You Meet Some Nice Folk Round These Parts ~ Circulus & Trimdon Grange Reviewed

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As here previewed a week ago,  I last night got my first encounter with Michael Tyack’s Circulus. I am happy to report that it was an utterly pleasurable experience.

As I have previously written, The Lexington is a great small venue with a capacity of maybe 200. It was perhaps three-quarters full by the time Circulus took the stage, or climbed aboard their spaceship (“There are no emergency exits!”), though significantly less full, alas, for Trimdon Grange’s set. This London-based quartet attracted my attention a short while ago on account of being named after the 1882 North-East pit disaster commemorated by the folk song The Trimdon Grange Explosion, although this was my first opportunity to see them. You may have read my eulogy to Alan Price’s fantastic 1969 orchestral pop version. The TG’s languidly paced take is more akin to the traditional version.

This unassuming crew (they don’t even have a myspace as yet) delivered a very enjoyable set of gentle melodic folk with a sparse guitar, bass, drums and viola formation and boy-girl vocals, although their sound was by no means quiet. Fully miked, the mix was perfectly balanced, but way too loud for the size of room at such an early stage of the evening.

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As for Circulus, much has been made in the media of this eccentric bunch, jointly lead by singer-guitarist Tyack and trustee sidekick Will Summers on all manner of ancient woodwind. Musical influences are cited as being anything between the 12th and 17th centuries, blended with psychedelia and any prog band c. March 1972. I also detected a strong flavour of early Roxy Music, but perhaps I was influenced by the bizarre garb of half the group, and I’m not talking of Messrs Tyack and Summers here. Bassist Tom Goldsmith sported the hair and whiskers of Tzar Nicholas (or Prince Michael of Kent), accessorised with an orgnge boiler suit a la Devo. I think he is meant to be the spaceship’s engineer!? Drummer Cathy Harbaras was pure glittery glam (as was singer Holly-Jane Shears), but a shit-hot drummer nonetheless, and percussionist Anthony Elvin, like a bearded Patrick Mower, sported a “budgerigar outfit” (Michael’s words, not mine).

It is obvious to state that this is not mainstream music, nor will it ever be, but it would be a mistake to think that it ever was. What we have here is a Mediaeval version of The Fall; a musical hybrid, experimental and brave, gallant and bold.

Although not acquainted with their oeuvre, much of the set seemed to come from their latest album, Thought Becomes Reality, on their own Mythical Cake label.

Michael Tyack would appear to have an excellent sense of humour, self-deprecating and well-aware of his eccentricities (Their website proudly draws attention to the fact they are listed as number 9 in Virgin Media’s Top Ten eccentric musicians – one higher than Michael Jackson). His on-stage banter was dry, wry and funny; “I picked you all for your particular talents, but you didn’t tell me you were all raving mad”.

The musicianship is very good, as are the songs. I am not so keen on the astral aspect of the band, climbing aboard a spaceship bound for distant planets. I prefer the thought of them as light entertainers at a mediaeval fairy castle. The overriding feeling was that this was all a lot of fun – for the band as well as the audience. I am very much taken with Circulus’ notion of showbiz. Till the next time…

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