The Great Albatross (album launch), Skinny Dipper, Fiskur at The Glad Cafe, 12/5/17

Tonight is in aid of the launch of the debut Great Albatross record Asleep in the Kaatskills on LP Records.

The room is already quite full before anyone has taken the stage; there are eleven instruments up there, as many pedals and half as many amps – I’m no mathematician, but that’s a lot of stuff for making noise with.

One person comes on stage and picks up one instrument, to bring us the debut performance of Fiskur an acoustic singer-songwriter act from Ross Clark, former front man of the recently disbanded Three Blind Wolves.

Fiskur presents some original, well-timed and expectation diverting music, starting with a distinctly lonesome and slow song with a south-western feel.

Many of Fiskur’s songs were written whilst fishing, with fiskur being an Icelandic word for fish, and we are enlightened as to what a slob trout is, a brown river trout that turns silver when it meets the sea.

Clark plays ‘I Turn Silver’, which starts off faster and lighter, but remember what I said about diverted expectations? Fiskur songs are full of brief gear changes, but not the type that grind your gearbox, these subtle shifts highlight and emphasise the depth of the songs.

In the third song, a delay pedal is introduced and utilised masterfully, with great subtlety, after the introduction of this pedal – or pedals – it is continually employed throughout the rest of the performance.

The fusion of organic and electronic guitar music is inspired and culminates in some very interesting and emotionally potent music, the vocals have a classical as well as contemporary and emotional quality, they are powerful without pretension.

Skinny Dipper take to the stage, all eight of them, and you would think they would involve most of the on-stage instruments being used but no, half of the musicians bring their own; a trumpet, a violin, a cello and a tambourine enter the instrumental mix.

The vocal harmonies from the three main singers are wonderfully diverse and distinctive; these are complimented by the evangelical lightness of the music.

Skinny Dipper’s diverse, professional and synergetic musicality is infectiously delightful and difficult to dislike.

A slow song wanders in and is gently encouraged by the sequential introduction of the myriad instruments.

A member of Skinny Dipper who is currently on maternity leave is asked to join the band on stage for a choir driven song of fantastic quality.

Somewhere between where the piano meets the strings ahead of the three-piece rock band at the back, under the soft rain of vocal harmonic you find Skinny Dipper… giving it plenty.

The last time I caught The Great Albatross at the launch of LP Records there were three band members, now there are five.

This brings an increased vitality and energy to the performance, which in no way undercuts the bands subtle and masterful approach.

As with last time, the respective volume of the instruments works delightfully to create a cohesive and alluring overarching sound throughout the set.

“Stay hydrated and bend your knees” is the punk-rock advice dispensed by frontman and brain of The Great Albatross, Wesley Chung.

Throughout the set – apart from when Chung dons the acoustic guitar – three electric guitars are used and this symphony allows an impressive harmonic and melodic spectrum to pour forward, carried by the wind of a constantly evolving bass-line and crashing against the rocks of timely, tight and well controlled drum work.

On top of all this, the wide-ranging register of Chung’s voice adds impassioned emotion to the songs.

The last time I spoke to Chung he told me that this is truly a transatlantic project, being recorded between California and Glasgow; this aspect of the work is evident, gratifying and powerfully relatable.

There is an encore of all things, a very genuine one, for which Chung is genuinely surprised.

They play ‘When I Wake’, which was written during a lot of toing-and-froing between here and California, “so it’s a nice one to end on”, says Chung, and he is not wrong, not by a long shot.

The energy with which set is played is higher than expected, but it matches the high energy of this fantastically joyous evening.

What characterises each of the bands on the bill tonight is character, originality, intelligence and heart.

All three acts are charming in their own distinct way, but come together to create a genuinely memorable and wonderfully enjoyable evening.

Words: Paul Aitken

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