Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Celtic Connections continues to be an integral part of cultural life in Glasgow.
In light of Brexit, many of us are starting to feel alienated and detached from our cultural identities, and seek to find a sense of belonging and togetherness.
For many, Celtic Connections is a way to cross the borders that divide us, and come together to share music.
Based in Bristol and Paris, Kate Stables of This is the Kit, is a prime example of an artist who utilises cross-cultural connections to influence her music and relate it to the wider world.
It’s a cold January evening in Glasgow, and it doesn’t take long for the crowd to gather and warm up the ABC.
Reaffirming the ethos of the festival, Stables tells the audience she met her brass section at Celtic Connections many years ago.
Beginning the set with ‘Easy on the Thieves’ from 2017 album Moonshine Freeze, Stables fingerpicks the banjo, retaining a sense of intimacy in front of a sold out crowd.
“People want blood and blood is what they’ve got” is repeated, becoming almost chant-like.
These chant-like phrases are a key element of the songs that feature in Moonshine Freeze, and perhaps refer to older oral traditions of ‘folk’ where communities of people, like factory workers, came together to memorise repetitive mantras.
Hypnotised by the haunting melody and poignant lyrics, the Glasgow crowd start to sing along, echoing these early folk traditions.
A few songs in and we hear ‘Bullet Proof’, the first track from the album.
Described by Stables as “choosing to see a catastrophe as a chance to start again”, it begins with delicate percussion and progresses into a song about feeling fragile in a harsh world; a sentiment that seems to resonate with the current political climate.
The lyrics turn self-referential as Stables sings “there are things to learn here Kate”.
These moments of lyrical introspection allow for meditative thought, and is complimented by the psych-folk groove, leaving the crowd in a trance-like state.
While many of the songs employ these traditional folk mantras, This is the Kit fuses these traditions with intuitive song-writing, layered instrumentation, and cryptic storytelling.
Although layered, and sometimes complex, the instrumentation never takes precedent over Stables’ captivating voice, and intriguing lyrics.
Despite the political and cultural instability at the moment, This is the Kit perfectly champion the Celtic Connections spirit of togetherness and inclusion with compelling songwriting and contemporary folk style.
Words: Marie Collins