Somewhat to my surprise, yesterday afternoon I found myself enjoying live music in the actual physical presence of the musicians creating it for the first time since March 14th. Billed as the Doc Brown Trio, Wes Finch's outlet for his covers work, it actually turned out to be an essentially originals set, which was appropriate given that the concert was part of the Kenilworth Arts Festival and took place in the open air (with good potential for social distancing) in the town's Talisman Square. No doubt in different times, the same gig might have been hosted indoors, it was good to see it happen at all with the weather smiling on proceedings and very positive responses from the crowd who were also visiting the adjacent art fair. In fact, given the number of families & young children present who might not have attended an indoor, ticketed gig, it is arguable that the performance as it took place, was more effective in introducing a new audience to Wes' music. It was good too to see faces I'd not seen in the flesh for many months such as HotMusicAl himself & Wes' Mechanicals Band colleague Katrin Gilbert. It was good too to see Kenilworth Arts Festival engaging with local music now as in earlier days this had been less the case.
Playing with Wes were his Doc Brown/Mechanicals colleagues Jools Street and Ben Haines & Liz Crowley joined them on vocals for some numbers. Ironically all of these had also played at the penultimate live gig I'd attended back on February 29th.
What can one say about the music? It was pretty ideal for the company, the occasion & the weather & I hope it's not too fanciful to say that band & audience to some extent responded to a sense of partial liberation, albeit (at least as far as I go) with a sense of who is near you or approaching close to you that had not really been my experience at previous concerts. The setlist had a slight overlap with that for Wes' Leap Year gig (look out for the live album in the final stages of preparation) and seemed chosen for the mood: uplifting for the most part but with threads of reflection & blues. As I say, the band played with the professionalism you'd expect but the looseness of people with the shackles taken off for an afternoon at least. Maybe one should be grateful under the circumstances for any live music at all: however I'm not sure I'd have gone along myself for a merely token exercise so the quality of the performance, the material, the sense of being in company (good company at that) to enjoy music & the feeling that people are adapting & finding ways to play & hold modified Festivals despite all the current constraints, transcended the mere "gigness" of the occasion. It was a special moment. I wonder when the next one will be for me?
As I'm sure that you are aware, we were fortunate enough to be able to include the debut single of Chloë Boehm "Dare You" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three' & get in on reporting this potentially fascinating career from its very start: we also published a feature on her in March.
Chloë has been deprived of the chance to build upon her very positively received music to date & frankly swiftly growing reputation with live performances (though she has been a regular live streamer from her refuge in Germany). However it would seem that both the positive feedback she has been getting & the circumstances of lockdown have given her a particular impetus to reflect deeply & hence to create new music: many fresh pieces having been debuted online.
This brings me to her new single "Writers" (and I'm delighted that despite the constraints she has managed the production process, on this occasion with her Sam Martin of LAYKS in support) which is a follow up to "Dare You" and "Be Gentle".
One of the characteristics of Chloë that you spot very early on is her tendency to self deprecation. I'm sure this complete lack of egotism contributes to the honesty of her writing (another trait one soon notices) and of course as noted in previous articles, she is relatively inexperienced compared with many of the musicians she plays with locally but who (and this is important I'm sure) rate her highly. Instrumental virtuosity is something we can all applaud & lord knows we have plenty of that quality about in Coventry & Warwickshire at present. However to me it is nothing unless deployed in the service of a song: otherwise it simply becomes self indulgence & frankly dull. So when Chloë describes her own playing as "rustic", I see where she is coming from, but her developing guitar skills serve her own songs well & accentuate the truth in them. In fact what I think I'd rather label (if I must) as "instinctive" or "intuitive" can add to the originality of what we are listening to;
"Writers" (released today on all the usual platforms) is a definite progression in several respects from her earlier work. The production values are much more noticeable with obvious attention being paid to shaping her vocal sound as well as that of the instrumentation & the latter is fuller than on the earlier singles. A growing sense of confidence perhaps explains the longer introduction and her slow & measured delivery which leaves plenty of space for the words to inhabit to excellent effect.
Reflective & elegiac as so many of her songs to date are, "Writers" also has that almost intangible sense of sadness threaded through it which again seems one of her hallmarks & this in turn has a strong impact on how the listener interprets the lyrics. Less "rustic" & more limpid & lucid in tone than Chloë might have us believe, this beautiful song possesses two of the essential attributes of a successful one: it engages emotionally with us & it does not offer full narrative resolution: there is so much potential in "Writers" for us to draw our own conclusions & to apply the lyrics to our own lives & circumstances.
I hope you have been enjoying the track "Flamingo" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Four'? I'm pleased to share with you now the latest single from Lemon Boy, that is to say "Sea of Stars" which came out yesterday.
In fact this song first appeared on his album ‘Fading Voices' last year, but this is a new mix for us.
As you'll know, I was knocked out by the originality of Luke Bate's work at the first listening so new material from him is always most welcome. "Sea of Stars" sounds distinctly different to "Flamingo": this is clearly an artist who while staying true to himself does not want to repeat himself either. What remains a constant is the simplicity of the arrangement & ethereal beauty of the overall sound: the evocation of nature too. Less obviously "eastern" in its sonic character than other work of his I've heard, it perhaps shares with say Japanese pictorial art & poetry the desire to say more via less.
The unusual soundscape is dominated by three major elements: a very prominent snare drum, a compelling vocal (which occasionally reminded me of Ian Curtis) & a guitar figure almost endlessly repeated with subtle variations, the overall effect being hypnotic & creating an impression of the vastness of the open sea. In comparing the single version with that which came out in 2019, I'd say that he has opted to accentuate the dreamy spaciness of the mix & after repeated plays, I probably am now drawn more to this one. I certainly hope you'll appreciate its considerable& unique beauty too.
There is some good news for Wes Finch fans awaiting the release of his Leap Year gig live album (as (p)reviewed in this magazine last month) He has offered you a plate of hors d'oeuvres in the form of four tracks recorded at the rehearsals for the show: "Fully Grown", "Keep Fishing" , "Maurice" and "Hold That Note" and the set is available on a "name your price" basis from this link:
The four songs certainly will whet your appetite for the album release but as you will have anticipated, the quality of the performances in no way indicates any inferiority in relation to studio or full gig versions: these are vignettes of great musicians playing excellent songs with love & commitment to them & each other & a true indication of what was to follow. Pull up a comfy chair, enjoy your appetisers & make sure you have left room for the main meal.
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