DEATH AND VANILLA + HAMILTON YARNS – WESTGATE CHAPEL, LEWES 30.05.19
It’s fair to say that at times I’m rather enamoured with local concert promoters Melting Vinyl’s ‘out of the box’ thinking. This evening is one such example as they have carefully selected the perfect venue for concert goers to experience a memorably immersive sound and vision experience.
They have booked the hidden gem of the Westgate Chapel, which is secretly located at 92a High Street, Lewes. I have been to many concerts at the nearby Con Club, and yet I have previously failed to notice this evenings venue before. Hence, this is my first ever concert performance at this venue and so will always be a memorable one.
In 2017 Melting Vinyl brought over the trio of Marleen Nilsson, Anders Hansson and Magnus Bodin to appear at the wonderful Rialto Theatre in Brighton to perform – Collectively they are Malmö’s finest analogue synth act Death And Vanilla. (Read that review HERE.)
That Brighton concert had psychedelic liquid and live feed projections courtesy of Lewes based Innerstrings and this evening they were back on the case as tonight’s event was co-hosted by Lewes Psychedelic Festival. Thus this quaint Sussex chapel’s interior was put to good use and transformed into a psychedelic world where anything could happen.
I arrived bang on 7:30pm, purchased my ale from the adjacent room and secured my front row pew. I was ready to be entertained. As I sat there I kept getting a waft of smoky bacon crisps, which thankfully is one of my fave flavours. I’m unclear of the source of this, but I suspect that it could have been emanating from the treated wooden benches. I had opted to be in the heart of the musical action in order to endeavour to grab a few shots of this evening’s events. Those parishioners that were located towards the rear of the chapel would be able to absorb the overall graphics probably better than myself, but I guess that was my trade-off.
Whilst securing my ale at the popup bar, DJ Grant was dropping some vinyl to get people in the mood. It worked, especially when he played a cut from the awesome 31-year old Norwegian Emilie Nicolas ‘Like I’m A Warrior’ album. Incidentally the last time I saw her perform live was also in an ecclesiastical building, namely St Pancras Church in London. My colleague who I went with that night, said it was the most atmospheric concert that he had ever witnessed. The lighting was dim and there were rows of little tea light candles flickering in the light.
No candles this evening, but we have our psychedelic liquid projections instead. First up to perform were Hamilton Yarns, who we will return to shortly.
Headliners Death and Vanilla were back in the UK to perform a mere half a dozen concerts in support of their new long player ‘Are You A Dreamer?’, which was released in various formats on 10th May, including on transparent pink vinyl and crystal clear vinyl editions.
Prior to recording their new album they played a string of dates including Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia and Levitation Psych Fest and scored several soundtracks, a process that undoubtedly influenced the new album’s dreamlike euphoria. Expanded with bass and drums in their quest for the grail, the album’s songs are longer; more plush and pampered; more hypnotic and haunting.
It’s fair to observe that Death And Vanilla create organic sounding electronic pop music, using an array of vintage musical equipment to emulate the sounds of 60’s/70’s soundtracks, library music, German Krautrock, French Ye-ye pop and 60’s psych.The trio revel in the warmth of older analogue instruments to create a more organic sound, each loose wire and off-kilter noise adding to the rich atmosphere. If you are a fan of Stereolab, Broadcast and even Spaghetti Western film music, then it’s reasonable to steer you in the direction of Death And Vanilla for your enjoyment.
Their love of all things “old” is well known – they’ve tinkled ivories, played vibraphone, recorded with a Sennheiser microphone and a nod to everything from Fun Boy Three to Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou, while still roaming somewhere between an ambient Eno and Cocteau Twins at a late-night soiree.
Any act that has a Moog or a Mellotron M400D MINI is just fine by me and Death And Vanilla have both! Tonight, vocalist Marleen let the music do all the talking as she barely spoke in between songs. Those faithful gathered herein didn’t object one iota with this.
After every composition, an increasingly loud and extended applause was delivered. In fact so much so by the end of the hour plus set, that the band were almost hemmed in with the applause and we’re ‘forced’ to play another, namely ‘The Optic Nerve’ culled from their 2015 ‘To Where the Wild Things Are’ album. It was evident that Marleen and the boys were surprisingly taken aback with so much adulation. In fact during the set, she had informed us that after performing one of their tracks, that she had never enjoyed playing it live as much as this evening inside this enchanting chapel.
Death And Vanilla setlist reads:
‘A Flaw In The Iris’ (taken from 2019 ’Are You A Dreamer?’ album)
‘Nothing Is Real’ (taken from 2019 ’Are You A Dreamer?’ album)
‘Eye Bath’ (taken from 2019 ’Are You A Dreamer?’ album)
‘Wallpaper Pattern (taken from 2019 ’Are You A Dreamer?’ album)
‘Mercier’ (taken from 2019 ’Are You A Dreamer?’ album)
‘Vespertine’ (taken from 2019 ’Are You A Dreamer?’ album)
‘Ghosts In The Machine’ (taken from 2016 ’EP’ mini album)
‘California Owls’ (taken from 2015 ’California Owls’ EP)
‘Hidden Reverse’ (taken from 2015 ‘To Where the Wild Things Are’ album)
‘Necessary Distortions’ (taken from 2015 ‘To Where the Wild Things Are’ album)
‘The Optic Nerve’ (taken from 2015 ‘To Where the Wild Things Are’ album)
Support this evening came from Lewes and Brighton based outfit Hamilton Yarns, who have been weaving their own brand of lo-key folk inspired experimental pop music since 2002.
It appears that they have had a fluid lineup since establishing and tonight in attendance was Shropshire lad Iain Paxton (now resident in Lewes) and Brighton based Alistair Strachan.
This was my first experience of their sound, although I recollected that I had actually seen Alistair performing before last Autumn as one half of Crayola Lectern with Chris Anderson. Read my review HERE.
This evening is duo got up to all manner of things as they unveiled their experimental soundscapes akin to the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ work by John Foxx. It was fascinating to witness as the parishioners were unsure as to what was going to be presented next. We had the standard guitar work and Novamatic knob twiddling courtesy of Iain, but then he would expand the possibilities of sound by placing a cymbal atop a drum and hit the cymbal.
Meanwhile, Alistair would be busying himself between the electronics and his cornet and then he would blow into a piece of tubing or place a tiny fan by the microphone or use another fan to gently strike a silver bowl.
I was endeavouring to ascertain whether these actions were meticulously choreographed or whether they were simply making it up as they went along. I settled on the former and the audience approved.
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