2014 has been a year full of great live events and the list of forthcoming gigs is growing by the week. It seems as if the two mini festivals that were organised by Sowilo Media and Pax Romana Promotions at the Underworld and at The Electrowerkz, were just the beginning and my decision not to go to this year’s WGT and stay in London, was justified.

Fire+ Ice, While Angels Watch, Knotwork live at The Underworld

Even though doors opened a bit later than expected, stage times were respected and we had the chance to enjoy the music of Knotwork as they opened this mini festival. As I’ve mentioned in the introductory text, Knotwork is the side project of Michael Moynihan, Annabel Lee and Robert Ferbrache which also form Blood Axis. Knotwork have veryKnotwork_4 recently released the EP entitled ‘3×3’ which makes reference to the quarternary celtic knot. The central artwork at the cover of this LP combines forms which allude to the triskelion  and to different versions of the triple spiral at the same time, therefore its meaning could be a combination of things. However it should be taken into account that the use of circles around Celtic knots (as is the case with this artwork) seem to represent spiritual unity with the devine. If you attempt to look for the significance of celtic knots independently, you will probably conclude that they are open to interpretation even though they seem to have something in common; they signify a spiritual journey, so this would be a nice question to ask the band sometime. Listening to Knotwork’s set list I realised that their music is directly influenced by traditional Knotwork_1Irish sounds. The essence and warmth of Irish music can only be revealed during a live performance as is the case for acoustic folk music, country, blues and jazz.

By watching Annabel Lee and Michael Moynihan perform facing each other it was as if they were talking to each other through notes. This made me think of a similar experience I had before this gig at the Underworld, when I attended a dance performance at Sadler’s Wells, by a Dublin based company called ‘Fabulous Beast’. This dance performance in all its aspects was inspired by the Irish culture in terms of costume colours, overall aesthetics, movement and music. Liam O’ Maonlai was performing live with 6 other musicians and they were all an important part of the performance the whole time. Even though the music of this band was quite different and had a more improvisational feel than that of Knotwork, it had one common element; It was rather introverted as the musicians formed a circle at the centre of the stage and they were facing each other as they were playing. In both performances by Knotwork and Liam O’Maonlai, even though the music was actually addressed to us, the audience, the bands were totally absorbed by the rhythms and the ‘circle’ they have formed by facing each other, had the same properties as a closed opaque shape. Knotwork make direct references to Irish music without adding their personal touch and warmth to the atmosphere so the reason that I liked Liam O’ Maonlai more is that even though Irish music forms the basis of his sound, he adds a personal touch and elements of world music to it thus creating a warm atmosphere similar to an intimate country and acoustic folk music concert. Knotwork offer a simpler version of Irish music with few instruments so far. Michael Moynihan played too many   instruments during this live and I noticed his dexterous playing which was also apparent when Knotwork joined Knotwork_3Fire+ Ice on stage. I kept looking at the way he was playing and it seemed to me that somehow the instruments had become a natural projection of his body. He barely touched the surfaces of the instruments yet somehow sound was created and it seemed that this was not just a result of a lot of practice. It’s the first time that a musician leaves such an impression on me. Knotwork were not very communicative with the audience and the songs were sometimes not introduced to us. However as they were playing facing each other there was something in the space between them which had little to do with a focus on the notes and their confidence as musicians. My impression was that, as they played they presented to us something with different dynamics from the melodies of the songs, something very strong and concrete in meaning yet somehow abstract and beyond our grasp… ‘Twa Corbies’ is a very old song (probably older than four centuries) and it has been sung in numerous ways. Knotwork presented a version of this song with very basic and rather primitive rhythm so I wished that we could all listen to it live in some other setting and not in the ‘formality’ of a venue’s stage. ‘Two Magicians’ was the song that made the connection with the past of Knotwork and their collaboration as Blood Axis, with In Gowan Ring in ‘The Rites of Samhain’.I’ve listened to all of Blood Axis’ albums including the split albums with other musicians and during the performance I kept thinking that Knotwork’s sound is part of Blood Axis’ sound in the sense that ‘Lord of Ages’ ‘The March of Brian Boru’, ‘Two magicians’ and other songs already included elements from different music traditions even though these elements were not as emphasized as in Knotwork.We will be waiting to listen to them in the future and see how their sound evolves.

