LIVE REVIEW: BRAVE EXHIBITIONS – The Cosmic Dead, Xylouris White, Nathalie Stern, Thor & