Sarah Davachi, Luminous Monsters, Bell Lungs at The Glad Cafe, 2/8/17

Ceylan Hay, performing as Bell Lungs, opens with ‘Inside A Prism’, a haunting piece, which sounds as if it’s emanating from a ruined cathedral on some long-abandoned island.

 

Its plaintive vocal harmonies are punctuated only by the chiming of small bells, wielded by initiated fans amongst the crowd.

The first half of Hay’s set owes more to collage and sound art: one as yet untitled piece loops water whistle, panpipes and electric violin, conjuring a sonic approximation of a rainforest teeming with unseen life.

The second half resolves into more melodic territory, with recent lathe cut ‘Mosul Dam’ offering a sensitive meditation on the UK’s post-Brexit capriciousness.

Most enthralling about Hay is how she pushes the psychoacoustic envelope of her instruments, particularly the violin: it becomes not just a vehicle for melody, but for the mental evocation of animals, objects, and places.

But there are great songs here too, and a truly remarkable voice, like cut quartz: fans of cult avant-folk like Judee Sill or Linda Perhacs need look no further for their next obsession.

As Luminous Monsters, Matt Evans takes to the stage next, wryly introducing himself with “this is my last song…”, which instantly puts the audience at laughing ease.

Using his impressive, vegan muscles to tame his guitar into a soaring drone soundscape that would make the likes of Erkin Koray proud, Evans treats us to a rendition of ‘The Dreaming Celestial’, a 20-minute composition released in 2014, which evokes the dream of a Constantinople skyline at sunset, black silhouettes of birds wheeling across the falling dusk.

Lush yet restrained to start, the piece is adorned with flourishes that wouldn’t be out of place in oud or flamenco traditions.

The intricate guitar-work gives one the sense of marching onwards into the apocalypse with fierce determination.

His pedals encased in a blood-red suitcase imprinted in black with a monstrous face, Evans is a master of using the full range of his instruments to great effect.

In this age of laptops, Canadian musician Sarah Davachi is comfortingly analogue.

Despite an impressive academic CV (she’s currently pursuing a doctoral degree at UCLA) and with four albums under her belt, this is the headliner’s first trip to Scotland.

With the obligatory reference to bagpipes out of the way, she settles herself behind her Korg reissue Arp Odyssey synth and begins her meditation.

The room dies down to a hypnotised hush: some appear to be in a reverie so deep that they’ve fallen asleep.

Notes unfurl slowly, overlapping and running into each other like raindrops on a windowpane.

Davachi uses a Boss RC-50 looper to build a sweetly-spinning dronescape, with faint countermelodies rippling beneath the main sound.

At points, it is reminiscent of the transcendentalism of Terry Riley’s ‘Persian Surgery Dervishes’ or Lino Capra Vaccina’s ‘Antico Adagio’.

This is music to calm the mind; it slows down time as if one is encased underwater, the edges of our solid reality blurring.

Oscillations ring in the ears, an overpowering command to submit oneself up to the wash of sounds.

We can only hope Ms. Davachi returns soon.

Words: Ceylan Hay / Graham Neil Gillespie

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