Trembling Bells @ Komedia, Brighton 12.04.16

Glaswegian folk/country collective visit the South Coast supporting new LP Wide Majestic Aire

Apr 12th, 2016 at Komedia, Brighton / By Norman Miller
Trembling Bells Glasgow-based quintet Trembling Bells' warmly received Brighton foray nods to an array of influences befitting a band with five diverse albums, from the wilder, more hard-edged sound of last year's The Sovereign Self to their more Fairport-inspired early albums Carbeth, Abandoned Love and The Constant Pageant.

There's country twang here, Gabriel-era Genesis there. Gong, Wishbone Ash and Ivor Cutler – the latter for ‘My Father Was a Collapsing Star’ – all come to mind at various points, generally riding on a blues-tinged wave of psych folk. Guitarist Mike Hastings adds harmonica to good effect on a few numbers. The only downside sound-wise is a sometimes poor sound quality that muddies some of the band's undoubted finesse.

A couple of beautiful slow numbers sung unaccompanied add more reflective moments, including the first encore of ‘Adam Had No Navel’, a new number delivered with quiet intensity by drummer and band leader Alex Neilson.

Neilson offers most of the intros and repartee – often blackly comic jokes on dour Scottishness - from the tiny Komedia stage. Keyboard-jabbing Lavinia Blackwell also draws the eye, belting out Grace Slick-meets-Sandy Denny vocals, while whipping her long blond hair into a bobbing frenzy Rick Wakeman in his heyday would have approved of. Guitarist Alasdair Mitchell is another active soul, looking like a young Steve Hillage, while lead guitarist Hastings and bass Simon Shaw get on with their excellent musical foundation work in a dozen song set.

A pumped up ‘Killing Time In London Fields’ is an early standout, segueing into the more lilting late Dylan-esque ‘Sweet Death Polka’, which sees Blackwell and Mitchell swap keyboard and guitar roles to show off their multi-instrumental skills.

‘Tincture Of Tears’ is a gorgeous homage to the Sussex locale, followed by Christ's ‘Entry Into Govan’, a new song with a gentle rolling insistence. Things come to a satisfying end with ‘The Singing Blood’ and a brilliant finale of ‘Between The Womb And The Tomb’.