...polite, gently surreal

Guillemots, of course, should never really sell records.

On paper, a band fuelled by avant garde classical music, jazz and left field rock won’t be cracking the charts any time soon. It’s testimony to Fyfe Dangerfield’s Stravinsky soaked pop nous, then, that the band have survived at all, let alone prospered in such a blossoming fashion.

So when Guillemots confirm plans to play two shows entirely without PA, it’s clear that these are gig which shouldn’t work, couldn’t work – but probably will.

Turning up for the second night, pillow in hand, Clash is ready for anything. What we get, is one of the most polite, gently surreal, Middle Class nights out you can possibly imagine. Performance poets are mingled with new talent, all with the audience perched on the floor of Shoreditch nightspot the Village Underground.

The Grand Ole English Opry is a new venture, presenting elements of the English folk tradition in a new, accessible format. Tim Chipping is a natural raconteur, and acts as the compere for a short set which includes fiddle tunes and Northumbrian step dancing. No mean musician himself, Chipping’s smooth voice adds a pop touch to some of the rougher edges of the tradition.

Of course, as fantastically varied as the supporting cast are, the audience are really here for one group. Guillemots re-cast their material for the show, displaying enormous imagination in piecing together fresh interpretations of their canon.

The new material definitely piques the interest, with Guillemots demonstrating a jazz-like flair in thinking around corners. Naturally, the tried and tested favourites are the stand outs, although the pop touch of ‘Trains To Brazil’ is matched by the freshness, the vigour of the arrangement.

Ending with a heart, largely unprepared encore, Guillemots seem to come as close as they will ever do to defining their appeal. A pop songwriter incapable of dividing Phil Spector from John Cage, Fyfe Dangerfield’s troupe have that gently unexpected edge that keeps fans on their toes – and audiences on their pillows.

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