Beginning quietly before nearing capacity by the time the headliners played, this gig is an unusual one, and, given the styles of music on offer, an unusually cohesive one. Firstly, each group and performer seems to have incidentally created songs inspired by planets and water as noted by Peter from humansixbillion, though in the case of opener Ian Wadley, it was hard to tell exactly what his solo guitar pieces were inspired by, but cracking ice could easily have been implied by his staccato melodies and evocative playing.
Resting against a disused speaker at the side of the performance space, with sinews tensed and immense intention seeming to go into each pluck or strike of the instrument, it sometimes appeared as if his hands were possessed. Frequent use of the guitar's tremolo arm and a refreshingly subtle use of loop delay meant that his sounds never crowded, but conversely, never alone.
Baring little in common with his better known work as part of Minimum Chips, Wadley creates taut, fractured images. Notes rarely ring, instead he favours percussive use of the guitar and knife-edge melody lines that, while rarely repeating, never become superfluous. Quite a find.
The ubiquitous but never unwelcome Pikelet is up next, performing a lot of new material off her forthcoming release. These songs still find her quietly rejoicing with her delay pedal, guitar, accordion, xylophone, half a drum kit and especially, her voice. It's this last gloriously unpretentious instrument that really sets Pikelet apart from other loopaledelic delay-heavy solo performers. Her command and use of her voice is somehow reminiscent of a country singer, really comfortable in itself, regaling you with stories of domestic thoughtfulness and honest observation. Snatches of lyric concern lost goldfish, personal quests for transcending daily ennui, and the lingering of dreams, though the music evokes moods that are easily mutable. Her songs could be described as formulaic, but not in a derogatory sense; songs will often begin with the layering of loops, usually some rhythm, a melody from the accordion or guitar, some self-harmonies, the knee-high purple socks move deftly on the delay pedal, and the story begins. This is never less than fascinating, because unlike a magician showing you how they perform their tricks, Pikelet's magic is enhanced by this open construction of her music. A new song, provisionally entitled Bug In Mouth is a particular highlight and showed her moving away from this loop-construction method.
The Orbweavers follow and capably play their languid Australian Twin Peaks-style dark country rock. Effectively using slide and amplified acoustic guitars to offset Marita Dyson's doe-eyed murmured vocals, they don't quite manage to silence the room the way a recording of theirs could, but the rhythm section are tight (featuring Paddy Mann from Grand Salvo plugging away on his Burns bass) and Stuart Flanagan's guitar work notably spot on. While the edgy and more direct closing track Up To Your Neck was the most arresting of their fairly dry set, the effectiveness of their atmospheric story-songs such as Fairytales, A Needle, and Periods Of Light (a song about water and planets) are lost given the chattering of potential listeners, and the increasingly malfunctioning PA that did no one any favours. If they took a more Paradise Motel route of playing cinemas and halls - places where they could control the acoustic environment - they could really bring the house down, or at the very least steal a folk festival.
This PA is to bedevil an otherwise blinding set from humansixbillion who carry on like the professionals they unfortunately aren't as singer and guitarist Peter Head effectively made his case for songwriter-to-watch in 2007. Tracks like Gathering Steam and the crowd-pleasing ode to consumer dissatisfaction Got To Keep Up joyously betray his sense of humour while remaining a very astute and literate lyricist. Special mention must be made of Rhodes-tinkling wife Fumiko whose rock solid accompanying (particularly on their gorgeous reinterpretation of Willie Nelson's Always On My Mind) offsets Peter's cracked, unaffected and poignant yet arresting delivery in a singularly defining way. Hearing lyrics of his calibre, concerning water on other planets (no, really), windows as TVs and various types of dietary restrictions often very precise in their definition of their subject to the point where you almost need footnotes defining terms, delivered in this way is a revelation. The reinvention of their myspace-downloadable acoustic ballad All The Songs That You Sing I Sing Too is a particular highlight and really illustrate how great the backing band of Ry Haskings and Julian Harris were.
Husbands and wives, water and planets what more can you ask for?