Dylan Carlson; Seas, Starry & Kitchen Cynics – The Tunnels, Aberdeen – 14/10/12
I was lucky enough to catch Dylan Carlson’s main musical project Earth live earlier this year in Edinburgh and it was a no-brainer that I would be in attendance at this gig. Strangely enough, the gig seemed to have very little in the way of promotion that I came across. I only became aware of it via the Aberdeen-Music website when it was mentioned in a thread announcing the sad passing of a member of the local music community. The added factor of being a Sunday night, and a very wet and miserable one at that, may have contributed to the very sparse attendance but I had arrived expecting a far better turn-out.
As Kitchen Cynics, Alan Davidson has been prolifically producing his localised take on traditional folk music for a surprisingly long time, with a huge back-catalogue of largely self-released material reaching back to the late 80’s. I have seen him perform as Kitchen Cynics several times in the past and more recently as part of the Matricarians, a more experimental endeavour. Tonight’s set saw a progression through material ranging from traditional folk to the inclusion of some of the more experimental elements of the Matricarians material. My own personal favourite Cynics song, ‘Richard in Bedlam’, pleasingly made an appearance, while closing song ‘Flies’ saw household items such as a hand-held fan used to transmit unusual sounds through the guitar pick-ups. I was quite taken with the opening song and enquired after the set whether he had a CD available containing the song; ever generous, Alan passed me a copy of a CD and refused payment on grounds that I subscribed to his ‘Tune a Day’ project of some back.
Seas, Starry play effects-driven instrumental music which recalls the early 90’s ‘shoegazing’ scene, which comprised of bands such as Ride, Slowdive, Chapterhouse and Swervedriver. Although I seem to recall it being slightly derided at the time by sections of the music press (personally I was a big fan), this style of music has found a new following and new swathes of bands are appropriating the sound for themselves. Such is the peculiar lifecycle of music. In any case, with 3 guitars, bass and drums, Seas, Starry certainly create a big noise to lose yourself in. I listen to a lot of instrumental music and find that it is most effective when carefully structured to provide a steady progression to a climax; Seas, Starry are perhaps too quick to get to the final hurdle for my liking and I would prefer to see more build up and intricacy in the early stages, however when they do kick into gear the result is enjoyable.
Dylan Carlson takes to the stage alone and with use of a laptop to provide backing drums and sampled voice, performs 3 delicate guitar instrumentals before being joined by a female vocalist and male percussionist. The second section of the set comprises cover versions of The Kinks, PJ Harvey, and English folk songs. The vocalist had a striking vocal that at times recalled Nico, although I found that on the CDR I bought at the gig her vocals were less flat sounding; I got the impression she was perhaps slightly under the influence of the bottled beer she had been quaffing and indeed departed the stage rather suddenly before the penultimate song, presumably for a toilet break, much to the bemusement of her band mates. I think I would have preferred more of an even balance between the solo and band sections of the set but in any case it was an interesting set and probably a rare chance to see a musician of the stature of Carlson in Aberdeen.
On leaving the venue I happened across the man himself having a smoke outside and had a quick chat, where he proved to be very friendly, informing me that he is working on a new Earth album that will be returning to a more rock orientated approach. Hopefully he will return to Aberdeen with Earth at some stage….
Words and pics by Godzilla Blues.
Dylan Carlson Blog
Seas, Starry Bandcamp
Kitchen Cynics Bandcamp
Further reading: Interview with Dylan Carlson on Invisible Oranges