Live review: The Green Party Fundraiser with Adam Stafford, MONICA, Sonny Carntyne at The Glad Cafe, 31/1/14

adamstaffordAcoustic sets tend to be hit or miss; esoterically stripping a band to their fundamentally and most basic proponents.

It is a process of retrospectively unpacking maturated structures and reworking habitually tangible pieces of artistry, already embedded within the sub-conscious realm of their material creators.

The process can become a ruthless expose of weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

For tonight’s openers Sonny Carntyne, it is clearly the latter as the warm, echoic and understated sounds are inherently displayed in live renditions of tracks from their 2013 EP Retreat.

They transition seamlessly – retaining the charming warmth from the record – adding a tranquil serenity to the already well-suited and subdued soundscapes that fittingly suit Dominic Venditozzi’s impenetrable melodies.

The music envelops a lyrical scope that covers thematic content including – classic literature, landscape visuals, infanthood, faith and general wellbeing, providing the songs with intimate, powerful and affecting qualities.

Adding further fuel to the proverbial fire is the instilled and inductively sensitive sounds of Ewan Morrisons’ hauntingly played Hammond, nestled nicely in the mix and producing an ethereal sustenance; formulating – not only; more somber instrumental melodies, but adding – a melancholic poignancy that is balanced superbly alongside the thematic lyrical content.

They rattle through their set with a thorough conviction with help of Jamie Rose’s solid bass playing, providing infectious harmonies that perfectly distil Venditozzi’s distinguishably rapturous vocals.

Second on the bill are the new six-piece outfit MONICA, the conceptualized creation from charismatic Glaswegian singer/songwriter Andrea Marini.

Marini has already established himself as a prolifically talented singer-songwriter on the Glasgow scene, embodying the craftsmanship of an individual many years his senior.

Stepping away from obliquely familiar territory and focusing on an acutely restrained diversification, Marini and his five-piece cohorts effortlessly manage to amalgamate a seamless mix of post-rock, early 90s funk-pop, with an overtly mature eclecticism of soulfully-jazz-esque, indie fuelled jangles’.

The songs perfectly instill a honed unification, while, exuding a quintessentially upbeat, oxymoronically contemporaneous and defiantly confident array of melodies.

It is quite clear from Marini’s effortlessly calm demeanor; his brazenly ad hoc delivery of anecdotal jokey banter and the hermetically sealed robustness of the rhythmic section – coupled with infectiously funky guitar playing – that the accomplished musicians are comfortable in their surroundings.

Additionally, there is the achingly arsenic beauty of the two-piece string accompaniment, comfortably positioned, neither forced nor pretentiously misplaced.

All the parts have a meticulously thought-out and uncharacteristically calculative robustness to them; with each member adding their proficiency to the overall flavor of colourful sounds and catchy choruses.

Overall, although on the short side (it was their first gig afterall) a great set.

The old adage that first impressions can be misleading is a pretty apt description for headliner Adam Stafford.

Stafford comes across as an enigmatic and elusive character on stage.

Dressed in suit, shirt and tie, Stafford’s musically induced and daringly self-insulated physicality’s and theatrical stage presence are an effectively contradictory and antithetical display against his attired etiquette.

All of which, only further compound the chemically imbalanced elements of hues and shades that fuel the esoterically looped-soundscapes.

The former Y’all is Fantasy Island frontman becomes lost in a cacophony of bouncingly looped delays, multi-layered achromatic vocal chanting (Stafford converts his vocal chords into a percussive assortment of screeches, screams and shouts).

It all merges into a pick-up hitting, Waits-esque, frugal-pots’n’pans rhythmic banshee, emitting heavy expositional sounds that are as much contextually mesmerizing as they are dark and ominous.

It comes as no surprise that Stafford has also somewhat successfully dabbled in the film realm, as his songs conjure up vivid imagery in a trance like manner.

Midset blues kick in, generating subdued vestiges of pop punk hiding behind walls of avant-garde ‘a cappela’ experimentation, which hark back to Stafford’s 2011 sophomoric effort Build a Harbour Immediately.

This exposes the more commercially melodic, hook-laden constructs, which don’t quite reach the idiosyncratic levels of the new material.

Not negating the fact that they are good tautly performed songs, it’s not until the IDM influenced dance elements kick in with their trance induced euro sentiments, that the appeal of Stafford’s sounds are at their best when he is at his most experimental.

Fortunately that trace of genuity comes back ten-fold on standout track ‘Railway Trespassers’, which conveys murky, retrogressively industrious vignettes, conjuring up images of laborious drudgery through a veil of atonal greyscale – funneling through a canon of vicissitudinal train-track pounding sonic metaphors – being further fuelled by the gyrating and aggressive grunts and barks emitting from a possessed looking Stafford.

It is a spectacle to behold, and the crowd seizes the moment; they seize the whole set, vicariously enjoying the musical journey that has Stafford – eyes closed – dancing to the literal voices that were once inside of his head, but now having escaped through the cathartic process of exorcising the ghosts inside the looped machine – job done.

Words: Derek Robertson

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