Tag: Witch Of The Vale (Page 2 of 2)

WITCH OF THE VALE Interview

From the serene shores of Loch Lomond and the remote Outer Hebridean Isles, WITCH OF THE VALE have made a fine impression in their comparatively short period of being.

The couple’s musical potential has been rewarded with support slots for CLAN OF XYMOX, ASSEMBLAGE 23, SOLAR FAKE, LEÆTHER STRIP and DRAB MAJESTY while their biggest symbol of recognition in a prestigious slot at Infest awaits them at the end of August.

Possessing some Pagan fervour like GAZELLE TWIN meeting ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Twin Peaks’, the folk inspired stylings of Erin and Ryan Hawthorne have chillingly stood out through the release of two EPs ‘The Way This Will End’ and ‘Trust The Pain’.

From the latter, WITCH OF THE VALE’s hauntingly bleak cover of the already explicit and sinister ‘Gods & Monsters’ by Lana Del Rey has become their best known recording to date. Meanwhile, an EP of remixes entitled ‘Changeling’ has just been released featuring a rework of the ‘Trust The Pain’ song itself by LEÆTHER STRIP.

WITCH OF THE VALE kindly chatted about their musical philosophy and existential ideals…

Give us a quick recap on the history of the band so far…

Erin: It started out with Ryan twisting my arm into doing one song, and at the time he promised it would just be this one song. I hadn’t done anything musical in a long time and had zero confidence. We really didn’t have any particular ambitions or strategy when we started doing it, and really never intended to play live shows. A drunken conversation with a local promoter resulted in our first show – a support slot for CLAN OF XYMOX. Things changed gears a bit after that.

Ryan: Our first release was only last October, so there’s been a lot of firsts since then. The first time someone asked us to sign something, the first fan page, the first fan tattoo, the first time one of our musical heroes shared our music, and soon at Infest, our first festival slot.

How much has your geographical background shaped the sound of the band?

Ryan: It underpins our entire sound. We use a lot of early Scottish folk inspired drones with open fifths, evolving reed based synths, strings and brassy textured sounds. The start of ‘Deathwish’ is inspired by the sounds of a Celtic carnyx.

Musically we draw inspiration from Gaelic folk songs. It’s particularly prominent in two of our Waltz songs ‘Your Voice’ and ‘The Way This Will End’.

There’s a dreamlike quality to the music which is counter to the quite biting lyrics. How deliberate is this or does it just flow naturally?

Erin: I wouldn’t say this is intentional. I think the music is pretty dark and melancholy by itself, anyway. Maybe I just can’t write gentle lyrics. I do take a lot of time writing though, it matters very much to me that the words are right.

What is your approach to writing?

Ryan: We have three phases to writing a song…

Write the song
The sound comes later. It may seem obvious, but if we can’t pick up some unplugged musical instruments and have it sound good, then we don’t have a song. Try again.

Destroy it
Once we have something beautiful and then we ruin it. Sterilize any lingering feelings of hope in the song. We use a little distortion on everything.

Abandonment
Buried in the dirt. Left to fester on an external drive. For months a song will stay in this phase, lingering at the back of our minds like mild toothache. Eventually it’s back to phase 1. Repeat the whole thing until we have something we both love enough to release.

How important has playing live been to building your audience? And Ryan, do you have your own drum roadie yet?

Erin: We had shared some music online before our first shows but I don’t think anyone really took note until our first gig.

Ryan: We definitely streamlined what we take with us since that ASSEMBLAGE 23 support slot in London, where you laughed yourself sick seeing us struggling with oversized, non-portable gear. As we write this, we are carrying our gear on the train to play at ‘Beat: Cancer’ in Manchester and Erin has a broken arm. The drum remains a necessity.

Erin, you have a very striking stage presence. How did this develop?

Erin: I’m surprised to hear that anyone thinks that, to be honest. I have horrendous stage fright, and most of what I do on stage is likely a coping mechanism for that.

Ryan: That’s just what Erin looks like.

A lot of folk are quite ‘anti’ streaming platforms like Spotify. How do you view them?

