared with the Anti-Nowhere League run of headline nights last December. However, there is a sense of self-satisfaction when you know you are in a minority of people who visited the forum and came away from it with a completely new experience.
Over the last year, it has never ceased to amaze me, how many wonderful and beautiful things have recently come out of Iceland. Be it not just the Panasonic landscapes, the post-rock festivals, Sigur Ros or even Bjork; but Iceland seems to be fast developing as a centre of alternative, 'chilled-out,' music. Thorunn Magnusdottir is also a product of the country and is, I believe, in a pretty good position to do justice to it all by herself. At twenty years old she has a powerful vocal range which slides from Gemma Hayes' Irish folk to Joplin's self-pronouncing lyrical combustibility. Needless to say, though I shall anyway, as soon as she walked on the stage, every male in the audience started to pay attention- Blonde hair, blue eyes and a talented singer. However, her singing ability was not very evident from the start. Nervous, or coy to the point of irritation, Magnusdottir took some time to warm up and get the audience on her side.
The first vocally breathtaking song was 'Passive Aggressive', which came a good five songs into their set. Her partner in action, Wayne Murray bears, a slightly too familiar likening to Noo from Mum-Raa, who however, infused the music with a dualistic sexual tension which both Magnusdottir and Murray relentlessly played on. It may interest one to know that the duo was called 'The Lovers,' before 'The Honeymoon.' - Draw your own conclusions? Wayne shouts down the microphone 'The Summer's Gone,' before they launch into their most notable and memorable song; one which is surely worth buying their EP 'Passive Aggressive,' for. The duo play with a friend tonight, playing a beige Telecaster, screening his face with his face-long blonde hair and not saying a word all night; this 'friend' seems to carry a large proportion of the music and I suspect was once part of 'Away Team,' with the duo.
The set flowed along in a similar Gemma Hayes style, the music evoking the images of last year's summer, replete with a melancholic but exciting idea of Love and new romance. The pair sing 'a very quiet song,' together in the centre stage microphone- though short the song demonstrates the true compatibility of the pair's vocals. I don't believe the duo will come away from their first EP being successful, however, I would urge as many people to see them as possible- especially at a summer festival. The music has a unique lightness- there is a simplicity in two guitars and vocals that can't be matched and the duo profess a gift of songwriting that seems to reveal a large amount of their relationship while revealing none. I would perhaps suggest that the pair work on their stage etiquette more and loose the coquettish pretension that I heard some girls talking about behind me throughout the set! Do check out 'Don't know what to say,' it is the best of the four tracks on the EP- which consequently is overproduced which detracts from the songs; hearing them acoustically transfers the sentiment and sexual
dynamic much more effectively.
'Songs of my Lap,' local band and unlabel signed, play a mixture of Explosions in the sky and Sparklehorse. The duo came on to a pre-recorded backing track of white noise and guitar cacophony; Alex Hancock, the one man band himself, using phones to create funny little noises in his guitar amps- nice ideas, well executed but nothing new. Hancock has a great amount of stage presence; like Ian Curtis and all other underground music icons, he has the 'possessed' look. Though despite this possession it is hard to move far away from the Aqualung comparisons; he is a nasty, fucked-up Aqualung who writes music and explores ideas rather than songs.
First song, 'Rabbit in the Stock,' is not the most endearing of songs, either out of time or experimentally out of time, the lyrics verge on pretension and the music is neither exciting nor anything new. It is not the best way to start a set. However, in their favour, the pair brought the house lights down to a single spotlight which created a sense of atmosphere which highlighted each and every creative nuance of their music scapes. The duo seemed also to progress somewhat as their set went on; the second song sounded like it may have been lifted straight off an early Sparklehorsehorse album. Vocals delicately restrained and complimented by a rhythmical, yet very simple, acoustic guitar. Luke Pritchard is a natural partner in musical exploration; he understands what it is that Hancock is trying to achieve and is more than able to help in the quest for atmosphere. The pair then start to explore their music in more detail; though simple and incessantly out-of-time the guitars seem to play over each other to create that silencing sound. The laptop computer and backing tracks assist here and there though the pieces lack structure, direction and purpose- but the mystery of 'Songs of my lap,' is that this is probably what he is trying to achieve. Hancock keeps the audience enthralled yet has to say very little and play even less; with a good rhythm section Hancock could go far with the support he seems to have earned to date.
On a rare solo outing outside London, Simple Kid tonight holds the Tunbridge Wells Forum in the palm of his hand. Venturing out onto stage wearing a lopsided cowboy hat, a case of harmonicas and a plethora of acoustics, he seems unfazed by the reaction he might cause tonight. The second act tonight to use a laptop to compliment and fill out the gaps in his musical endeavour; or alternatively to replace, for the intimate performance. It was one of those heart-warming moments when the whole of the audience stands at the front of the venue, even on stage; rather than standing at the back of the room, murmuring in discontent. A genuinely funny bloke, Simple Kid, engages with his audience on both a personal and musical level. The guy comes across as a human and is genuinely unaffected by what might call his rise to fame. The music is a combination of Elliot Smith, Jonny cash and the vintage western films but is, nevertheless, infectiously catchy and uplifting. His sometimes-sneering vocals compliment the western tinged music and the melodious, vocally dynamic facet the shifting chords and harmonica melodies.
Despite this it does take a while for the Kid to engage with his audience properly; the set starts of slowly with minor sound difficulties. The majority of the set is made up of album tracks, indeed the set list stuck reasonably closely to the album listing- however, this did mean that all the classics were played: 'Drugs,' 'The average man,' 'Staring at the sun,' etc etc. Each song delivered with a quirky one-line introduction. 'Supertramps
and Superstars,' played mid-set was a disappointment; the lyrics were delivered dryly and came across as contrived and trite; maybe also the chord progressions were getting a bit predictable by that time. The Kid played the album before he started to think on his feet. He delivered a cover of the Man in Black's 'Hurt,' with which he instructed the audience to 'keep their neighbours quiet.' The vocals were played through the laptop and converted into an electronic vocal- though the vocals weren't quite right, it was a
fitting tribute and played on the intimate nature of the performance to the greatest extent. Following this he played 'June,' a b-side written about June Carter Cash and delivered with equal bravado even though the lyrics are dubious. 'Kids don't care,' followed with a short and sweet story about kids and parent relationships- 'no daddy- Kids do care.' The Kid ended the set in the best possible way with a replay of the Average Man to a backing track of Sabbath's Paranoid!
The Kid delivered more than I expected- he exceeded the Forum curfew and played until 11:30 but the atmosphere was electric throughout; managing to keep the audience subdued and attentive for such a prolonged period of time was an achievement. The Kid really brought home his music and reached a lot of new people. With a mountain of compliments and a very large applause Simple Kid went away feeling a happier man (mainly due to the demo cd I gave him!)- as I'm sure he did at many a smaller venue- however, the evening did ram home the point about numbers at the forum; for those of you who are interested in new music or different music then nights like these need to be much more frequented. Simple Kid; he played a good 'un.