Guillemots / Emmy The Great - Manchester Academy 1 - 9.2.07

Low key and percussion free performer Emmy The Great, seeks to woo and stir with her Bjork, Martha Wainwright and Gretchen Peters fusing anti/folk, country and pop combination. Tonight, the Honk Kong born starlet is flanked by a fiddle player and a guitarist to create a settled atmosphere, as attention is fixed to the heart exploring subject matter of the material on display. The Joni Mitchell in Emmy comes to the fore for the lush, musically subtle and poetic ‘Two Steps Forward’, her crystal voice shines through this philosophical look at companionship. Dry humour is delivered with less clarity between songs and it seems to miss the mark once or twice tonight, but with more confidence it could help Emmy become a truly captivation live act. The material is honest and crafted enough to warrant further attention.

Guillemots are earning the mantra of being the Jekyll and Hyde of music, with their positive, flighty and slightly flowery record sound being contrasted by atmospheric, incongruous experimentation in their live shows. Tonight, many in attendance are hoping that a happy medium between the two styles can be found. Early on, the signs are not good, discordant sounds are created causing a few winces in the front rows. Then the instrumentals start to take shape and touches of Arcade Fire, Pink Floyd, Mogwai and Four Tet are thrown into a blender and a metaphorical fan is switched on. Eclectic, mood creating with a sharp touch gives an indication as to why this Fyfe Dangerfield fronted, white dressing gown wearing outfit does this. Buckets, a moog, and a whole host of diverse gadgets are used to drill in ambience and rustic vibes early on.

The set then evens out a little as Fyfe’s vocals return to their flighty and soulful best for tracks from ‘Through The Window Pane’, their sauntering debut album. These welcomed and give some familiarity to matters. A wistful, but spiteful number, ‘Go Away’ uses the double bass thrust to create a mood of sternness and Dangerfield’s vocals are trickled with soulful grit. A commanding and masterful performance of the caressing ‘Made Up Love Song #43’, illuminates an ability in contrast to the opening venture, of the Guillemots to produce heart-wrenching pop at its most captivating.  The most notable offering of the evening is the R N B veined, brass pumped new offering ‘Big Dog’, possessing a yearning touch and receiving approval at this hint of their future foraging. Familiarity, strangeness, boldness and an empirical nature is all in a night’s work for this cosmopolitan sextet. A live album is a must for them to be able to allow people to fully understand their mocksy and, to make the live experience more accessible to their intrigued fan base.

Dave Adair

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