There are few gigs within each year that get my heart racing and this one was one of them from the moment I learned about it in January. I had been expecting a London date for And Also The Trees since last year when I attended both their concerts in Leipzig’s WGT, so I was thrilled to find out that this wish of mine would be fulfilled in 2017. I was also extremely excited to see In The Nursery live again as it had now been, more than 10 years since the last time I saw them in Athens’ Elfentanz festival and anxious to see Cult With No Name for the first time.

First of all the organization of this gig was very good, stage times were respected, the music we listened to between the bands’ sets was very fitting and everything else around this gig was great. These are not obvious things and they are very important.

Cult with No Name –The sonic equivalent of an impressionist painting

Cult With No Name a.k.a Erik Stein and Jon Boux were captivating on stage being the perfect opening act for the evening. Despite describing themselves as ‘post-punk electronic balladeers’ there are many more elements to their music and equally many elements in the visual aspect of their stage appearance. It was not difficult for me to be immersed in the atmosphere of their music, whether this created glimpses of the world of jazz and soul, Black’s and George Michael’s music of the 90s or motivated me with downtempo electronic beats. While Erik’s voice give to the lyrics ethereal dimensions transforming him into a caring confider, Jon’s melodies at the keyboards make sure that the audience experience an emotional ‘voyage’  throughout the set. Erik’s vocals balance perfectly a calm conviction and a romantic (i.e. referring to the Romantic period in the arts) calmness. The band’s last piece of work was the album entitled Blue Velvet Revisited a collaboration with Tuxedomoon. The music of this album accompanied a documentary about David Lynch directed by the German film maker Peter Braatz. We listened to parts from this album during the gig and as Erik explained that we were listening to Tuxedomoon’s saxophone in one of the songs, I strongly wished that Tuxedomoon would be on stage with them. The piano melodies elegantly performed by Jon, often awake the feelings that the music of Wim Mertens always creates when I listen to it. Yet, CWNN mix keyboards with other sound samples skilfully and have this ability to gradually change the rhythm within the set and arrive at the point where a pop electronic beat is perceived as the most natural sound. During their show their ability to shift between these quite different moods revealed the unique way in which the duo has filtered and recomposed different stylistic elements in order to craft their sound.

Simultaneously there was something else very interesting going on, it felt as if Erik personified  the accumulation of all visual and musical characteristics of Black, George Michael, David Bowie, John Foxx and Ian Craig Marsh combined. I also kept one more quite fascinating element from the band’s performance and this was, the different dimensions of them that the stage lighting was revealing. One would think of stage lighting as something that has the same effect on everyone. In the case of CWNN, the stage lighting combined perfectly with Erik’s artistic aura, kinesiology and the music’s mood and the visual result was rich in Pop Art references especially during the soul-influenced pieces. In the case of the more electronic in style songs, the visual result had qualities that can be found in Russian Constructivist paintings.

We listened to ‘Context Is Everything’, ‘Under The Dirt’, Breathing’, ‘Hope Is Existence’ among other songs before the band gave the stage to In The Nursery.

In The Nursery or the soundtrack of a world in turmoil

Despite having to set up massive drums and many instruments on stage, In The Nursery made a very quick transition and started their setlist with ‘Rainhall’, ‘Crepuscule’ and ‘Hymn Noir’ from their recent albums. The rhythms and the energy immediately pulled everyone out of the solemn place where CWNN’s music had carefully placed us and set a more assertive tone. From where I was standing it seemed that the band’s energy had just excited everyone. Once ITN finished a few people asked me about song titles and said that they have been really impressed by the songs. I was too, not only because it has been a long time since I had last seen them live but also because they transmitted such electrifying and decisive feelings that there was really no room for anything else than total immersion in the music. The sound had the energy of a horde of people preparing for battle and was also given the right amount of volume and depth so that no matter where one was standing in the space, the conceptual power of the music was received with the same strength.

As a brief transition was then made with ‘Crave’ and ‘Lectern’ from Blind Sound to the older Anatomy of A Poet with ‘Bombed’ it felt as if the songs have taken the qualities of hymns. Especially ‘Lectern’ with Klive in the vocals, had been performed in an impressive way giving to it the qualities of an oracle, before the shrilling drum beat of ‘Bombed’ almost synchronized everyone’s heartbeats and sustained the feeling of awe in the audience. My admiration for the quality of sound is not a result of surprise of course, knowing that In The Nursery are very well established producers. It was just pure enjoyment of the exceptional sound quality that I was experiencing. During the show the versatility of the musicians impressed as Dolores provided vocals, played the drums, percussion and keyboards, Nigel provided vocals, played the bass and keyboards and Klive provided vocals, played the big drums and guitar.

Just before I thought it could not possibly get any better, ‘Mystery’ was next in the setlist, a long time favourite song, which together with ‘Stone Souls’ took us back to the very first album of the band in 1983 When Cherished Dreams Come True with Nigel at the vocals and bass, Klive at the guitar and Dolores at the drums (in ‘Stone Souls’).Even though these songs are stressing the guitar and bass sounds having very discreet drums, during this show the full bodied sound of the keyboards heightened even more, the additional dimensions within the music. The return to the more recent album Blind Sound was brief with ‘Artisans of Civilisation’ before the band took us back to 1994 and their album Sense with ‘A Rebours’. The setlist was about to end in the same epic and cinematic way it had begun and which song was best suited for this than another all time favourite of mine ‘Cobalt’ from the older side project of Klive and Nigel’s called, Les Jumeaux.

