SJ Esau, Babel, and Men DiamlerEdit this event
There exists in Bristol a sub-community of music fans, the type I imagine/hope exists in every city, who regularly support their own, turn up at every gig by certain artists and enthusiastically engage with every performance. The latest of which takes place in the kitsch working men’s atmosphere of Seymour’s Family Club.
To take his unassuming posture at face value would be to do an injustice to Sam Wisternoff, for the live spectacle of his hastily assembled magnificent pop (magni-pop?) is almost too much to take in in one go. Forever looping and setting up for choruses spotted on the horizon - these are the moments you cherish and replay in your head for days following. SJ Esau, with a small mixing desk, a few pedals and a seemingly endless imagination, twists tales of love and other planets with haunting multi-tracked vocals and a why?-like sense for off-kilter beats. Even after leaving out one of his album’s highlights (an at once touching yet energetic tune about a cat living with its enforced castration) he manages to spread wry smiles throughout the crowd with ‘Insidious Whinge’ – ”and it's like waiting for a bus/When it comes it'll probably be full of total utter fucking cunts”.
When an artist hits you somewhere in there so early in the night, the rest can seem like an anti-climax. I’m certain that on any other night Babel would’ve enchanted and mystified and Men Daimler would’ve worked perfectly as an observation piece alone, but such a lack of tangible hooks frustrate when so closely preceded by near-perfection. Indeed, the latter of the two demanded attention with an I’m-just-about-to-snap performance wrought with theatrical wailing and snatched guitar strums, but it came off as a case of rather over-egging the cake following a delicate masterclass with fine-tuned ingredients. The former with their six-headed old-fashioned folk are pleasant enough to tap along to on the table tops, but nothing moving enough to engage your head past light conversation with a companion.
The real point of this night is to promote Rose Kemp’s forthcoming single though the seven-inches are “somewhere in customs on their way from the Czech Republic. It probably got held up because it says _‘Violence’ on it”_. Rather than inciting war upon cheap European vinyl manufacturers, that’s the title of her new song, a five-minute cyclone of angst reminiscent of the quiet-LOUD-quiet patterns of, well, everyone. Saying that, what sets her apart from the rest is her beguiling vocal tones. On several occasions during her set she leaves her band-mates looking awkward as she kneels, beginning softly with swooping falsettos before adding and layering to create a wall of acapella pain-tainted melodies. From her earlier role as congenial and endlessly grateful host to the musician wailing on the floor in assumed agony is a remarkable transformation, thankfully leaving her inhibitions out of her act and tapping into an emotion deep inside.
At the end Sam and Rose embrace, encompassing everything about this night into one moment. When you’ve got friends like these, who needs enemies?
Thank you to Heidi Lee-Sperring for the picture of Rose Kemp