Opposite the well-established Boogaloo music pub on the main street in Highgate is The Red Hedgehog; an unassuming bar/café and the venue for the second night of a showcase from multi-instrumentalist and singer Dos Floris.
The set featured tracks from her majestic debut album ‘The Widowed Earth’, performed with striking confidence, depth and power. The show divided into a lighter and darker half, reflected by the costumes and new arrangements of these organic soundscapes. As a pulsating light back-projection links to the vocal sounds early tracks ‘Rivers’ and ‘The Other Side’ gently draw us into her world. Florence has complete mastery of the complex looping, multi-tracking and keyboard playing needed to bring everything alive, demonstrated to great effect on the faster post-apocalyptic groove ‘That Day’ and a funky version of ‘All The King’s Men’ (featuring the tones of a metal-stringed walking stick?). As the music grew in intensity and the back projection ended up like virtual barbed wire to reflect the anti-war sentiment of the lyric we were ready for a short interval.
On resuming the empathetic soundman seemed to crank up some of the denser bass tones so we could wallow in the gorgeous ‘Before You Loved Me’ and ‘The Widowed Earth’. In an older unrecorded song ‘Starlight’ the audience boosted the lightshow with glowsticks, then the superb ‘To The Wolves Part II’ was a natural choice for the finale, with an encore of the new ‘Human Relations’ pointing the sound in a different direction for the forthcoming album.
It was a triumphant performance! Sitting back and listening carefully I could hear the way that every small sonic element fits in, looped phrases drift in and out again and fill the spaces in between; just as astronomers search for the dark matter invisible amongst the bright galaxies, in this music the whole adds up to far more than the sum of the parts…
On a steamy summer evening the place to be was the Cambridge Corner House pub and venue, for a rare UK appearance of singer and multi-instrumentalist Dos Floris.
Opening the show was a special set from Bouquet Of Dead Crows, pared down to Toni Cooper’s voice and acoustic guitar from Neil Bruce. At present they are working on a follow-up to their accomplished song collection ‘Of The Night’, and tonight there were re-imagined versions of many of the tracks from that album. Musically Neil added extra guitar nuance and colour to underpin Toni’s confident vocals which combined to great effect, especially on the new single ‘Epicentre’.
I have been an admirer of the majestic Dos Floris album ‘The Widowed Earth’ since its release, and at the time of writing I still can’t quite believe that I was watching a performance of that hypnotic music and meeting its creator.
The sound is complex and multi-layered, necessitating some backing percussion and electronics being co-ordinated by laptop, but there was plenty of interesting keyboard lines and experimental effects played live as the tracks developed beyond the album versions. Add in some flute, a pure captivating voice and looped backing vocals for the complete picture.
The ‘natural world’ theme that threads through these songs is most evident in ‘Rivers’ but so cleverly are the music and words intertwined that the simple protest of ‘All The Kings Horses’ seems to be a statement that war is somehow a violation of nature (and possibly is as effective a statement against the Iraq War as the 2.6 million words of the Chilcott Report?!).
One of the highlights was ‘Before You Loved Me’, a torch song that could be from 1920s Berlin if they had had waves of electronica in the jazz clubs. Then a version of ‘To The Wolves Part II’ was dedicated to this humble reviewer which made the evening even better…
Based in Italy, Dos Floris is the performing and recording name of Florence Donovan. Her debut album ‘The Widowed Earth’ is a dense, multi-layered collection of atmospheric vocal and electronic pieces. Each track is crafted and complex, substantial yet brittle enough to slip through your fingers.
Every one of these cinematic soundscapes is given plenty of time to construct the right instrumental mood and reveals more on subsequent listens.A brief intro of a cassette loading gives way to ‘Rivers’, a pastoral theme built from a simple flute figure with the addition of ever-changing keyboards. The vocal simmers and yearns before final resignation. The electronic waves of ‘Before You Loved Me’ pulsing through the track, the gentle and unpredictable piano chords like droplets of rain in ‘Water’, the loose drum patterns in ‘The Other Side’ supporting simple vocal phrases; it is all elegant and addictive.
I really like the title track ‘The Widowed Earth’, huge swathes of synthesised strings in the introduction then the sustained vocal interweaves like another instrument.
In nearly an hour of music there is plenty more to get lost in, including the two part epic ‘To The Wolves’. As a change to guitar music, give this album a late-night listen.