The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds hides away amongst the back to backs and corner shops of Leeds’ student area in Headingley. The venue has, over the years built up a reputation for being a sought after venue for touring bands of many varied and disparate genres of music. Tonight, set amongst the mirrors, the packed venue played host to 3 acts that perfectly complemented each other’s sound and character.
Ô Paon is essentially the work of French Canadian Genevieve Castree, who, alone, with her guitar microphone and looping devices, held the audience rapt with delicate gossamer melodies and swirling waves of passion. That air of ardour and enigma was particularly heightened as all the songs were performed in French. Compositions were built up on a wall of guitar and voice to be shattered with her elusive, fragile voice. That one woman, armed with so few devices, can achieve this kind of atmosphere in such a venue, must surely make her, and the audience enthralled and uneasy, proud to be part of it.
The atmosphere was not lost with Mount Eerie, effectively guitarist and vocalist Phil Elverum. Previously working under the moniker The Microphones, Elverum produces full frontal assaults of sound and emotion using only his voice and a variety of guitar distortions, and reminiscent of Ô Paon, held the room mesmerised with a variety of compositions that captivated and startled the audience in equal measure. More belligerent in approach, Elverum’s compositions ride on an engine of feedback, reverberation and distortion, which provided the perfect soundtrack for the expectant audience.
That Earth have recently been reviewed in a variety of magazines of differing contexts, jazz, rock and avant garde, is surely testament to the progress they have made in their career. That the audience present tonight was comprised of a variety of characters, including someone in a Gong t-shirt, further enhances that belief that the Earth sound now appeals to lovers of many genres of music. “Last night we played in a cave and got dripped on…” quipped Carlson, referring to the concert in Edinburgh.
The atmosphere here tonight was also hot and sweaty in anticipation of their current set. Faithful followers were rewarded with versions of “Tallahassee” and a remarkable version of “The Bee’s Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull” which was loaded with anticipation as Carlson’s feedback guitar tantalised the audience’s expectation of the songs progression (rather like Carlos Santana may interpret an tune by Tortoise). The addition of a cello to the line up of guitar, bass and drums seems to add a sense of authority to the live sound which sets them apart from more pedestrian collectives. The tunes tonight are slow and ponderous, but, it could be argued, are pregnant with intelligence and restraint. In the true spirit of improvisation and experimentation the encore, without the customary “leaving and returning to the stage” melodrama was a new piece that had freshly been composed.
The band now tread a fine line between hypnotic and tedious with uncomplicated, recurring guitar lines, aching cello, poignant bass and leisurely, solemn cymbal rolling from Adrienne Davies. The power and authority of Earth’s sound, particularly in a live setting, is their overall “control”. There are very few changes in dynamic, and no left field solos or sound diversions to distract or titillate the listener. Earth 2012 are about “being in command” of their craft. Whether or not the listener finds this an achievement or not is a matter of individual taste. On leaving the venue at the end of the evening, an audience member was heard to respond to their friends query as to whether they enjoyed the performance, “…it was alright…a bit boring…” You can’t please all of the people all of the time…