And Also The Trees-An ode to the kindness of melancholy

I have realized for quite some time that the setting is the second most important aspect of writing a review and just when this one seemed to get ‘stuck’ I was hit by this idea to visit for the first time, a place in London that has intrigued me since I learned about it.

I am now sitting at St Dunstan in the East, listening to And Also The Trees and being mentally transferred to their gig at the O2 Academy. Just after the last notes of ‘L’Esprit’ were heard by In The Nursery, it was time for the headliners of the evening. The music of And Also The Trees suits the solemnity of St Dunstan’s very much, borrowing something from the calmness of this yard even when it is crowded during a weekday’s lunch time. I chose to be here at the time where every visitor seemed to have decided to leave discreetly at his/her own pace and go back (probably) to their office. It feels as a silent choreography, a ritual without a conductor. I see different people arriving with the tension and the quick rhythms of the day, their eyes slowly closing in the relief that the beauty of this place and the meditative atmosphere are offering….the noisy city a ‘white’ noise at the background. I can’t possibly know how Simon writes the verses or how Justin, Grant,Colin and Paul find their sound for each song but this calmness and beauty that the yard is ‘emitting’ is the same one that And Also The Trees communicate with their melodies and their performance. During their tour for the last album ‘Born Into The Waves’ the band referred to its past through songs from the albums Virus Meadow, Farewell to The Shade, The Millpond Years, Angelfish and Klaxon and this is exactly what they did with this setlist. The gig started with ‘Doomed’, ‘Your Guess’ and ‘Dialogue’ before Simon addressed the audience saying that this was the last stop of the tour and that ‘…It’s good to be home’ to which someone warmly replied ‘Welcome back’. By the time the riff of ‘Hawksmoor and the Savage’ was heard, a feeling of relief had taken over me, just as it happens now at the churchyard.

And Also the Trees have a humble yet strong stage appearance and are always warm with their audience. No matter where they play live, the atmosphere they create is always cosy and sincere. I will not forget however the unique atmosphere they created at the Schauspielhaus in Leipzig last year as it seemed that the venue itself inspired and relaxed them and they offered a really memorable gig.

Back to the O2 in Islington and St Dunstan’s aura now… it is not news of course that Justin is a skilled guitarist and one can notice this from the very first notes. He plays the guitar as if ‘talking’ to the chords giving the impression that he has completely tamed them. When I first listened to the melody of ‘Your Guess’ before watching the band in Leipzig last year, I would swear that I could hear a bouzouki playing. I was left genuinely surprised when I saw Justin making the guitar sound like a bouzouki! I really hope that everyone else was enjoying as much as I did, the realisation that there’s no bouzouki included in the instruments! Simon at the same time, refers to profound ideas and feelings on the lyrics with a conviction and a ‘wisdom’ that resemble that of a sculptor who tirelessly carves stone, the most ‘stubborn’ and opaque material, in order to give it some form. Grant at the bass was also making a statement throughout this gig communicating different feelings through his movement and the overall confident performance that highlighted different ‘colours’ of the calmness and gentleness the band’s music is expressing.

I am now at the circular seating area of St Dunstan’s and what goes on here, though no one is moving, feels like a ritual, the power of a circle. This circle has an open side (the area without benches that serves as an entry point) and so it feels less finite. And Also The Trees recreated the feeling I have now seating here, as they alternated ‘The Sleepers’ with ‘The Legend of Mucklow’ from (Listen for) The Rag And Bone Man before making a ‘stop’ to their older album Virus Meadow with the song ‘Virus Meadow’. The performance was drawing an invisible circle, a ‘semi open’ space, its entry point signified by Simon’s communicative way of delivering the songs and its continuity revealed through the consistently and increasingly mesmerizing nature of the melodies. The largest part of the setlist was dedicated to Born Into The Waves, an album which I loved. As I was listening to its songs next to older songs, it was evident how the music influences of this album were very different and richer compared to other albums. The biggest example is the reference to Greek folk music that the guitar melody of ‘Your Guess’ is making, the bouzouki sound that is replicated here, is a signature instrument in Greek folk music, one that undertook the complex task of expressing through music, the melancholy of everyday life in Greece during the 1960s and 1970s. Bouzouki was the instrument that dominated night life during those decades and the people who played it, were mostly self taught and extremely talented. ‘Winter Sea’, which was next on the setlist, has such beautiful music that it is almost consolating. It also has a very gentle percussion sound that reveal a tendency to write richer music in texture than in the past. The band made a brief stop to The Millpond Years and Angelfish with ‘The Suffering of The Stream’ and ‘Brother Fear’ before closing with ‘The Skeins of Love’.

The gig felt short in duration because it had done this magical thing of lifting everything ‘heavy’ from my mind and wrap it with the softness of beautiful melodies. Noone moved and the persistent applause quickly brought the band back for a 4-song encore which started with ‘Wallpaper Dying’ from the 1983 EP Shantell, created a space in our hearts for one more mental trip with ‘Bloodline’ from  Hunter Not The Hunted before passing by (Listen for) The Rag And Bone Man for the last time with ‘Rive Droite’ in order to end dynamically with ‘Slow Pulse Boy’.

I can’t know about others but I left the venue waiting for the next release or the next gig by And Also The Trees knowing that when the band will be ready they will place one more piece in the band’s puzzle.

 

 

 

Blaue Rosen box

Spread the word by sharing this