NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA
VENUE The leXingTon, london DATE 15/04/2018 SUPPORT VÄLVE
VÄlve is the experimental side project of bassoonist and saxophonist Chlöe Herington (knifeworld, Chrome Hoof). aided by emma sullivan on fuzz bass, elen evans on harp, and using an array of rhythm boxes and loopers, Herington decorates The lexington with a bewitching tapestry of glitch rock.
real-time electronic manipulation of all manner of percussive devices is interspersed with honeyed soprano sax lines and three-part vocal harmonies.
The performance is mesmeric and improvisational, ranging from aphex
Twin abstractions to childlike songs with arresting lyrics in the vein of Brian eno’s vocal works. it’s a spellbinding way to open proceedings.
after a brief delay caused by what leader Craig Fortnam cheekily dubs an “organ malfunction”, it’s time for north sea radio orchestra. as is traditional, Fortnam has written a new piece to introduce his chamber orchestra to the audience. The brief intro cleanses the palate and is more a cheery ‘hello’ than a raucous fanfare.
The Wound features the voice of sharron Fortnam evoking a young kate Bush in timbre and phrasing. This is all very pleasant and civilised, as befits a sunday teatime. Berliner luft shakes us from our english pastoral reverie. Part krautrock, part contemporary classical, it comes off as a mash-up between neu!, Zappa’s uncle Meat and the theme from The Magic roundabout. no, really. Fortnam strums his nylon-string guitar insistently while the wind section and violin weave devious serpentine phrases.
This segues into Morpheus Drone, a beguiling cello solo that draws from Celtic and eastern modes. The audience is rapt, wavering as the mood takes them between spontaneous dance and pin-drop silence. This is varied, refined yet extremely accessible music. There follow some classic texts from William Blake and Thomas Hardy set to a chamber score with a distinctly elizabethan feel. gryphon, anyone?
a new piece, tentatively titled guitary, requires a drum track on Fortnam’s phone, which serves as the backbone to an incredible display of composition and ensemble playing. This is the highlight so far, which is clear from the gasps its sinuous journey elicits from the crowd.
There are well-documented connections between nsro and
Cardiacs so Morpheus Miracle Maker is introduced as “for and about that genius Tim smith”. later, Personent
Hodie ends with Terry riley-esque organ and vibraphone winding down like a clockwork musical box.
He Wishes For The Cloths of Heaven is a fine setting for the WB Yeats poem, and it’s a serene set closer, sending us happily onto Pentonville road at 6.45pm, to arrange our route home in time for a cuppa and the end of antiques roadshow.