There was little doubt that this evening's performance, in the bowels of the Betsey Trotwood, promised to be intimate to say the least. Cast your minds back to that music video from the Cure ("Close To Me"), you know the one I mean? It's the video where they're playing their instruments in a cupboard, underwater. This evening was a bit like that.
Which isn't a bad thing at all, it's a fantastic place - one of the important venues that facilitated the emergence of punk in the late 70's early 80's, and accordingly is held in high esteem and great affection amongst muso circles. Performances will always be in your face, intense, and ball-bustingly loud - mainly because there isn't anywhere for the sound to escape to, so it ricochets and bounces around the room, repeatedly knocking everyone on the head.
DANIEL QUINN AND THE ROUGH ENSEMBLE kind of grew organically into this tiny, ram-packed area. With the use of acoustic guitars, samplers, clarinets, violins, and one of the most shit-hot drummers I've seen in a while, they created an audio landscape that transported everyone in the room into a world of viaducts that traverse the roll and curl of the South Pennines, the mountain ranges of Cumbria, the West Coast of Lancashire, and the suburban wastelands that surround North Western cities. "Far from the madding crowd, there are few signs of human habitation," he droned in his broad Lancashire affect, making me wish I was there.
The sentiment was almost beatnik, singing and dancing to poetry; but the music itself is reminiscent of the late 80's early 90's Creation sound. From the ambient hazy feel of Spiritualized and my Bloody Valentine, to the more frantic and beat-driven sound of Campag Velocet and the Lo Fidelity All Stars, peppered with trip-hop grooves and some gentle drum and bass lines. All very folk orientated, stripped down and organic, yet rich and expansive. Not a bad sound to be beaten round the head by at all.
Quinn's poetry and violin playing flowed over and along the ambient clamour emanating from the front of the crypt-like venue, to a magically hypnotic effect. On more than one occasion, industrial monotonous noises were juxtaposed with the colourful narrative of rural Northern imagery, giving an authentic and very personal description of Lancashire and Cumbria. Myself, coming from a run-down ex-mill town in North East Lancashire, I could relate very much to what he was saying. That is, the conflict of "urban" decay in small, run down rural towns, set against the backdrop of natural beauty.
The music gradually wound up like a dynamo, dragging the audience with it, until most people present were writhing around in one collective mass, like a gyrating Ian Curtis with very itchy legs. After a climatic trance instrumental, which had succeeded in whipping everyone into a frenzy, Quinn left the stage, walked through the audience, went upstairs and got himself a pint, leaving the rest of the band to take it down.
The crowd was reluctant to let them go, and I'm positive that everyone there was won over by their cyclical melodies and Quinn's beautiful narrative. I certainly was. Is Quinn the musical equivalent of Alfred Wainwright? I'd really like to think so.