They won the crowd over quite easily, with the twisting melodies of Never Get Older and Candlelight Thieving. The crowd sang along to their songs when prompted, which is always a good sign. They employed more harmonies than they used to, and this made their more bohemian-folk-sounding songs Blue Moon and Closer sound especially good. As always with a violin, the songs had an extra dose of soul, which the crowd clearly felt as well, for they were freely moving to the music (often following the hyper-spasmodic movements of Nate). The crowd even had the pleasure of a little comic relief, provided by the banter scattered between songs, the breaking of a string (as usual) by Chris, and the brief pantomimic exchange between the two guys. Before it got too droll for its own good, though, the scene was changed by a rousing tune from Jackson, Wyoming, played impromptu by Tally.
Another notable change to their set was the cover of Bittersweet Symphony. It was, however, almost completely different from the original in its form; despite this, the move seemed to go down well with the audience, who were happy to sing along (which justifies it as a musical choice, despite my personal dislike of their doing covers). Polyphonic Rust saw an electric guitar being added to the mix, making it the most rich-sounding song of the night. They did an appreciable job of building up to the zenith of their set, which was the song’s last chorus, and as the guitars died down, the crowd filled in with their applause – the most concrete testament to a peak conquered.
Live Reviews from Underground 95:
2. Cosmic Waves
3. Lost Amongst the Leaves
4. Polyphonic Rust
5. Ghost Vibrations
If these guys’ act had to be summed up into a word,it would be- intense. The duo came on with their usual assortment of things you’d never imagine would be used as musical instruments, accompanied by the lone guitar. There are certain advantages to having only one melodic instrument and the percussion of only a tambourine (and a grill, and what I think is a timpani mallet), one of which is that changes can easily and rapidly be effected on the pace, mood and feel of the song; Waterbird was a classic example of this, with the rapidly strummed opening being slightly more ‘up’, but being delightfully tempestuous in its feel. As the best acoustic musicians have, guitarist-singer Chris has been able to mesh rhythm and chorus into one unbroken attack of guitar, a la Steve van Zandt at his peak. The laudable decision of using mostly major chords serves to round out their sound excellently, avoiding an all-too-common pitfall. Cosmic Waves has overtones of John Frusciante’s best acoustic solo-work, with the pattern of chord changes exploring some subtle nuances in feeling. Lost Amongst the Leaves was lighter in mood, but no less intense, and almost stream-of-consciousness in effect- a testament to their knowledge of what a chord can do to the psyche.
Not to editorialise, but if there is one group that they parallel, it is Suicide; not in terms of sound, but as an act, especially in terms of visual impact. A classic dynamic of chemistry, Chris’ staid form is the Martin Rev contrasting the semi-possessed Nate’s Alan Vega. Polyphonic Rust was specifically reminiscent of Frusciante’s Forever Away; fittingly enough, a string was broken during the song, and the guitar replaced rather than the string, as is Frusciante’s wont as well. The trash-can lid was finally out in Ghost Vibrations, crashing to tame the irreverent, drunken chords, topped off with a spoken-word bit to make the song a moody Byron-esque one, finishing off to a yelled request to father a certain audience member’s offspring. Closer was a slower number (although, it may just have been Chris’ apparently injured thumb) with some very high notes touched in the bridge, and a lovely, flowing barre progression to boot, after which the Suicide of Hong Kong lazily cleared off. Not for one moment during the set did these guys’ heady yet light-handed power fade; a testament to the unassuming astuteness of their composition, and the deserved novelty of their act..
Live Review from Underground 87:
- Cosmic Waves
- Never Get Older
- A Path Through the Trees
- Life Is a Sleepless Journey
- Dear Oscar
The night kicks off with a series of chords passionately strummed on an acoustic guitar that somehow reminds me of System of a Down’s Chop Suey. Yet, as Chris and Nate progresses to the subsequent parts of the piece, it becomes clear that those chords function as an exotic piece of ornamentation, which makes their British Acoustic Pop sound catchy. Apart from this, the duo delivers an especially autumnal and hopeful feel in Waterbird; as if you are taking an evening stroll down Gloucester Road, with cool breezes blowing and busy traffic rushing by your side. Such deep mood also attributes to the harmonies beautifully done by both of the members.
Of Moths and Stars would certainly make a remarkable band that lives up to their poetic nature if more attention is paid to the variations on the guitar, whether they be the strumming rhythm or melodic picking, as well as the dynamics of each section of a song.