Alessi’s Ark, Evening Chorus
Bill Cummings 09/09/2010
It's the tiny details that make a night special, the human foibles that make you believe that YES this artist is human and YES indeed they are aren't afraid of unveiling a very special set of songs right in front of our eyes and ears! Alessi's Ark aka Londener Alessi Laurent-Marke. is one such special artist. Her wondrous brand of singer songwriter ditties are punctuated by false starts and apologies, and an eventual abandoning of her microphone, when the realisations dawns on her that all of us here in this tiny (school type) room in Chapter can hear her every word and delicate pluck of the acoustic string, thank you very much, without the need for amplification.
As Chris(of the Waitingroom radio show fame) put it much better than I ever could Alesi's "like the butterfly wings at the polar end of chaos" and its so true, her songs are delicate balanced upon her finger picking are careful renderings of Alessi's wide eyed naivety at a world gone mad, and the tiny little details of love and solar system metaphors. Most affecting is 'Woman' it's spindling web of guitar notes, her evocative starry eyed tone evokes a yearning self exploratory territory her mood influenced by the turning of the moon ('To dangle solar systems above your wicker bed/all I am is a Woman”), then there's 'Constellations' her cooing refrains of 'your lovely yes you are' are no doubt intended for the ears of that someone special in her life. Her cute asides continue she even asks us what songs 'we'd like to hear?' When many of us haven't heard of many of these titles anyway! But that's Alessi an affecting, gorgeous performer, tonight she invites us to share in pieces of her own little world, her intricate song writing is slightly reminiscent of the tone of oft over looked 1970s New Yorker Bridget St. John, but in the main comparisons are futile she is a total one off. After the gig she approaches me quite unexpectedly thanks me for coming and then tells me about her plans for a next album on Bella Union a home that seems to be a better fit for such an entrancing artist as Alessi!
But what of the support? I hear you cry? Well Rachel Dadd had to pull out sadly(a case of RSI isn't good when you're attempting to reach for notes on an acoustic guitar). But Cardiff Student folk troupe Evening Chorus more than compensate, their heart-warming rootsy tinged melodies are driven by solid double bass, and the interaction between their four part harmonies of two long-time friends, Gareth Wardle (vocals, guitar, kick drum) Callum “Dug” Duggan (double bass, vocals) and joined by Rachel Mercer (violin, glockenspiel, vocals), and Eugene Capper (banjo, vocals)
Led by focal point of leader Gareth on guitars the possesser of a rich voice his timber sad yet inspiring, whilst his band mates harmonize in and out of these intricate melodies that shift from delicate to choral, their communal songs are rooted in joy, hope and sadness. Oh and University accommodation hell in the case of the splendid 'Blistered Magnolia' one of the standouts of tonight's set, Gareth and Rachel's wonderfully intertwined refrains of 'All that we have we have lost' shimmer in the dark moonlit sky above Chapter. You could argue that the trend for folk tinged acts that has become a fashionable of late with Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons et al, has made it possible for a act like Evening Chorus to thrithe. But I'd argue that whilst yes they contain the harmonies and the banjo like Mumfords, their sound has more of a grounding in the deep mid west rustic folk of the 60s and 70s than much of the current lot gaining column inches, but yes there's a comuniality that's familiar and warming yet contemporary about their sound that brings people to compare them to the likes of Fleet Foxes. They are a tight nit, frightfully young set of talented 'beyond their years' musicians who seem to genuinely enjoy each others company thus us the members of the crowd warm to them tonight. Especially when they break into an almost hoe down foot stomping beat, bouncing stand up baselines and rippling sing-alongs on 'Decisions' all decorated by Eugene's banjo picking and Rachel's prettily woven in violin lines. It's all very smile inducing and very nearly made one as shy as me break out into a clap, its little wonder then that they made onto the shortlist of unsigned acts to play Green man earlier this year! They possess tenderness too 'No Wreath, No Crown' builds delightfully from delicate shuffling instrumentation to melancholic fireside embracing of communal voices. Sending us out into the warmth of the interval with a fire in our hearts a glint in our eyes for Alessi's stripped back headlining set.