Juffage, Sonic Cauldron – Left Bank, Leeds

[wide]Juffbanner1 | Juffage, Sonic Cauldron   Left Bank, Leeds[/wide] From a distance, church turned gig venue, Left Bank looks like just another red brick house in Hyde Park. Step inside, and you feel you have entered a Tardis, it’s core being an alter full of musical equipment including a keyboard, drum kit, Mac Book and a whole lot of wires. As sound checks begin, its easy to see why tonight has been described as a, ‘Sonic cauldron’.

First support, Ten is just as intriguing. The three piece band are set up in front of the alter, where the pews have been ripped out. A guy in skinny jeans sounds out sombre trumpet before being joined by a female band mate on violin and male band mate on keyboards and guitar. The result is an ambient and beautiful performance enhanced by the acoustics of this dome shaped building. The progressive and emotive quality of Ten’s music brings Emancipator and Talk Talk’s experimental material to mind. The third song is the simplest and most emotionally charged with minimal piano and heart breaking violin. As the sun sets through the stained glass, it feels as though Ten are playing a lullaby for the sun creating a oddly mellow start to the weekend. No words are sang or spoken until the end, when the keyboard/guitarist announces the last song before thanking the crowd at the end. Little talk is needed. The music speaks for itself.

The expanding audience is prompted to gather closer around Steve Lawson who is sat to the left of the alter, on a stool on top of a stage made of black crates, his feet rest on two pedals whilst his hands attend to switches and dials on an electronic box. With his big wavy hair and long coat, you would be excused for thinking you are watching a mad scientist driving a spaceship, or even Dr Who himself. The next thing we know, a distant saxophone can be heard behind us. The jazzy saxophone encloses the crowd until Andy Williamson appears wearing a cowboy hat with a camera taped to it. He stands at the top of the church podium behind Lawson who then joins in with sonic laser sounds and strums of guitar. The set is a whirlwind of space sounds, heavy rock guitar, mellow guitar and interesting over lapping loop recordings of Williamson’s sax. The whole experience feels experimental and is most certainly improvised. The crowd wonders what random sounds will be thrown out next, as does Williamson. By the look in his eyes, he is just as unsure about where Lawson’s music is going. But then the spaceship ends it’s journey.

After two instrumental acts, it is nice to hear a purely vocal support. These Men are four endearing young men with a 50s glee style of singing. Casually stood with hands in pockets, the boys harmonise on a song that sounds like The Zuton’s, ‘Valerie’ but is lyrically about flooring bouncers. ‘Pilgrim’ has a sailor shanty like feel, whilst ‘Kiss Him Quick’ is dedicated to a recently deceased country singer. The boys also pay tribute to Romantic poet William Blake with a musical interpretation of, ‘The Garden of Love’ before ending with a song that fits the boys afore mentioned common theme being, “another miserable song about girls.” I decide These Men are like The Beach Boys without the music. Their slot tonight is short but sweet.

Finally, Juffage takes to the Tardis alter assisted by the violinist of Ten, Sky Larkin’s vocalist, Laura Harkin and Vessels guitarist, Tom Evans. But first, Juffage stands on the podium harmonising with a battered boom box, declaring, ‘Let me speak in a way you understand.’ The speakers around us have been carefully placed for a unique experience. In fact, each speaker does a separate thing. Behind me, a crackle of creepy noises spills out, whilst the speaker in front is much more reassuring with keyboards from Laura Harkin. In one song, it appears that Juffage’s clear vocals are coming from the speaker next to me whilst the guitar is channelled through another. This is especially memorizing as Juffage’s vocals become more emotionally raw. This is only matched by Harkin’s softly spoken but captivating vocals. Essentially these are pop songs with unexpected twists. Juffage has managed to take familiar musical ingredients and present them in a fresh way. This is what makes tonight not so much a gig but an interesting and engaging art project.

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