Banquet Ethania
Duncan Black
Dead on Arrival
Ethania
MVP project
Y Pwps
Debbie
Mank

Carreg Bran, Llanfair P.G.

20/2/04

(review & pic by MWJ)

Ethania Ė I detect no more metalÖ

Subtitled "strange entertainment" it was definitely one of those nights that push credulity but are ultimately worth it. In a venue that has probably hosted more wedding receptions than hot dinners there was even a banquet/buffet laid on, for nothing, I mean, how warm a welcome can you get? And in a similar shotgun wedding feel there were people sitting round in family groups not knowing the others there. Everyone was put at ease by the jovial host, wandering Marquis Ethania-Ping ensuring the celebration was just that. Kind of a two-fingered alternative to the concurrent Welsh Music Awards there was a fair representation of the non-scene glitterati (my deluded self included, naturally, dharling), and the music on show was again a odd ragtag assortment of stuff that could probably only ever be independent and obscure, and all the more enjoyable for it.

After a long wait for anything to happen I was getting a bit concerned (as I wasnít drinking, much) this feast was going to be going on to the small hours but eventually the dapper Marquis took the mike and in true best man style proceeded in a self depreciating stream of consciousness babble of introduction and compere comment that would continue to amuse throughout the evening. Swearing while kids present though, tut, tut.

First up was Mank, one guy producing ambient via guitar and electronics. Excellent home made video image projection to hypnotise the eye while he worked quietly and minimally in one corner. Hardly background music through some insistent volume of subtle beats and achieved good variety of mood in the music, from pleasant ethereal to something a lot darker, kept the attention well.

A vocalist/guitarist next, folk seems an easy tag to apply to Debbie but it wasnít that straightforward. Using some chorus effect on her guitar added a lot to the fullness of the sound, her songs had a lilting spiritual feel but sadly the actual words were not so clear, resulting in her competing with background chatter. Still, as with all acts here, applauded just the same for the spice of variety.

In sharp contrast, Y (notorious) Pwps, was maybe too full on in the vocal department and lacking in his backing. Apparently recently banned from any radio station that would have him it was a solo rap attack, mewn Cymraeg, just two songs. The first (excuse any mistaken translation, dim ond ail iaith sy gen i) seemed to be a rant at the Unol Daleithiau which scores points for me, the next (possibly) about the state of Festiniog hip-hop (?!?). Anyway, while the subject matter might have been a plus the free-styling amidst the rhymes could be a bit jarring, and the backing track was very flat and cheesy. Personally, I thought it would have been better stripped down to just drum beats without dodgy bontempi, but balance of vocals and backing Iíd imagine is always hard to achieve when dealing with so few elements. Rhespect for the balls for doing it though.

Dragged back a bit towards conventional music set up by a 3-piece plus drum machine that was MVP project. Again only a couple or 3 songs aired, of something of a moody alt-rock feel. The vocals were quite strong, the Doors came to mind but Iím not sure why. The guitar and bass created solid riffs, and fitted well with a trip-hop style backbeat. Fair flying through the evening now that everyoneís playing short sets. And the place is still filling up.

Things swing back awry with the Ethania collective, looking decidedly free-form psychedelic experimentation which can be very liberating and refreshing for both band and audience but can also disappear up itsí own backside in a pile of w*nk. Keeping the balance on the knife edge members of Ectogram had the ability to judge the mood of the song and create some sense of rhythm, there was some warped synths, scissors and tape, some gentle female vocals, and the Marquis himself shouting and abusing a metal detector for art and feedback. In the short time it went on for, canít remember if it was actually split into 2 "songs", it at least remained interesting in an amusing ohmigodwhatsgoingon sense, taking me back to my own ifitaintchaositaintgood days in Thin Din.

Way past their bedtimes came the pop-punk trio of Dead on Arrival. Someone (I didnít have time) really should point out to them that, despite their nice printed t-shirts and bass drum skin, the name has already been taken by some existing punk legends, to avoid future heartache you know? A family group of Amy on bass and vocals and her brothers on guitar and drums, their collective age was possibly less than Mr Crudís. Tremendously proficient for their age they unfortunately treated us to covers of the selected works of Avril Busted Charlotte, but one of their own numbers amongst them seemed just as good. It did provide debate for me though on a night like this. Would they want to be the next great pop punk thang in a few years time or would it be better if they made a choice for musical credibility/invention/obscurity, and should we have any right to influence their decision? Jesus, they can mull this over for a whole 10 years before itís even going to matter, just enjoy it in the meantime. Although getting out of Holyhead would probably be a good start.

Finally, one man and his pedals a.k.a. Duncan Black gave us a blast of solo diversity. It was interesting to see how some of the guitar moves he busts in Skinflick develop when he has his own free reign. As with Mank at the start of the evening (but much more direct) his ability to create significantly different moods in the short instrumental pieces is excellent, whether psychedelic space travel soundtrack, sleazy metal boogie quite like Devin Townsend, or darker, spooky industrial malevolence. Plus explosions of noise and feedback to keep us awake (Iím sure I recognised a bit from Carcassís "Exhume to Consume"). Most there in undoubted respect to his ability to get such a layered depth to his creations through mastery of the technology, as well as sheer talent on his instrument of choice.

Couldnít stay to the end but reckon a successful night in terms of being one to remember. Hope that the concept and the conceptual returns. With theramins next time, please.

 

make mine a pils
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