Ryan: we both extensively use Spotify to listen to music and discover new artists. It would be hypocritical for us to criticise it. Unfortunately, you need to be an established artist to be discoverable. Without followers and appearances on prominent playlists, you won’t appear on the algorithms. That’s why it makes such a huge difference if you follow indie artists, share their music, and add them to playlists. Do it!

There is also a fair amount of competition between bands for support slots, coverage etc. How do you feel about this?

Erin: We’ve been pretty lucky in securing good support slots, actually, especially considering we really are still just getting on our feet. I don’t think I’ve felt much in the way of competition between other smaller acts, really. We’re actually a bit concerned about over-playing. You see some small artists who take every other gig they’re offered, which I think isn’t necessarily the best way to gain interest and a following. If you play the same clubs to the same audiences every other month… people stop coming out to see.

I go for dinner ‘Chez Hawthorne’ What’s on the playlist whilst we eat?

Erin: FEVER RAY; their two albums on loop.

Ryan: I hope you don’t mind vegetarian food by the way, accompanied by an Entrée of artists like ALICE GLASS, KANGA, THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE, CRANES and THE CURE.

You are the latest in a long line of breakthrough bands to play Infest. Do you prepare for a show like this differently to a usual performance?

Erin: We’re both quite anxious people, so preparation will likely involve drinking more than usual… so it’s probably a good thing our set is quite early. We’re hoping to include some new material.

After Infest, what’s next?

Ryan: Tricky question, we would love to do some shows and festivals further afield, but that would require having the time and the confidence to reach out and cold contact festival organisers and promoters. We could really use some suggestions or representation in this regard. Don’t be afraid to reach out to us on social media if you know someone who might want WITCH OF THE VALE on their next line-up.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to WITCH OF THE VALE

‘The Way This Will End’, ‘Trust The Pain’ and ‘Changeling’ are available direct from https://witchofthevale.bandcamp.com/releases

WITCH OF THE VALE play Infest at University of Bradford Student Union on Saturday 24th August 2019 shortly after doors open at 15:00

http://www.witchofthevale.com/

https://www.facebook.com/witchofthevale/

https://twitter.com/WitchOfTheVale

https://www.instagram.com/witch_of_the_vale/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/7axp614rqaTEKnaeQJ8F3V


Interview by Ian Ferguson
Additional Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th  August 2019

WITCH OF THE VALE Trust The Pain

In the world of plenty, the nature runs through the laws of the land and she decides on all outcomes. Break the cycle, and you’re doomed, turn against her, and you will pay the highest price.

Deeply rooted in Celtic folklore with Wiccan beliefs, the highly spirited music of WITCH OF THE VALE is like nothing else within the world of electronica today. Outer Hebridean Isles meets the mysterious and hostile shores of Loch Lomond to create the freshest musical abyss of strength and stamina to deliver the most unusual sound and please the most discerning synth lovers.

Relatively unknown, Erin Hawthorne and her husband Ryan’s music has been recognised enough to claim the support slots for ASSEMBLAGE 23, CLAN OF XYMOX and SOLAR FAKE.

WITCH OF THE VALE’s debut last year with ‘The Way This Will End’ EP gathered enough appreciation and enthusiasm for the pair to continue their Pagan musical experimentation and this winter sees the release of the second EP ‘Trust The Pain’.

The eponymous first track introduces serene, yet uncertain feelings channelled via Hawthorne’s clear vocals over the croon from a raven. The angelic ballad puts all the fears to sleep, leading gently into ‘The Ghosts Won’t Know’, which continues with ethereal quality of vocals and sparse instrumentation in form of delicate piano, which is met by cold strings and slow ritualistic drumming.

‘Suffocation’ sees a mood shift, where the piano meets more haunting sounds, painting elements of dread, fear and tears, palpable in the musical execution, even though the vocals remain softly celestial and almost divine.

The surprise comes with an unusual cover of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Gods & Monsters’, which was a Top 40 hit in the UK, and was covered by the likes of Jessica Lange, as well as used in films and TV series. WITCH OF THE VALE bring out a fresh approach to this controversial piece, whose lyrics describe life lived dangerously, not seeking redemption but ploughing harder and harder towards the tragic end. As opposed to the gritty, sleazy vocal from Del Rey, Erin brings a certain celestial quality to this massive number, shadowed by nothing but a delicate piano and retiring synth.

