Thursday 9th October 2008
A Spark or a little glow?
‘Out of Here’ with its stripped down to the pine atmosphere and chinkle-chinkle of acoustic rhyhtm guitar along with a light dusting of snare and cymbal, like a pre-electric White Stripes (but only with Joni Mitchell singing) is like being on a date with a supermodel who hasn’t yet had her supper. Full of promise and beauty but driving you up-the-wall because of the painful misery of being so peachy and perfect…
‘View from the Ground’ is lighter and a little lovelier with sweeter vocal arrangements that remind the listner of Christine McVie. Na-Na-Na-Na-Na… it is like a bittersweet tongue-in-cheek lovers revenge tiff. A song of such sparse accompaniment that I am surprised it didn’t come with a glass of water and some crispbread. Stronger though is ‘Still Green’ recorded with strings and keyboards on the album ‘Sometimes We Forget’ -but when played live it is cut down and hacked back like a shrub in the yard -only to sprout and fizz out in the end with a surprising and unexpected vigour.
I don’t know if you have seen the musical ‘Forbidden Planet’ (stay with me) but one of the most exciting and atmospheric things about that show is the way that the musicians ‘move around’ from instrument to instrument at the start of each scene. So the drummer plays the trombone then he plays the guitar then he plays the sax and only then does he go back to the drums. You get the idea? It is amazing to witness. Well, Afterspark do a nice little run of instrumental gymnastics in much the same way. Afterspark actually only comprises of Cate Ferris and Adam Staff but they seem to employ some significant others who “move around” from instrument to instrument. I think Adam plays just about everything they’ve got from percussion thru keyboards to guitars. I think he even plays two, or maybe even three, instruments at once. What a guy!
Cate’s voice doesn’t have the same sherry-wine fruitiness and quivering roundness of someone like Martha Tilston – Cate’s vocals at times tend to stretch the acceptable limits of your hackle feathers and mine, certainly, felt a bit ruffled at times … I won’t say her sounds screech the blackboard… but you know what I mean. Her voice could do with a dab of cherry polish and a heavy dose of 15 year old whiskey to be as acceptable as some of her contemporaries. But she does have bags of charm and a certain cheekiness in her voice and the lyric that seems more tender and more innocent (and less potently destructive) than someone like Martha.
Cate and Adam like to experiment with their jazz sounds and so the stripped down feel of the band goes a long way to supporting these ambitions. Mixed up with a bit of fast-fusion acoustic thrashed rhythm a la Tierra Acida’s Rodrigo y Gabriela, some of the songs have an ambience and a quality comparable with the Nitin Sawhney- style of light ‘world’ of jazz fusion with its acoustic/jazz/experimental vibe.
When I spoke to Cate after the Staines gig I remarked upon how versatile the band could be- vis-a-vis being able to play any size venue. ( I was thinking wine bars and the like.) She told me that the noise the band makes means that they have to rule out some of the more sophisticated spaces. Well, actually she said, “We like to be noisy”. And I know what she means. The drums and pulses that are the backbone of the sounds are at times tempestuous and are almost always breezy and chunky. This may be a folk jazz band but they live in the loud and naughty noughties so they like to make a racket like the rest of us.
If you are expecting something soft and sweetly meditative along with a period of navel contemplation then Afterspark may not be what you are looking for. The sound is more acidic and spiky than warm and friendly- it is a sound more akin to Kate Nash than to Joni Mitchell. But if you like your folk music to be witty, gritty and dry then this may do you fine.
See them next at:
2 Nov 2008 20:00 The Durrell Arms Fulham
15 Nov 2008 20:00 The Larrik Fulham