FareWell Poetry / Matthew Collings / Hiva Oa / Opul, The Third Door, Edinburgh, Mon 14 Nov
Carefully crafted multi-media, poetry-meets-noise and guitar assaults
Salsa class is cancelled tonight, according to the blackboard outside what used to be after-hours hippy student dive Medina, but which now looks intent on filling the DIY boho gap that the Roxy Arthouse and The Forest once occupied so randomly. The lights are low and the room is rapt for an exquisitely thought out bill to support Anglo/French sextet and Gizeh Records artists Farewell Poetry for a nuanced evening of low-key cinematic poetics.
The apocalypse starts early with Opul, a collaboration between poet JL Williams and composer James Iremonger, who blasts out a laptop-sourced blend of industrial beats and impressionistic piano sketches to frame Williams' words. If the music resembles cities being razed and rebuilt in some woozy dreamscape, Williams' words are witchy, her delivery beguiling; threatening menaces with all the rhythmic performative drive of Patti Smith or Kathy Acker, even as she looks the audience in the eye and smiles them into submission.
Hiva Oa (named after an island in Tahiti beloved by painter Paul Gauguin and writer/adventurers including Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London and Jacques Brel, who penned his final works there, pop-lit fans) creep out of the gloom with an altogether shyer concoction that recalls the skewed murmurings of Movietone and all the other wonky Bristol bands that pursued more twisted, trip-hop free avenues.
Male and female vocals dovetail to a basic backing of guitar, bass and cello. From this starting pad, a more Sensurround experience of glockenspiel and martial drums are thrown into a scratchily looped mix that swirls and sways its way into being. Such quietude recalls the very English avant-chamber miniatures by composer Jan Steele on his side of an album also featuring work by John Cage and released on Brian Eno's Obscure Records label in 1976. Like Steele's intricate compositions, Hiva Oa stick to the shadows, erupting into a rolling thunder as the band's swapping of instruments becomes a little spectacle in itself before coming to a hush once more.
Matthew Collings' Glenn Branca style guitar assaults splutter and phutter to a halt when Collings' laptop conks out, only to be brought back to life for a second wind that adds low-end dub sh'boom textures to the frantic storm before the calm. At first wilfully formless, the musical shapes Collings sculpts into play gradually ease into each other with a sense that multiple possibilities could ensue in an infinite work in progress.
FareWell Poetry, on the other hand, are the finished article. With the entire sextet sat down, abstract black and white films flicker behind them as poet Jayne Amara Ross begins a series of breathy recitations as the band eke out a delicate dust-bowl twang beneath her musings. The film images are opaque hints of horse-headed nightmares and white mice in motion; the words breathy incantations of big-time sensuality; and the music a series of increasingly wide-screen soundscapes that build into clattering explosions of light and shade.
Together, FareWell Poetry (and note that upper-case W there) produce a carefully crafted multi-media experience that sounds like a more baroque, less apocalyptically inclined Godspeed You! Black Emperor if fronted by one of the Bloomsbury group. Either that or someone equally plummy, Black Box recorder's Sarah Nixey, say.
While all this is captured on their debut album and accompanying DVD, Hoping For The Invisible To Ignite, in the flesh its even more compelling. As the final extended piece, the Chaucer-referencing 'As True As Troilus', builds to a crescendo, drums pounding like some medieval call to arms, the raging calm that follows is an ornate treasure to behold. Salsa class at The Third Door may be cancelled for some time yet.