Saturday, September 18, 2010

Acoustic+ 17 September 2010

Time to stand back from EOTR and the festival scene for at least this one post.  Frome has a very active music environment of its own and one of the planks of that is an (approximately) monthly event called Acoustic+.  The event takes place in the Cheese & Grain, a converted former market building in the centre of town, and typically consists of four artists (not always acoustic, it has to be said) each playing for 35 - 40 minutes.  Entry is £4; the venue has a café (until 9pm) and a bar serving Milk Street Brewery's splendid beer (all evening).  For those of you lucky enough to be at End Of The Road 2010 (EOTR) last weekend you might already have discovered that as 'Funky Monkey' and 'Cobble Wobble', both Milk Street brews, featured in The Black Crow's (rather successful) first beer festival!
Anyway, the music at Acoustic+ is pretty varied and yesterday evening was launched by a set from Mpe-asem.

The band members are local but the music, and the instruments, most certainly are not.  This music, presumably originally intended for dancing, was entirely acoustic, instrumental and percussive. Some of it was original, some unashamedly derivative, but all of it based on the traditional music and instruments of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.  If you thought xylophones were simple instruments, for use at elementary school, these require a major re-examination of that concept!  The microphones are not close to them and it does not matter - they are loud in their own, un-amplified, being, which is important as in their traditional environment there would be no external amplification.  Beneath the bars are dried gourds, with holes cut in them, that act as sound boxes.  If I had a little more foresight then I would have asked to take a picture or two of the underside of these instruments when they were being carried off stage. Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing!?

Next, and this shows how Acoustic+ functions in a telling way, was Bristolian singer-songwriter Daisy Chapman.  She did her set solo - just singing accompanied by herself on electric keyboard - but she also used a trick.
The trick in question - and she did it very subtly - is to record oneself live and then loop it as backing. In a wider sphere, and notable as she is just about to release her third album, KT Tunstall is particularly good at this, often using multiple loops at the same time.
In a way something I wrote is coming back to haunt me: luckily only in a good way. I said that some songs are almost too dangerous/sacred for a cover version.  I am absolutely delighted to have been wrong - and twice in just five days - and this time it was Daisy Chapman's cover of Rihanna's 'Umbrella', with judicious use of the above-mentioned effects!

To be fair, and I'm not really being so here, Y?4 didn't really do very much for me. I feel a bit like Simon Cowell - minus the pay but at least he is older than me - saying that.  Quite listenable-to? Yes, very much so, just not particularly special. Perhaps that is merely the inevitable result of having seen so much, often rather special, live music in the last ten days?
Nancy Black @ Acoustic+  17 September 2010.
On the other hand this was amazing;  I could pigeon-hole her music influences if I really wanted to do so but, as it happens, I don't feel that it is necessary or helpful.

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