Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beacons, Black Ice and crossed-wires

It is autumn here now even though the weather is still remarkably good generally. This evening when driving from work I took the back-route home, which is through some woods, and while there was the faintest drizzle in the air you didn't need that or the slowly changing colours of the leaves to indicate it because you could just smell that it was now autumn. The UK is not a country of great climatic extremes, or indeed climate at all, which is probably why we are obsessed with the random variability of our weather instead.

Now why have I mentioned that you might ask? Well, much music has associations in as much to say it goes better with some seasons or weather or other associations (even if the they actually have to be experienced in foreign climes). If that were not true then surely the attractions of Ibiza would be no more than those of the Isle of Wight. (The latter does, to be fair, however host two major festivals and is thus trying very hard indeed and the sun shone at Bestival 2009, I am told.) I also think that opening a festival is an unenviable task...

It is often like this. There is always an amazing feeling when I come across an album that is show-stopping, which I was quite unacquainted with, but this is it seems even better if it happens live and that is why I waited ten days to order the album. [It arrived today, hence the comment.]

To hear a full set by a band live in such circumstances, and then twice in one day, was something quite new to me and I wondered if the album would then prove a disappointment in some way. Not a bit of it... it is a wonderful album and while much of it has ostensibly weather related themes, predominantly winter ones, they are as much metaphorical as literal.

In fact the album could equally well have been called 'Crossed Wires'. This is the interior artwork on the CD (Bella Union - BELLACD199) but the front cover has a clue to this even though the wires are barely above the snow.

It is very difficult to chose any favourite tracks but Black Ice is an obvious contender.

Black Ice

I took the bus down Bathurst Street and saw where,
all the lonely people meet down there.
I sat on a pile of cigarettes and blew,
icicles with one sharp breath towards you.

There's black ice, no sign.

Temper me and temper this I've tried,
to fit in everything in a small time.
The winter brings a heaviness, this weight,
is a hand over the things I shouldn't say.

There's black ice, no sign.

They are a seven-piece, much given to changing and swapping instruments, so even their festival-opening set on the 'The Big Top Stage' Friday lunchtime was a fairly complicated affair. It was however as nothing when compared to their 'surprise session' appearance at 2am Saturday on the tiny stage in the Tipi Tent, not least because for some of it they were joined by fellow Torontans 'The Acorn'.

That made eleven of them on a tiny stage and it was another blistering performance.

Now try to sort out the out all the wires.

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