Dean and Britta, Cheval Sombre
Miss Fliss 17/11/2009
Sonic Cathedral is a deftly crafted clubnight. It works so well because there was a genuine need for it; music for music's sake, no code of cool, no cliquey nonsense, just beautiful songs - a great deal of which you've never been exposed to, are thrilled to hear and can't wait to investigate further. St Giles in the Fields church in London is an ideal venue for the night - gives it the reverance it deserves. The subdued setting means we all have to sit and concentrate on the music; the forward-facing pews mean you don't have to face your fellow gig-goers and puts hold on any scope of pretentious posing; and the lack of a bar means we can only get giddy on the music.
For all its advertisement of being a 'shoegaze' night, there was nary a shoegaze song in earshot. Tonight was delight in the quiet - so the gentler moments of The Velvet Underground, a dash of the sparsity of Beat Happening, an odd John Lennon song, and hordes of holy jangly, sad, sweet, 60s sounding stuff. This is all a great cue for the arrival of one-time Spacemen 3 man, Sonic Boom (AKA Peter Kember, lest we forget), with his new outfit Cheval Sombre, who sound as laidback and lazily stoned as his famed work of the 90s. It's all a little soporific, but sweetly so.
I was here to worship ex-Galaxie 500 singer/guitarist, Dean Wareham, with his Dean and Britta project. I love what he's doing with this project and thoughts of his old material are far from my mind. There's a shimmy and a jangle here and there, other times a Korg organ lends the closest we get tonight to a real church service, and I found it all enrapturing. There is the danger of veering into a dulling of the senses - it's all so slow and gentle - but it's actually hypnotic. That voice of Dean's holds it all together, how it wavers and shoots from a real note to some offbeat not-quite-painful one, and how strangely eery it could become if you let it; but it's always sounded weirdly pretty to me. There are enough Neil Young impersonators out there, and pitch-non-perfects (think the likes of Wayne Coyne and Jonathan Donahue which I find terribly grating at times), but Dean's voice is at once jarring and soaring, and above all mystical.
Suddenly, on the night, Snowstorm rang out its beautiful chords and precious vocals, it was absolutely perfect, and no other venue would have held it as magnificently as this gold-ceilinged church. Then we were hit with another old Galaxie 500 song, and I concluded that I could now die happy.