at the Cube, Bristol 28th January
The clogs interestingly, all classically trained musicians gave a wonderfully fused performance. It was novel to see the use of sheet music at a gig! The violinist passionately swayed, the guitarist huddled over his instrument coaxing some lovely notes, a low key percussionist subtly tapped stuff in the background and a bassoonist played from the wings - giving the deep accent to the whole.
My closest comparison would be 'The Penguin Café Orchestra' as this was picturesque semi – classical music without the snootiness – tranquil landscaping that possessed a loose drifty quality. When the drums were more evident the tunes were given a supplementary punch especially the track about a French village that jolted around the rich sounds of the bassoon. Mostly instrumental when an actual song did materialise in the form of the beautiful ‘Lantern’ it was a pleasurable surprise. That gentle Caribbean steel drum, silky violin lapping against the guitar and the bassoon swelling up, threatening to drown the whole delicate song was just beautiful and just one of the tracks off their soon to be released fourth album.
The Clogs did a few new tunes with The Books - loved the plucked violin and cello combination. In fact the live cello from 'The Books' was a complete surprise, as I thought they were a product of a computer.
After a short intermission The Books duo returned for their solo set, they genuinely seemed glad to be here, riding high on the crest of being the favourites of 2005 in The Wire magazine (didn’t see that coming).
Toe tapping stuff – I highly recommend the 2nd album – ‘Thought of Food’ and latest offering – ‘Lost and Safe’ the latter being the majority of the show, and what a terrific job they did of it - taking pleasure in modestly sharing their kleptomaniac compulsions for collaged sounds – producing an effortless jigsaw of sound and vision, completely dispelling any doubts that they could pull off their sleek studio finish live. Highly entertaining, with an ever-present intelligence, hidden in the partly obscured vocals of Nick Zammuto – something you could take or leave without ruining your enjoyment of the music.
Liked the way they spilt their lyrics on screen in to groups of three - in sync to the gentle vocals of Nick – giving a sub-plot that was just out of grasp - guess my brain wasn’t quick enough but I swear those dadaesque fragments were saying something very clever. The anagrams of the word meditation (and boy there were loads) were a more conventional word play but funny none the less… The compilations of images were amusing , collected snippets from the 30’s onwards - some ingeniously spliced for extra weirdness, especially like the tuneful hand farter from the 30’s and his story of his unusual talent…bloody comical.
It’s funny how so much other sample heavy stuff often ends up a hollow construct, maybe a sign of inadequacy of musicianship but not here - the combination of live cello, guitar and gentle vocals and those beautifully sequenced electronics liven up those found bygone sounds giving them new context. Something of dust is re-animated, energized... filled a few pages of my sketchbook, auto-scribbling, skipping, etching and looping to the rhythms - filling the pages in quick succession – look good in the half-light, felt good at the time too - but in better light they were just crap…oh well
The final songs were some more collaborative shenanigans with the Clogs – the progressively shifting lunar landscape behind reflective of the sound surrounding us.
Loved the very mellow 'Owl with Knees' dedicated to Nick's little brother - Mikey Zammuto. Home movie madness accompanied the sounds on screen - a perfect ending.
The packed room roared with applause at the finish, and by the way the merchandise stall was shifting units – they stoked up a lot of interest too. Picked up a few free posters on the way out that turned out to be DIY origami frogs, the kids had lots of fun racing them next morning.