Monday, 18 January 2010

Denis Jones @ Band on the Wall, Saturday 16th January, 2010

If you can measure a musician’s progress by the equipment accrued, then tonight’s array of gadgetry marks a point on Denis Jones’ timeline that makes 2007 debut album Humdrum Virtue seem a distant memory. Denis Jones has at times in his musical metamorphosis been described as ‘folktronica’ by today’s genre-conscious music world, but ‘folk’ has been suppressed in favour of ‘-tronica’ in the intervening years. That said there’s still room for the older, tenderer, bare-bones blues of ‘Four Water’. But sandwich it between two improvised ear-grabbers that sound more Four Tet than Fairport Convention, and it’s easy to see why FutureEverything’s interest has resulted in Jones’ inclusion in their new artist development initiative, Future’s Family.

Although the ‘folk’ tag can be misleading, the first time Jones invites fellow Manchester musicians from Sirconical, Cinematic Orchestra and Glad Eyes to join him onstage, the mould cast is that of a bluesy rock 4-piece; some of the invention so prevalent in his solo guise is conceded due to the greater numbers. The initial warm-up is understandable though, given that it is the first time these musicians have performed together, and is one of very few times that Jones has shared his stage at all. In shedding the solo mantra, the intention was to fill out the sound and this works at the second attempt. After a short break during which Denis performs regular set-closer ‘Beginning’ alone, the others are welcomed back and settle into an edgy experimentation more aligned with the expectation that Denis has built for himself. Chris McGrath’s bass lines become bone-shaking, Luke Flowers’ drumming epitomises the free-form vibe and Tom Barnes’ electric guitar complements Denis Jones in his live production, as together they interpret songs recorded for the forthcoming second album Red + Yellow =.

Make no mistake about who leads the collective. Flowers’ eyes are trained past his drum kit to follow Jones’ every electronic manipulation as he expands his new material into part progressive electronica, part trippy jam. A further reworking of Tom Waits’ ‘Clap Hands’ belies the acoustic loops associated with the Denis Jones solo version to become a bass-heavy funky dirge, as large screens offer live visuals in the background. The cosy Band on the Wall, a venue still retaining a renascent freshness to go with its contemporary eclecticism since reopening last year, represents another step up for Denis Jones, particularly as a sizeable crowd is transfixed by his unique appeal. Although this gig was a worthwhile adventure into non-solo performance, the sheer intensity of his unaccompanied loop-pedal mastery remains the highlight.

Words: Ian Pennington

1 comment:

  1. Great review. Big night. Denis was awesome - a real treat to see him performing his own songs with others.