Erin and Ryan Hawthorne are definitely revealing more and more of their magical world and they are ones to watch out for. Not affiliated with any musical circles, the pair do their own thing with beauty and poise, creating the most astonishing arrangements and it feels like they definitely have more up their sleeve, so follow The Witch.


‘Trust The Pain’ is available as a download EP from https://witchofthevale.bandcamp.com/releases

http://www.witchofthevale.com/

https://www.facebook.com/witchofthevale/

https://twitter.com/WitchOfTheVale

https://www.instagram.com/witch_of_the_vale/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
15th February 2019

2018 End Of Year Review

2018 saw JEAN-MICHEL JARRE celebrate 50 years in the business and whether the world really needed another of his compilations, ‘Planet Jarre’ was probably one of the better collected representations of his work for casual admirers.

But not standing still and releasing his fourth new album in three years, ‘Equinoxe Infinity’ continued the story as the French Maestro tuned 70.

SOFT CELL made a totally unexpected return for a huge one-off farewell gig at London’s O2 Arena; and with it came a boxed set, the ‘Northern Lights’ single and other new recordings which have raised hopes for a new album.

From the same era, FIAT LUX announced plans for their debut album ‘Save Symmetry’ with an excellent lead track ‘It’s You’, while B-MOVIE came up with their most synth-propelled single yet in ‘Stalingrad’.

But one act who actually did comeback with a brand new album in 2018 were DUBSTAR; now a duo of Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie, as ‘One’ they reminded audiences as to why they were the acceptable face of Britpop with their bridge to Synth Britannia.

IONNALEE finally released her debut opus ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ and her tour which included choice cuts from IAMAMIWHOAMI, proved to be one of the best value-for-money live experiences in 2018, one that was even endorsed by Welsh songstress Charlotte Church.

CHVRCHES offered up their third album ‘Love Is Dead’ and continued their role as international flagwavers for quality synthpop, while EMIKA presented her best album yet in ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, an exquisite electronic record with a Bohemian aura.

JOHN GRANT was on an artistic roll both solo and in partnership with WRANGLER as CREEP SHOW with two new albums. However, he was beaten by Neil Arthur who managed three albums over a 12 month period as NEAR FUTURE and BLANCMANGE including ‘Wanderlust’, possibly the latter’s best body of work in its 21st Century incarnation.

It was a busy year for STEVE JANSEN with a new solo ambient work ‘Corridor’, the well-received vinyl reissue of JAPAN’s two Virgin-era studio albums and his epic, more organically flavoured band project EXIT NORTH with their debut long player ‘Book Of Romance & Dust’.

SARAH NIXEY went on some ‘Night Walks’ for her best solo album yet, a wonderful collection of everything she had ever been musically all wonderfully rolled into one.

Meanwhile TRACEY THORN went back to the ‘Dancefloor’ with her ‘Record’ which content wise was right up there with some of ALISON MOYET’s electronica output from the last five years.

Those who liked their electronic music darker were well served with NINE INCH NAILS, IAMX, KIRLIAN CAMERA and HELIX, but after experimenting with the single only format for a few years, Daniel Graves announced he was taking the plunge again with a new AESTHETIC PERFECTION album.

The Sacred Bones stable provided some quality releases from THE SOFT MOON, HILARY WOODS, ZOLA JESUS and JOHN CARPENTER. Meanwhile, providing some fierce socio-political commentary on the state of the UK was GAZELLE TWIN.

Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET offered some noirish ‘Pseudopop’ and promising Norwich youngsters LET’S EAT GRANDMA got more deeply into electronica without losing any of their angsty teenage exuberance on their second album ‘I’m All Ears’.

Less intense and more dreamy were GLASSHOUSE, the new duo fronted by former TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler.

