7th December | Trinity Centre
Nestled by a road junction on the edge of Old Market, I’d forgotten the scale of this venue and just how impressive it sounds. I walked in on warm up act Mike Dennis playing what sounded like a highly poetic ode to Bristol, or its trendier facets anyway. Perhaps it’s my ingrained cynicism but it felt far too gushing for my ears with its adoration of all things Stokes Croft and otherwise? Mike has worked as a producer with the Moulettes for years and showed significant skill with his loop pedals, Cajon and violin. He spread a positive vibe around the room with his talents but on the spectrum between talking and rapping he fell too close to the former for my personal taste.
The initially sparse crowd was gradually growing, bringing with it an impressive collection of mossy beards. Next up was Bunty who, before she’d spoken, had a dazzle to her which caught everyone’s attention. She began the set completely acapella constructing the percussion with beat boxing and layering her vocals into what became a somewhat epic piece of music. It was a brilliantly erratic and sporadically bizarre experience to listen to.
The second song sat on a bed of Jazz/swing vocal sounds and finger clicks setting the scene for her gently soulful voice. The closing track ‘Things What We Love’ really allowed this to shine and reminded me a little of Ms Dynamite in how it switched from rap to an elegant chorus. Throughout the set she dipped into a box of percussion at one point looping a reversed bell noise. The clip clop sample she made with her mouth reminded me of The Holy Grail while she precociously shuffled from one end of the stage to the next smirking at us all the while.
As the Moulettes plugged in and tuned up, the vocal refrain from ‘Under Water Painter’ rang out in the background. Last time I’d seen them perform was Farmfest 2015 and they’d since lost a member and aligned their folk prog sound closer to the electric guitar incorporating more samples and effects. This goes hand in hand with the album most of the nights songs came from which was ‘Preternatural’. Themed around mystical and unusual creatures, it was fascinating to have the song writer (Hannah Miller) give some background to the stories and meanings behind them. The more psychedelic taste running through it brought to life the otherworldly subject matter.
There was a powerful and precise aspect to the music which was balanced well with the subtlety and beauty of its composition. With a duel female lead vocal, electric guitar and 5 string electric cello forming the top line; a busy and hard hitting rhythm section ran beneath it. The song ‘Patterns’ for instance sweeps and sways with the Cello interludes buoying it along while the busy, hundred ants feet, type drum beat gives it an agitated feel underneath.
The track ‘Coral’ reminded me of ‘Black Cherry’ era Goldfrapp with it’s disjointed tapping drums and flamboyant grandiose feel. Like many of the songs, the electric guitar adds its teeth and creates that edge which jerks the dynamic more into rock territory. It’s a technique used often in the Preternatural album and one which works really well. On top of all these characteristics you find Hannah and Raevennan’s lead vocal work capturing triumphalism, mournfulness and elegance in a sea of numerous other emotions; all delivered with a precision and strength worthy of the bold and profound manner of the music.
The moment I’d looked forward to was hearing ‘Bird of Paradise (part 11)’ which opens with a operatic solo line from Hannah and has a mournful tone reminiscent of The Beatles ‘Eleanor Rigby. The Cello Pizzicato and guitar harmonics tip toe in between leading up to a raucous chorus before dropping back into its melancholy lulling. Seeing it live brought it to life all the more profoundly and Hannah’s explanation before really drew us into the narrative.
Despite an inebriated loud mouth at the back and a slightly understated turn out. The Moulettes played with incredible emotional conviction and enthusiasm. Stage craft can often feel overblown and forced with many artists but with this band it felt genuine and I think would have created the same communal vibe we experienced even in a venue ten times the size due to the love for their music they seemed to have and the professionalism they performed it with. We were all somewhat devastated to hear that they’d decided to take a break for a year. Lets hope we see them again soon with a fresh gathering of fascinating musical concoctions.
Watch the video for ‘Coral’ below.