Thursday, 22 July 2021

Album Review: Flo Perlin - Characters

CHARACTERS is the debut release from London-based artist Flo Perlin. Its eight tracks evolve as a hypnotic and mesmerising experience keeping the listener entranced for an intoxicating half an hour. The addictive qualities shine through as a deeply personal folk overcoat is underpinned by emerging jazzy undertones. Themes range from exploring her own diverse heritage in 'Baghdad' to something even more personal than the general feel to the album in 'Hold Up Your Head Child'. This last track employs the writing technique of repetition that plays a significant part in embedding the album into your psyche via the reams of repeat plays that are a compelling outcome of hooking in. 

The gently strummed 'Slowly Unfold' kicks things off in a lo fi kind of way with subtle strings hazily serenading you. This is followed by the record's first single 'Back in Time', which like it says in the title brings nostalgia right into focus. The two tracks mentioned earlier form a twin cannon to take you to the half way mark and probably hover around a peak of the album's appeal in their presence. 

There is a heavy sensual feel to the album's second half. The art of communication influences 'Words', while the scent of 'Pine' prods the aromatic side to your imagination. 'Blue is the Colour' is as visual as you want it to be and the motion attached to 'Move Through the Waves' gently guides you to the conclusion. A point where you feel the transition from a folky outlook to a jazzy cloud is complete. 

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Gig Review: Adam Beattie and Fiona Bevan - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 20th July 2021

The value of ending a show on a high can never be underestimated. A trait perfectly illustrated by the latest offering from the Kitchen Garden as it eases from a situation of enforced restrictions to ones of a different dimension. This was in fact the second show at the venue since the significant live music switch a couple of days ago, but it was business as usual in terms of a comfortable gathering. What may have been lacking in numbers to test the new normal was made up by the heart and soul exhibited by Adam Beattie and Fiona Bevan as they chose to end their show with a sublime version of 'Killing the Blues'. Probably the best version heard in the city since Robert Plant and Alison Krauss brought their Raising Sands tour to the NIA in 2008. 

Despite this version being delivered in stunning duo mode, the format of Adam Beattie and Fiona Bevan is one of supportive collaborators rather than the out and out harmonising of the common voice. They both operate in the field of individual artists, tending to focus on independent writing and releases. Of course their real life partnership status does extend to exerting influence when on stage and the pair of sets played this evening both used the full band status of a four-piece line up featuring drums and lead guitar backing the presentation. 

Adam Beattie opened the evening with a selection of songs mainly from his newly released album SOMEWHERE ROUND THE BEND that came out last December. The pick of these was 'Lovers Old and Lovers New' which fondly reflects the presence of the Jamboree venue prior to its closure. The jazz feel to this sound juxtaposes the overall folk vibes, injected occasionally with shades of technological innovation. All the songs were presented in an alluring and engagingly soft manner. The audience were fully furnished with an appetite for geographical influence and inspiration as we moved from the clubs of London to the streets of Paris, a stint in the Greek islands before a roam round the Scottish Highlands. 

During the opening set we were introduced to the percussion of Chris Jones and the guitar playing of Filippo Ferazzoli. They remained in place for the duration of the evening. Right up alongside Beattie was the multi instrumentalist activities of Fiona Bevan easing between violin, guitars, double bass, keys and the ever omnipresent backing vocals. Overall an entertaining lead up to the break.

Unlike her partner, Fiona Bevan's most recent release is a few years back, but she does have an EP out soon which was gleefully promoted throughout her set. There is also a major Fiona Bevan songwriting presence out there which doesn't take too much searching.  Back to her solo material, the vocals are slight and welcoming, driving the band to tone down their presence to give them the space to blossom. She smoothly interchanges between the keys and guitar, while given stellar sidekick support from her partner mainly on guitar. The most impressionable songs from the set were 'Peaches' and one recalled as 'Revelation' towards the end but cannot be 100% sure of the title. 

The band were due to head back to London to play the Green Note for their next gig. A venue that first alerted me to the music of Adam Beattie and Fiona Bevan via their lockdown stream series complete with the self-designed red velvet theatre. While taking a punt on a newish artist can be a risk, full justification was sealed with the finale. Solos will probably remain de facto but the duet was something else.