Aussies CONFIDENCE MAN provided some wacky dancey glitz to the pop world and after nearly four decades in the business, Canadian trailblazers RATIONAL YOUTH finally played their first ever concert in London at ‘Non Stop Electronic Cabaret’ alongside dark wave compatriots PSYCHE and Numan-influenced Swedish poptronica exponents PAGE.

Sweden was again highly productive with KARIN PARK, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM, TRAIN TO SPAIN and VAL SOLO while Norway took their own approach with FARAOSOFT AS SNOW and ELECTRO SPECTRE setting their standard. Veteran Deutschlanders THE TWINS and PETER HEPPNER returned with new albums after notable recorded absences while next door in Belgium, METROLAND presented themselves as ‘Men In A Frame’.

While the new HEAVEN 17 album ‘Not For Public Broadcast’ is still to be finished, Glenn Gregory teamed by with live keyboardist Berenice Scott as AFTERHERE. Their long-time friend Claudia Brücken performed as xPROPAGANDA with Susanne Freytag and partnered up with one-time TANGERINE DREAM member Jerome Froese, releasing the ‘Beginn’ album in the process.

It was a year of interesting collaborations all-round with UNDERWORLD working with Iggy Pop, U96 linking up with Wolfgang Flür for an excellent single called ‘Zukunftsmusik’ and German techno pioneer CHRIS LIEBING recruiting POLLY SCATTERGOOD and GARY NUMAN for his Mute released album ‘Burn Slow’.

Based in Berlin, THE KVB offered up some brooding gothic moods with ‘Only Now Forever’ while Valerie Renay of NOBLESSE OBLIGE released her first solo album ‘Your Own Shadow’.

Highly appealing were a number of quirky Japanese influenced female artists from around the globe including COMPUTER MAGIC, MECHA MAIKO and PLASMIC. But there were also a number of acts with Far Eastern heritage like STOLEN, FIFI RONG, DISQO VOLANTE and SHOOK who continued to make a worthy impression with their recorded output in 2018.

Heavy synth rock duo NIGHT CLUB presented their ‘Scary World’ on the back of tours opening for COMBICHRIST and A PERFECT CIRCLE while also from across the pond, NYXX and SINOSA both showcased their alluring potential.

At the poppier end of the spectrum, Holger Wobker used Pledge Music to relaunch BOYTRONIC with their most recent vocal incumbent James Knights in an unexpected twist to once again prove the old adage to “never say never” as far as the music industry is concerned.

Meanwhile, Chris Payne co-wrote and co-produced the excellent ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP with KATJA VON KASSEL while also revealing plans for an autobiography and opening for his old boss…

The surprise album of the year was CHRIS CARTER with his ‘Chemistry Lessons Volume One’ while using a not dissimilar concept with their second album ‘Hello Science’, REED & CAROLINE took their folk laden synthpop out on a US tour opening for ERASURE.

IMMERSION provided a new collection of their modern Motorik as SHRIEKBACK, FISCHERSPOONER, THE PRESETS, HEARTBREAK and QUEEN OF HEARTS all made comebacks of varying degrees with audiences still eager for their work.

STEVEN JONES & LOGAN SKY harked back to the days when GARY NUMAN and OMD would release two albums in one year by offering ‘Hans Und Lieselotte’ and ‘The Electric Eye’ in 2016. Those veteran acts themselves celebrated their 40th anniversaries by going orchestral, something which SIMPLE MINDS also did when they opted to re-record ‘Alive & Kicking’ for the ’80s Symphonic’ collection although Jim Kerr forgot how a third of the song went!

With SIMPLE MINDS also performing a horrible and barely recognisable ‘Promised You A Miracle’ during BBC’s ‘The Biggest Weekend’, making up for the live joke that his former band have become was one-time bassist Derek Forbes with the album ‘Broken Hearted City’ as ZANTi with Anni Hogan of MARC & THE MAMBAS fame.

Other former members of high-profile bands were busy too with Ian Burden, formally of THE HUMAN LEAGUE returning with the Floydian ‘Hey Hey Ho Hum’ while A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS reformed briefly for an orchestral re-run of their catalogue.

