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FareWell Poetry / Matthew Collings / Hiva Oa / Opul

The Third Door, Edinburgh
Monday November 14th 2011
4 stars
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 Ova (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 Ova 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' lap-top 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
mediaeval 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.

The List, November 2011

ends

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