@IsobelHolly’s EP launch at @ChapelArtCentre

Isobel Holly headlining at Chapel Arts, Bath, 2016 for the launch of her EP Sensibilities

This was the busiest we’d seen Chapel Arts. All the tables were occupied and quickly it became standing room only. “Sensibilities” is the title of Isobel Holly’s new EP and we went to witness its launch. Certainly, there were a lot of adoring fans present, so in theory this would be something special.

There might have been a touch of nerves present in Harry Miller as he took to the stage in his support slot? The words were a bit muffled in his first song and set off alarm bells for the rest of the set. However, if it was nerves he dealt with them well and by the second more punchy number there was no sign of them.

With the added confidence he backed off the mic a bit and gave us a chance to hear his voice properly, which is soft, husky and made great listening. However it was second to his guitar work, where he displayed an array of techniques and rhythms, marking each song with its own feel and keeping the audience connected.

Harry Miller band performing at Chapel Arts, Bath, 2016
Harry Miller band performing at Chapel Arts, Bath

If Harry has a weakness it could be in his lyrics, which are littered with idioms and cliches, but little story. This aside, he’s pleasing to listen to and if this is how he’s starting, then we can look forward to some great stuff from him in the future.

Recently, you might have seen a picture of Isobel Holly on the cover of The Guide, the Bath Chronicle’s entertainment pullout, with a tagline saying “Meet Bath’s latest singing sensation”. The publicity shots that go along with this article and her website present Isobel well. She’s clearly getting it right when it comes to marketing.

Her online profile says she’s been composing since she was 11 and lists a few career highlights, chief among them being BBC radio airplay and supporting Lera Lynn.

The build up continued with a lot of effort going into Isobel Holly’s set, from a number of supporting musicians and a camera team who seemed intent of capturing her performance from every angle.

It was a varied set, which started with a full band set up, followed by Isobel performing a few duets; first with David Smith, an acoustic guitarist and folk singer and next with Monty Willoughby, a highly versify pianist. The evening was concluded with the full backing band returning to the stage for a few more numbers.

Isobel Holly performing at Chapel Arts, Bath, 2016
Isobel Holly performing at Chapel Arts, Bath

As far as performances go it was well staged, Ed was working his usual magic on the sound desk and Chapel Arts had proved yet again to be the venue of choice for the discerning music connoisseur, but what about Isobel’s music, since after all this was her EP launch?

The songs had often heard themes of love and relationships and the compositions were good, however it was clear Isobel’s true forte lay with her voice, which is powerful, but can have a sultry edge too. Arguably the best moment came when it was just Isobel singing and Monty playing piano. This lead to the question “Does she really need all the other musicians?” as it felt in a way they were masking Isobel’s true instrument, her voice.

There was an underlying school-musical feel to the evening, possibly brought on by a number of choreographed moments, which had a slightly self-indulgent air.

All the songs were nice, but there wasn’t anything which stood out. Yes, Isobel Holly is packaged well and looks the part, but do we really want to hear another conveyer belt folksinger would-be starlet? As the Bath Chronicle put it “Meet Bath’s latest singing sensation”.

Hey, she’s only 16, has talent and has made a good start; the music industry has many doors and they’re all open to her.

Written by @LordSkitch

Reviewed 30 November 2016

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The People’s String Foundation @ChapelArts

Peoples String Foundation performing at Chapel Arts, Bath

Imagine Dr Frankenstein in his laboratory throwing human anatomy together. Then replace Dr Frankenstein with seven musical geniuses, the laboratory with a stage and the human anatomy with instruments and you’re getting close to the brilliance of The People’s String Foundation.

I’d heard the founders of the band, Ben Sutcliffe and Zaid Al-Rikabi as a duo, but this would be my first time hearing them with a full band. It was going to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for just how good. They seem fearless in their composing and convention breaking, happy to intersperse vocal numbers with instrumental pieces and pinch elements from various genres.

What’s the magic element they possess, which makes them such a pleasure to witness? Well, for starters, they seem to exude a passion and joy for music, but also for performing together. I’ve never seen a band so happy to be up on stage. This playful enthusiasm is what draws the audience in and turns it from a gig into a performance.

The other thing they have which I’ve not seen other bands achieve with such mastery is the ability to create atmosphere, whether through their presence or the way they play their instruments, the tone and essence of the music is perfectly conveyed with each song.

So what do they actually do? Well, they produce highly emotive songs, which take you to the peak of bliss, then drop you to the depths of despair, before shoving you into a maelstrom of suspense. Ben plays the piano like he’s tickling the keys, while Zaid seems to perform shiatsu on his guitar. The two are supported by five friends who Zaid described to me as being truly gifted musicians and he felt lucky to be playing with him.

The method is unconventional and the pace; frantic, like an out of control caravan of gypsies careening across the stage. The experience is unforgettable.

 

Peoples String Foundation performing at Chapel Arts, Bath

About half way through the gig they performed  a heartfelt homage to the songs which didn’t make it into the latest album. A nice touch, which gave a deeper understanding of what goes into the creation of the material and it should be noted that even the songs that didn’t make it were phenomenal.

Each band member appears able to play at least two instruments and they swapped throughout the gig or to be precise, the instruments swapped musicians during songs.

At this point I think it’s only fair to give a heap of praise to Ed, the Chapel Arts sound engineer. He dealt with a bassoon, 2 guitars, 2 violins, a double bass, a bass guitar, 5 vocals, a full drum kit, a piano, a saxophone and an accordion and yet all were perfectly balanced. Hats off to that man!

The audience were one of the highlights of the night. They didn’t bounce around, but they were one of the most appreciative I’ve seen in Bath. Each song was followed by rapturous applause and what’s even better; half of them were seeing the band for the first time. Good on those people for keeping the spirit of live music prevalent in Bath.

The night ended with a mighty encore and Zaid and Ben treated the audience to an unfinished piece, giving a sneak peak of what might be coming up on the next EP.

If you’ve never seen this band before, I implore you to go and watch them live. The albums are great, but that’s only half the story. If you’ve never even heard them before, listen to them here!