Ostensibly, this band is simply Ben Hatfield (vocals, guitar) and Alex Pinder (percussion and drums). But the duo employs everything from a six piece setup to a full-on symphony orchestra to add both depth and infinite flavour to their endlessly colourful productions. When I saw the troop at The Hob, Neil Balfour was on keys adding texture and classical motifs to the compositions, and Dan added to the beat with a bluesy-sounding bass. Additionally, there was violin from string quartet player Hannah Elizabeth Want and rambunctious trombone from scholar Tom I’Anson, both instruments creating a warmth and a special character to the broader sounds, adding a rather splendid and luxurious element. These music college graduates have obviously resolved to tip over the apple-cart of the music establishment and add their own cultured and refined twist to the proceedings.
Sometimes leaning towards folk – and at other times rock – but always on the orchestral and mellow side of the tracks, we enjoyed tunes like ‘White Houses’ which starts with imploring bass-baritone lyrics set against a lush accompaniment of ponderously sad notes that plink out from the lonely keys like stained tears dribbling down mossy walls. Feathery imagery is provided by the soft trombone.
Or ‘One Stormy Night’ which exhibits the artistic intentions of the band’s arrangements with soft shimmering guitar echoing across a silvery landscape created by those lush orchestral manoeuvres. Supple lipped vocals accentuate the lyrics as the pace almost imperceptibly picks up and gradually, and evermore gradually, until the song becomes a rock piece, creatively clouded by the classical images that abound.
Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles have clear electric folk aspirations and the ‘big hitter’ of the night at the Hob was the song ‘Follow’ with that jaunty pony-riding beat and feel good chorus sung in a round. The country fizzy-jig formula was magnified exuberantly by shining violin-play from Hannah and foot tapping percussion from Alex.
Other songs like ‘Fly Far Away’ have pounding insistent beats and earthy textures whilst others, like ‘Stranger’ are moodier and complex set-pieces.
Bringing to mind Canadian folk rockers ‘Crash Test Dummies’ crossed with 2010 ‘Plastic Beach’ era ‘Gorillaz’ this band is set for stardom. I can easily see them on the world stage collecting themselves a “Grammy” in a couple of years time. It brings a tiny tear to my eye- as an ‘oldie’ – because I nostalgically think that Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles are this year’s answer to that never-sufficiently-praised nor properly lauded English progressive rock band ‘Renaissance’ – albeit with a ‘Brad Roberts’ sounding lead vocalist instead of the five-octave vocal range of Annie Haslam. But the same eloquence, attention to detail, poetry and classical aspirations are present in the musical treasure-box that Ben and Alex have on offer.
Mind changing, game altering stuff.