Live review from Underground Kubrick:
3. Summer of Bohemia
4. To Xi
5. You and I
There was the most brilliant of odd vibes in the Kubrick bookstore-cafe that evening. It didn’t help much that while trying to get notes for this review half my mind was trying desperately to ignore the various appetising smells wafting toward me from the kitchen. Still, I tried – so, forgive me if there are any random references to food in these snatches of text. Besides tantalising smells, the numerous arty and philosophy books combined with the quiet eagerness of the place’s patrons made for an atmosphere thick as a fog. The wonderful thing about that was how it seemed that there were no gaps between sets, or even songs, and the ebbs and flows of sound were smooth and almost indiscernible. It was great to be there right in the thick of things, as the show that night was kicked off by Wain.
The first act was, I am given to understand, a not-regular collaboration between two guitarists – one of The Underground’s video-dudes OC, and Ah Chin – and a singer/songwriter girl who called herself Avery. I’m given to understand that some of their songs were poems set to tune. This was probably what contributed to some of the disjointedness in the set – it kinda showed that they don’t usually play together because there was little chemistry. But, their style of gentle acoustic-pop/soft-folk doesn’t require tremendous coordination between the band-members, so no real harm done. This style, however, also means that you can’t develop your own sound within its bounds because it’s too shapeless and generic (and not in the Flipper way) – if they plan to continue as a group they should really look at getting their guitar sound right. Avery seems very young and, perhaps consequently, doesn’t seem to have figured out her sweet spot within her vocal range. Some songs that she sang a little higher on, like Sleep! And Summer of Bohemia, made her sound as though she were holding on to her voice, and hence a bit choked up. When she did sing in the middle-notes, her voice had a lovely Cat Power-like paperiness to it, which was made better when contrasted with OC’s deeper, richer voice and almost spoken-word approach, such as on March. He too, though, needs to get a better handle on his voice which was inconsistent in the higher range. Technique, technique!
They were, it seems, quite clever about their songwriting – aside from the poems used, they used the Chinese national anthem’s first couple of lines in (if I’m not wrong) Summer of Bohemia, which is a clever device. March featured some social commentary about the working class and had some nice mid-range harmonies (which is their vocal strength). OC’s more dominant style of melodic soloing on the middle strings interlocked nicely with Ah Chin’s focus on accenting the richer notes with the higher parts of the first two strings – this kind of coordination can only come from practice, and these two have clearly got a good complement system going. To Xi had a more pastoral, almost-country feel to it and was a good change from the very poppy nature of their other songs. Avery had a bit of an emotional moment during You and I, as she broke down while singing it, but this only seemed to endear her to the audience. After that, her voice seemed to have spontaneously developed years of character – so, the catharsis seemed to have done her good. Overall, a soothingly mild set of songs performed competently, so there’s definitely promise there if they do continue playing together.
P.S. – Part of these comments is based on information that may be termed hearsay, so I apologise to the musicians if I’ve got something wrong. My brain sometimes shorts out and synthesises “facts” from bits and pieces of intermittent information. But, I think we can agree that these manufactured details are more interesting than the truth, so try to get over your obsession with reality, will ya?