With the release of their second album ‘Kinetik’, EKKOES handed over THE HUMAN LEAGUE support baton to SHELTER who came up with their best body of work yet in the more introspective shades of ‘Soar’

That darker approach manifested itself on singer Mark Bebb’s side project FORM with Keith Trigwell of SPEAK & SPELL whose debut long player ‘defiance + entropy’ also came out in 2018.

Having been championed by RÖYSKSOPP, Wales’ MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY returned with ‘Infinity Mirror’ while riding on the well-deserved momentum from opening for OMD, Ireland’s TINY MAGNETIC PETS embarked on their first headlining tour.

Representing North of the border were RYAN VAIL and HANNAH PEEL, but hailing from Scotland were WITCH OF THE VALE who proved to be one of the most interesting new acts of 2018 having supported ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their most recent UK visit. There was a good showing from UK acts in 2018 with RODNEY CROMWELL, ANI GLASS, THE FRIXION, OLLIE WRIDE and FAKE TEAK all issuing some excellent synth tinged songs for public consumption.

NINA’s long awaited debut album ‘Sleepwalking’ was a fine hybrid of synthpop and the currently fashionable Synthwave aesthetic; her live double billing with Canadian synthpopsters PARALLELS was one of the hottest tickets of the year.

The sub-genre was indeed making waves and there were some very enjoyable artists coming out of it like GUNSHIP, DANA JEAN PHOENIX and MICHAEL OAKLEY.

However, the endless AOR excesses, moonlight sax breaks and highly unimaginative band monikers using numbers between 80 to 89 affixed to an archaic technology reference, illustrated by yet another neon sunset, VCR grid and Lamborghini, were becoming tiresome.

As Synthwave cynics, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s touch paper was being lit big time! The whole point of the synthesizer’s role during the Second British Invasion of the US was to fight against the insipid overtures of AOR like TOTO, CHICAGO and JOURNEY, NOT to make music coated with its horrid stench as THE MIDNIGHT did in 2018 with their long player ‘Kids’.

But there was naivety within some quarters too; electronic music did not begin in 2011 with ‘Drive’, an above average film with a good if slightly over rated soundtrack. However, its cultural influence has led to a plethora of meandering tracks made by gamer boys which sounded like someone had forgotten to sing on them; perhaps they should have gone back to 1978 and listened to GIORGIO MORODER’s ‘Midnight Express Theme’ to find out how this type of instrumental music should be done?

Many of the newer artists influenced by Synth Britannia that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has featured have sometimes been accused of being stuck in the past, but a fair number of Synthwave acts were really taking the soggy biscuit with their retro-obsession.

Rock band MUSE’s use of glowing artwork by Kyle Lambert of ‘Stranger Things’ fame on their eighth album ‘Simulation Theory’ sent sections of the Synthwave community into meltdown. There were cries that they had “stolen the aesthetics and concept” and how “it’s not relevant to their sound”!

But WHAM! had Peter Saville designed sleeves and never sounded like NEW ORDER or OMD, while electropop diva LA ROUX used a visual stylisation for ‘In For The Kill’ that has since been claimed by Synthwavers as their own, despite it being from 2009 when Ryan Gosling was peddling graveyard indie rock in DEAD MAN’S BONES 😉

This was one of the bigger ironies of 2018, especially as MUSE have always used synths! One of Matt Bellamy and co’s biggest musical inspirations is ULTRAVOX, indicating the trio probably have a better understanding of the fusion between the synthesizer, rock and classical music, as proven by the ‘Simulation Theory’ bookends ‘Algorithm’ and ‘The Void’, than any static laptop exponent with a Jan Hammer fixation.

It is interesting to note today how electronic music has split into so many factions, but there’s still the assumed generalisation that it is all one thing and that synthpop fans must also like Synthwave, Deep House, EDM, Industrial and those tedious beach chill-out remixes.

Back in the day and even now, some fans of THE HUMAN LEAGUE didn’t like OMD, DEPECHE MODE fans only liked DEPECHE MODE and rock fans had a token favourite electronic band.

Out of all the acts from the Synth Britannia era, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had very little time for THOMPSON TWINS despite their huge international success, but their leader Tom Bailey’s 2018 solo recorded return ‘Science Fiction’ was warmly received by many.