…come join me in utopia…” (lyrics from the song: ‘Utopia’, While Angels Watch)

While Angels Watch_2Next on stage was While Angels Watch, a band I was looking forward to listening live. Having on my mind the ethereal atmosphere and the melodies of their great album ‘Dark Age’ I expected to listen to something similar in terms of rhythms and dynamic. The military element was very prominent in this live performance in terms of rhythms, energy and aesthetics of vocals. Female vocals were less dominant and the songs didn’t put so much emphasis on the melodies that have always been an important part of the band’s sound. Drums were very loud and played a primary role in the created atmosphere. Eilish McCracken (a former member of Sol Invictus) a founding member of Seventh Harmonic, While Angels Watch_3offered backing vocals as well as melodies at the violin which contrasted nicely with the louder drums. The sound was not very clear and as a result the violin and the female vocals couldn’t be heard at some points probably due to poor sound engineering on stage. While Angels Watch used to put an emphasis on the antitheses between male and female vocals, this was not replicated in the live performance. The set list included songs from the forthcoming album of the band as well as older songs. I personally liked the passionate performances of ‘Eye for Eye’ and ‘Utopia’ and even though I was secretly hoping to listen to ‘Medusa’ with Ian Read at the vocals, this song was not included in the set list.Dev (former member of Sixth Comm, Flowers in the Dustbin) has a very distinct and bass voice. When this voice was coupled with such a passionate live performance during the gig, the lyrics of the songs were animated in such a way that they obtained additional energy and had a very intense impact on the audience. Although the final sound was quite different from what one might have been used to while listening to the cds, the performance introduced another aspect of this band’s idiosyncrasy which might be an indication of what is to follow. In any case we will be looking forward to their next release.While Angels Watch_1

…Quidquid luce fuit tenebris agit…(Nietzsche)

Fire+Ice had saved for us one of his best set lists and I can’t say that this was unexpected especially after the release of his great album, ‘Fractured Man’, in 2012. It was in 2003 that I had Fire+Icethe chance to see Fire+Ice perform, supporting Death In June in a great concert that happened inside a boat which made a short cruise in the Thames with a complementary vegetarian buffet! The live at Camden’s Underworld was a different performance with more melody and emotions. Fire+Ice a.k.a Ian Read was joined on stage by Knotwork . Annabel Lee, Michael Moynihan and Robert Ferbrache were the musicians who heightened the atmosphere of the songs with the way they all performed. Apart from ‘Fractured Man’, the set list included some songs from the albums ‘Birdking’, ‘Gilded by The Sun’, ‘Hollow Ways’ which are also included in the recently released live LP ‘Deo Endovellico Sacrum’. I had the chance to listen for the first time ‘Greyhead’ which is one of my favourite older songs. ‘Gilded By The Sun’ (a cover of the poeFire+Ice_2m ‘The Anvil of Ice (Winter of the World, Vol. 1)’ by Michael Scott Rohan), ‘Dragons In The Sunset’ and ‘Call Up The Four Winds’ gave us glimpses from the past and were nicely combined with songs from ‘Fractured Man’. Michael Moynihan provided backing vocals which could not be heard so clearly as was the case with all the backing vocals during this live gig.

Nimm, one of my favourite songs from the album ‘Fractured Man’, summarises everything that I like in the apocalyptic folk music scene from the point of view of melodies and emotions. Michael, Annabel and Robert performed with the sensitivity that the melody dictates while Fire+Ice narrated the lyrics with the humbleness of a traveller with many experiences. I found myself absorbed by this song which is Knotwork_2in German and the version we listen in the cd is a cover of the poem ‘Nimm war dir die Götter geben’ by Rolf Schilling. Fire+Ice established a warm connection with the audience as he was communicative between the songs and he presented them. He didn’t deny us an encore and I found myself wanting to re-read Nietzsche after leaving this gig while the lyrics of ‘Fractured Again’ were following me all the way back home.

Text: Blaue Rosenbox

Photos: Chris Sepulchre

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  1. Steve Rohan says:

    Excellent, thanks for the support.
    Steve
    Pax Romana