|Sorrow, Ostara, Matt Howden and
It was a night for World Serpent to present various acts from their roster. With acts both old and new, the Underworld was still busying up when Matt Howden, a late replacement for Sol Invictus who cancelled due to frontman Tony Wakeford contracting bronchitis, opened the evening. With his leather-clad wife Jane on bass, and an assortment of backing tapes, the duo performed tracks from Matt's excellent Hellfires album and the forthcoming The Line And The Hook (from yet another new project under the name of Barb). He may look like the Beautiful South's Paul Heaton but his frenetic violin playing, industrial backing and angst-ridden vocals pitches the musical output someplace between Vanessa Mae and Nine Inch Nails. Matt's already produced two solo albums the classically constructed Intimate and Obstinate, composed using natural and electronic equipment, and the scorched earth sounds of his most recent title, Hellfires. Tonight he presented tracks from Hellfires, with the occasional vocal outing such as Hellfire where he proclaimed, just like Sartre, that "Hell Is Other People". The audience also got to hear a version of 'Forbid The Sun's Escape' a track usually credited to Sieben, a band comprising of Matt & Jane Howden, and Sally Doherty. Matt's also the violin player and producer of Sol Invictus but based on tonight's performance expect to hear more about Matt's own solo work.
Tonight's show marked the UK debut of Ostara, a duo featuring Timothy Jenn and Richard Leviathan. After the demise of their previous incarnation Strength Through Joy, Ostara represents something of a rebirth and transformation. From the opening 'Epiphany' it was clear that with the name change has come a new life-affirming and optimistic sound. With the prolific John Murphy (of Knifeladder,Shining Vril, Death In June etc.) providing his customary precise and powerhouse percussion, Timothy Jenn on acoustic guitar, and Richard Leviathan who switched between guitar and various percussive devices, Ostara focussed mainly on the lighter tracks from their stunning debut album, Secret Homeland. Listening to the crisp upbeat acoustic sounds of 'The Reckoning', 'Sailing To Atlantis' and 'Midsummer Sunday' it could be said that Ostara are now almost producing folk-pop. Yet in this stripped down live mode traces of Strength Through Joy, and even echoes of Death In June, could still be detected. Without the orchestration the live sound lacked the intricacies and nuances found on Secret Homeland, but Leviathan is a strong frontperson and delivered his poetic lyrics, inspired by history and myth, with much passion and conviction. Midset they also launched into a military noise assault with vocals shared by Leviathan and Marco Deplano. It was a very well received set and deservedly so. Ostara are expanding the boundaries associated with their genre, so it'll be interesting to see how they develop. In any case, this was an assured and commanding performance and will certainly ensure that Ostara can lay claim to be the true voice of the Occidental soul.
To compensate for Sol pulling out World Serpent arranged some special guests. The first was Joe Budenholzer of Backworld who made a rare appearance with a handful of acoustic based tracks. Dressed in a wine shirt (black appeared to be the order of the day for most of the others) Budenholzer delivered a series of songs showcasing his Blakean vision. 'Leaves of Autumn', 'The Tide' and 'Anthem From the Pleasure Park' were executed in a beautiful fashion. Joining him later on in his short set was Current Ninety Three's David Tibet and Michael Cashmore. This was Tibet's first live performance since his serious illness in late summer. Gripping the microphone as if his life depended on it, in his sing-speak style Tibet gave us 'A Sadness Song' from Current Ninety Three's Thunder Perfect Mind, while Cashmore and Budenholzer provided the acoustic backing. As the previous month's Current Ninety Three show was cancelled this brief outing acted as a little reward to all Current fans that missed out. It was Backworld's set and it was a pleasure to hear these songs performed without the keyboard and string arrangement in this setting.
With a set of ether-pop Sorrow closed the evening drawing from their two albums, Under The Yew Possessed and Sleep Now Forever. The duo of Robert Lee and Rose McDowall were augmented by cellists, pipers and John Murphy - as a last minute addition - on percussion. Sorrow excel at producing intimate and emotive tracks - ethereal pop as they term it. It's almost classical in its enchanting nature. Rose's beautiful melodic voice swooned over the audience, and on top of the Northern pipes, and cello. Robert Lee, her husband, again swapped between guitar and keyboard. Rose, dressed in her now familiar Bad Fairy outfit with angel wings, appeared to be in buoyant mood; in her sweet Glaswegian brogue she swapped some playful banter with the audience, 'There's no-one weird in here, is there? She asked. 'Only me!' - my mate retorted. A melancholic sound of 'Die', 'Love Dies' and the excellent guitar pop of the 'Singing Ringing Tree', almost echoing the guitar pop of Strawberry Switchblade. They even performed the festive 'Christmas Is Now Drawing Near', as recorded by the Coil/Sorrow collaboration Rosa Mundi.
Later on Backworld's Joe Budenholzer joined Sorrow for a rendition of his 'Devil's Plaything'. Hearing Rose and Joe duet on one of Backworld's finest moments was a rare treat. Unlike Sorrow's last performance at the Red Rose club where they captivated the audience with a perfect sound unfortunately tonight the occasional faltering sound distracted from the overall performance. That night they even afforded the audience a rare version of Strawberry Switchblade's 'Deep Water'. The Underworld's curfew prevented the opportunity of any encores. Some time has past since Sorrow released some new material; it's something to look out for.
Backworld - www.backworld.com
Current 93 - www.brainwashed.com/c93
Knifeladder - www.knifeladder.com
Matt Howden - www.matthowden.com
Ostara - www.ostara.net
Sorrow - www.rosemcdowall.com
World Serpent - www.worldserpent.com