Just as COLDPLAY and SNOW PATROL fans don’t all embrace ELBOW, it is ok to have preferences and to say so. Not liking the music of an artist does not make you a bad person, but liking everything does not make you a better person either… in fact, it shows you probably have no discerning taste! In 2002, SOFT CELL warned of a ‘Monoculture’, and if there is no taste differentiation in art and music, it will spell the end of cultural enhancement.

Taste is always the key, but then not everyone who loves chocolate likes Hersheys… and with that analogy, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK bids farewell to 2018 and looks forward to a 2019 that includes the return of TEARS FOR FEARS and the first full live shows from GIORGIO MORODER, plus new releases by VILE ELECTRODESKITE, VILLA NAH, I AM SNOW ANGEL and LADYTRON.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2018

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Infinity Mirror
Best Song: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Lafayette
Best Gig: TANGERINE DREAM at London Union Chapel
Best Video: THE SOFT MOON Give Something
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: BLANCMANGE Wanderlust
Best Song: ELECTRO SPECTRE The Way You Love
Best Gig: OMD at Glasgow Kelvingrove Park
Best Video: NYXX Voodoo
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


SIMON HELM

Best Album: DUBSTAR One
Best Song: PAGE Start (Poptronica Version)
Best Gig: DIE KRUPPS + FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY at O2 Academy Islington
Best Video: FIFI RONG Horizon
Most Promising New Act: ZANTi


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: EMIKA Falling In Love With Sadness
Best Song: FIAT LUX It’s You
Best Gig: SOFT CELL at London O2 Arena
Best Video: FAKE TEAK Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: GUNSHIP Dark All Day
Best Song: SHELTER Karma
Best Gig: IAMX at London Electric Ballroom
Best Video: JUNO REACTOR Let’s Turn On
Most Promising New Act: MECHA MAIKO


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th December 2018

WITCH OF THE VALE The Way This Will End

In the forest of independent music where trolls can spring from isolated rocks and mountains, it is refreshing for gatekeepers to allow through the spirit of an understated musical Seonaidh.

So from the serene shores of Loch Lomond and the remote Outer Hebridean Isles, come WITCH OF THE VALE. Comprising of the folk inspired stylings of Erin Hawthorne and the stark instrumental structures of her husband Ryan Hawthorne, their music possesses some Pagan fervour like GAZELLE TWIN meeting ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Twin Peaks’.

Despite being largely unknown within general electronic music circles, the couple’s musical potential have certainly been noticed and rewarded with support slots for CLAN OF XYMOX, SOLAR FAKE and ASSEMBLAGE 23.

Beginning their debut four song EP ‘The Way This Will End’ with the unsettling ritualistic overtures of ‘Fever’, a stark percussive lattice and drone laden backdrop holds together a sinister Celtic beauty through Erin Hawthorne’s treated vocals.

With another alluringly timeless vocal, the traditional overtures of ‘Your Voice’ take a gentler pace over a simple triple backbone. Meanwhile ‘Deathwish’ does what it says on the tin, as heavy stuttering beats and distorted synths take hold; again it’s all threaded together by an enticing high register gothique.

Closing the EP with ‘The Way This Will End’ title track, an angelic air is offered within a backdrop that has a beautiful music box quality complimented by solemn strings, capturing a wonderful melancholic airiness.

This fine debut EP from WITCH OF THE VALE is a total pleasure. Totally captivating while maintaining an important air of mystery, Erin and Ryan Hawthorne are most definitely an act to keep an eye on for the future.

“Seonaidh, I give thee this cup of ale, hoping that thou wilt be so good as to send us plenty of seaware for enriching our ground during the coming year.”


‘The Way This Will End’ is available as a download EP direct from https://witchofthevale.bandcamp.com/releases

http://www.witchofthevale.com/

https://www.facebook.com/witchofthevale/

https://twitter.com/WitchOfTheVale

https://www.instagram.com/witch_of_the_vale/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st October 2018

ASSEMBLAGE 23, RAINLAND + WITCH OF THE VALE Live in London

Returning to the UK after a successful Spring 2017 stint, ASSEMBLAGE 23 again packed their favourite London venue Electrowerkz with their dark industrial flavoured synthpop.

