Buds and Spawn, the Cardiac-track monikered night, birthed by uber-muso Laura Holmes, began its life this month in Café Totem, a Sheffield venue with a technicolour past. Recently reimagined as a funky little booze and pizza place, with a bar upstairs and a compact gig space underneath, this was the perfect place to host the first of what I hope will be many wonderous musical happenings.
A three-course audio-visual experience had been promoted as “weird and wonky music”, and being a weird and wonky kinda human, I was excited to crack on. The only down side being this would be my first attempt at covering a gig with both words AND pictures. I’m a music lover, not a writer, but just for you here’s my review.
Ian Turley – warm-voiced multi-instrumentalist and self-confessed hoarder of musical apparatus, began the evening with an understated set blending keyboards, guitar and the kind of electronically generated sounds that even Delia Derbyshire would be proud of. Oh, and that man can rock a maraca.
I was tempted to close my eyes and float along with the lovely layered soundscapes. Alas, that would have meant a review with no photos, so instead I set out to capture Ian’s unassumingly cool, somewhat gangly but very charming stage persona on camera.
This was a brilliant set and a fabulous first act to kick off the Buds and Spawn adventure. The sometimes discordant, always perfectly placed sounds and wistful but never saccharine melodies combined impeccably with the pulsating, near industrial beats. Listening to My Lo-Fi Heart was something like being hugged by a large, warm-hearted, slightly disenchanted, hard, steel teddy bear.
I would say its pretty uncommon for a band to begin a gig with a morse-code device and ShaSh are most definitely that. Celestial Broccoli and Bifidus Digestivum, a duo resplendent in structured black leather and bright orange attire, took the stage and happily mucked about with it.
Asparagus wee, science and cosmetics all figured in the mildly anarchic set. But by far the most entertaining of their tunes was an inspired little number about the Fermi Paradox which, in my (not very valuable but quite considered) opinion, is worthy of the prize for best song ever written about the universe (sorry Eric).
Having spent a fair bit of time playing early video games with twiddly widdly tunes that get under your skin and stay there for decades, I have to say I’m still having ShaSh-induced electronic nerdery earworms days after this set. But like the best nights out, I also have a persistent feeling that I had a really really great time, despite not really remembering what it was I got up to.
Knowing very little about Barringtone, I’d done a bit of pre-gig homework and dipped in and out of their back catalogue. As a big fan of an unusual time signature I was all set for a sonic experience in compound triples. But I got much more than that. Barringtone feel like they are barely controlling chaos, where only their force of will and musical talent is holding the sounds together in a form which is understandable to the mere mortals before them.
And they take their job very seriously. So seriously in fact, that watching them perform was a somewhat voyeuristic experience. We had been granted audience but reluctantly so. At times it felt like they wouldn’t have noticed if they had an audience or not. Which is fine if you like that sort of thing. I’m selfish in that I want my bands to perform for me, not for themselves.
Even if the band didn’t envelope me, the sound certainly did. Tight-as drumming, the kind of guitar playing that is only possible when you’ve learned all the rules by heart then burned them in a satanic rite and electronic meanderings that transformed the music from madness to genius. Barringtone – quite possibly from an alternate reality where their music is played on a loop in bars whose clientele drink ironic Newcastle Brown martinis and laugh at Kafka’s jokes.
Review and Photography by H J Nicol