Dempseys, Cardiff, Sat 2 May
Given that one of Wales’ greatest non carbon-based exports, Super Furry Animals, were playing the second of three sold-out reunion shows just a few hundred yards away, the sparsity of the crowd gathered upstairs at Dempseys upon arrival was hardly a huge surprise. Luckily for them, they were about to be treated to a wonderful evening of jazz and experimental music of the highest order.
Opening proceedings were Albatross Archive. Cardiff-based but hailing from London and Frome, the duo consists of vocalist/pianist Richard Jackson and drummer Kit Denison. Jackson’s singing and playing was spot on as per, but it’s Denison’s staccato and arrhythmic delivery that turns good songs into great ones; tonight’s closer Matches was the definite highlight.
The contemporary, minimalist jazz that followed was courtesy of Cardiff’s own Tryfan. The trio, led by pianist Paul Jones, played ‘au naturel’ (from an instrumental perspective, of course) and set the scene perfectly for what was to follow from the headliners. Resisting the urgency and dispersed arrangements favoured by Albatross Archive, Tryfan’s attitude was more down-to-earth and Jones’ fragile instrumentals were enhanced by Aidan Thorne’s thumping double bass and Mark O’Connor’s drumming.
Manu Delago, handily subtitled “Björk’s Percussionist” on the show’s poster, had a group of exceptional musicians in tow in order to create Manu Delago Handmade. Playing in Wales for the first time since being inspired to name their new record Silver Kobalt during their last visit, the ‘troupe’ performed an inspiring mixture of instrumental and vocal numbers on a variety of instruments dotted around the stage. Delago is a dab hand at the hang drums and aside from a couple of brief electronic interludes, pounded out sublime rhythms throughout the set.
Taking centre stage on several songs, Isa Kurz’s voice added the extra dimension to keep things interesting, but there was so much going on across the stage that it was impossible to keep your concentration on just one section. Chris Norz’s incredible percussion demanded respect from the crowd whilst Christof Dienz provided the beats of a more electronic nature and, most notably, some fine bassoon playing. The crowd – now much greater in number – were even treated to a low-key light show which kept time with the fractured beats. An unexpected delight, the band and the audience sharing a mutual love of being part of something this intimate and just a tiny bit special.
words BEN GALLIVAN