Another strong line-up for a sold out evening at The Portland, starting with Ben Garnet, otherwise known as The Organ Grinder’s Monkey, a regular in Cambridge (and on this site) with his guitar/random sounds/voice/laptop combination. A large audience was already in the venue, reacting well to the electronica, triggered effects and manipulated vocals of hours of painstaking studio crafting being let loose to run free in the live performance. Older songs ‘Testing the Theory…’ and ‘See This Through’ sound as good as ever as does the heavy bass and denser instrumentation of new track ‘False Economy’. Apparently new experiments in stereo are pushing the capacity of the laptop (Bill) beyond its limits but it looks like this creative partnership will run and run.
Five piece Cambridge band Violet Woods are featured elsewhere on this site and it was good to see that their live versions of tracks from the debut album have grown in stature. It was a nicely paced set, contrasting the dark mysteries of ‘Electric Fascination’ with the simpler pastoral pleasures of ‘Here’ and ‘Driftwood Royalty’. The band musically blends moody 12-string electric guitar with bold retro organ notes as second guitar, bass and drums all make a major contribution. The finale of the album and live set is ‘The River’ an epic track with a haunting vocal from Xavier Watkins, then eventually all the instruments break loose, with feedback and the drum kit flayed until it sounds like it is being thrown down the stairs…
The Wave Pictures are a likeable and unassuming trio, their sparse tight sound and onstage interplay creates a captivating and engrossing show. Having formed in 1998, they have recorded many albums as themselves or collaborations with a variety of performers, also they have covered songs by cult outsider American singer Daniel Johnston.
Complex lyrics featuring relationships, domestic trivia, assorted wildlife and name checks of Johnny Cash, Tracey Emin and The Real Slim Shady(!) are delivered mainly by guitarist Dave Tattersall with drummer Jonny Helm leading on some songs. Along with bassist Franic Rozycki the band are accomplished musicians, their trademark indie rock is clear sounding and intricate guitar solos interspersed with busy basslines and solid drums.
There are also departures in musical styles, the polyrhythmic shuffle of ‘Before This Day’ was an early highlight. At times I was reminded of the minimal relaxed sound and lyrical concerns of Jonathan Richman, another live performer with the ability to have the audience losing themselves in his unique musical world. Soon to be released album Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon featured strongly, then the show ended with requests, all warmly received by the very attentive audience.