Sons of Noel and Adrian, Alessi’s Ark @ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
Sons Of Noel & Adrian, Alessi’s Ark.
Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. 27jan10.
Alessi Laurent-Marke might have a lot in common with hippie-era folk musicians of the 1960’s but she knows nothing of your 1980’s, let alone two decades prior, being only four days older than Gazza’s Turin tears. Her onstage mannerisms often betray this, all scampishness and whimsy, little sisterish I guess, shy and self-effacing. Looking out into the attentive crowd, a mirror-ball whirling, she says, semi-awkwardly, “it’s like a disco, but without uplifting music…but it’s coming…this one’s about a dog.”
Her vocal is pretty distinctive as well, seemingly quite affected, pushed out on a breath but all chewy and purring. The general demeanour does suggest she might be the type to go all Vashti Bunyan, release one record then go to ground for thirty years, sheltering feral cats and knitting shoes.
While the tempo of her music might not be high-octane, it is certainly more mature than her mannerisms might imply, and for her to suggest it is not uplifting is to be a little too self-deprecating. Her work evokes flickering embers, snapping twigs and dark clearings, and if there is a coolness, it is one which is made cosy; tucked up inside a blanket, particularly when she is joined by several members of the Wilkommen Collective to flesh out her brittle acoustic sound.
The Collective are a Brighton-based musical community and Sons of Noel and Adrian are, like The Leisure Society, Shoreline and The Miserable Rich, one of the acts to come from within their creative kibbutz. One might argue the Sons pull on a disproportionate amount of the collective resource, given that they are ten members strong. Amongst the instrumentation this evening can be found an oboe, a trumpet, a flute, a cello, an accordion and an additional bass drum plinthed on two multipacks of toilet roll. However, this is a best case scenario, as they have been known to turn out with half that number in their ranks.
Given the power of their assembled sounds though, one imagines that the greater they number in terms of parts, the greater the whole. Tonight they sound burgeoning and beefy. Whilst they might be termed a folk band, they certainly do not share Alessi’s feyness, instead rolling and tumbling like a vessel through tempestuous waves, their arrangements as ambitious as a blueprint for a belfry.
These arrangements are vaguely reminiscent of the work Craig Fortnam does with the North Sea Radio Orchestra, with the lean towards the earthily muscular rather than light chamber operatics. Not that they are without fragility as Jacob Richardson’s vocal gnarled porch drawl is often filtered through a Devendra Banhart-esque petrified warble.
Like I say though the key is the collective and when they crash their heels to the floor for an additional percussive thump (during several songs, not least the wonderful opener Inside Olympia), or whistle in unison (as on The Wreck Is Not A Boat), it is a cooperative show of strength. By and large, with one or two exceptions, Sons of Noel and Adrian’s songs all come in at around the five minute mark, but all feel ‘epic’ in terms of their aspirations.
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