Club Uncut is back at The Great Escape, and this year proceedings are taking place in the civilised surroundings of the Pavilion Theatre.
DM Stith, the first artist to perform, is flanked by an impressive band – a violinist, cellist, drummer and bassist/guitarist. With Stith sounding like a higher-voiced Bill Callahan, the musicians flesh out the skeletal songs from his album, “Heavy Ghost” , with ornate accompaniment and choral backing vocals. Most interesting of all is perhaps the drummer – sitting at part of a kit with a massive marching drum strapped to his waist, he provides quirky percussion of the kind found on prime Beach Boys or Van Dyke Parks records.
Maybe keen to set himself apart from other singer-songwriters, Stith even uses the avant-garde prepared guitar technique, wrapping a slip of paper round the strings to deaden the sound for one song.
Someone else determined not to fit the usual singer-songwriter mould is Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson. Joined by a bassist, drummer and a fantastic violinist, Robinson at first seems like a slightly indier Ryan Adams – that is, until his second song, where he turns up the distortion and launches into a Dinosaur Jr.-esque freak out. The set continues in the same schizophrenic vein, with the songs only tied together by Robinson’s gruff but soulful voice. He’s certainly got stylistic range, but the eclectic set makes it hard to properly peg him down – which is a shame, he’s clearly a talented guy.
The Week That Was don’t have any problems with focus, however. Essentially a side-project of Sunderland pop scamps Field Music, they seem now to have surpassed their main band. As they perform nearly the whole of their acclaimed self-titled album in order, it seems amazing they can recreate the early 80s textures of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s Fairlight experiments. The drums in particular sound fantastically tight and booming, bringing to mind the cymbal-less percussion on Gabriel’s third album.
Opener ‘Learn To Learn’ and set closer ‘Scratch The Surface’ are the highlights, with mainman Peter Brewis switching from guitar to piano during the menacing latter track.
Hotly-tipped Americans The Acorn close the evening, drawing a mass of people down to the theatre. Equipped with two drummers, they make a massive sound for a ‘folk’ group. Four of them are ranged along the front of the stage, contributing four-part harmonies and Arcade Fire-ish group vocals to the melee. With each member switching between synth, bass, guitar and ukulele, there’s a real sonic variety on show – on some songs The Acorn even have a three-guitar attack, Radiohead-style.
Unfortunately, some of their songs are less interesting than their sound, though; they often have great melody and harmony but there’s sometimes a spark missing. Even so, they put on a good show, a fitting end to the first Brighton Club Uncut of the year.
Check back tomorrow for more reports on Club Uncut at The Great Escape.