A23 main man Tom Shear is on something of a high right now, with the acclaimed album ‘Endure’ still attracting live audiences 2 years after its release while his new side-project HELIX with vocalist Mari Kattman has just issued its first album ‘Twin’.

Opening proceedings were WITCH OF THE VALE, a Scottish electronic duo from the serene shores of Loch Lomond and the remote Outer Hebridean Isles, centred around the folk inspired soprano stylings of Erin Hawthorne and the stark instrumental structures of her husband Ryan Hawthorne.

Like GAZELLE TWIN meeting ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Twin Peaks’, their music possesses some Pagan fervour. From the eerie beauty of ‘Listen To Your Voice’ to the more unsettling ritualistic overtures of ‘Fever’, their presentation was totally captivating while maintaining that important air of mystery, making them an act to watch out for in the future.

On their second successive UK tour with A23, RAINLAND were very much the party animals who utilised their down-to-earth weegie personas to act as cheerleaders for the headline act. RAINLAND formed from the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL and Tom Shear has recognised the pair’s capabilities for a long time now.

As RAINLAND, Ian Ferguson and Derek MacDonald have been able to follow their synthpop instincts, free of the industrial shackles that occasionally held them back in the past. Ferguson in particular had shown his worth with a tone not dissimilar to Midge Ure on ANALOG ANGEL songs such as ‘No Goodbye’, ‘I Am Me’ and ‘Another Rainy Day’.

The ‘Rainland’ song was a stomping opening salvo that recalled ULTRAVOX with a touch of Vince Clarke too, while the BRONSKI BEAT inspired ‘Touch’ with its digital slap samples had the crowd dancing.

‘Silverlight’ with lyrics co-written by author Ange Chan kept the momentum going, but with only the ‘Touch’ EP to their name so far, their performance closed with the Ferguson-penned ANALOG ANGEL evergreen ‘Drive’.

Tom Shear has maintained a successful career over the last two decades years despite some ups and downs. In ensuring ASSEMBLAGE 23’s survival in the modern music industry, his resilience could be summed up by their opening number ‘Bravery’, a poignant statement that self-doubt which always lingers within the human condition, whatever the circumstances.

Accompanied by the ever faithful Paul Seegers on synths, Shear was his usual engaging self with songs like ‘Let The Wind Erase Me’. Meanwhile from ‘Meta’, the brilliant ‘Damaged’ from 2007 reminded everyone of the sort of tunes that DEPECHE MODE were once good at.

The emotive electro-gothic discoscape of ‘December’ captured being “Silent and alone, trying to make sense” in a song swathed in sadness despite the danceable rhythm construction, while the classic A23 of ‘Let Me Be Your Armor’ is still a firm fan favourite with its trance energy. However when the riff laden ‘The Noise Inside My Head’ made its presence felt, the crowd erupted in a sea of bounce!

Closing with a marvellous spirited cover of INXS’ international breakthrough ‘Don’t Change’, itself borrowing the distinctive swooping synth line from ‘Bunker Soldiers’ by OMD, ASSEMBLAGE 23 provided the perfect conclusion to an excellent triple bill.

This evening proved again that if a line-up is properly curated with acts that actually musically complement one another, it will result in success. As Jim Morrison said in ‘Wayne’s World 2’: “Book them and they will come…”


With thanks to Tom Shear and Ian Ferguson

‘Endure’ is released by Metropolis Records in CD, deluxe 2CD and download variants, available from http://www.assemblage23.com/store

ASSEMBLAGE 23 German live dates include:
Berlin Kreuzberg Maze (11th September), Hamburg Indra Club 64 (12th September),
Frankfurt Das Bett (15th September)

http://www.assemblage23.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Official-Assemblage-23-138651156153800/

https://twitter.com/Assemblage_23

https://www.facebook.com/RainlandtheBand/

https://rainland.bandcamp.com/

http://www.witchofthevale.com/

https://www.facebook.com/witchofthevale/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chi Ming Lai and Marilyn Wilson
9th September 2018

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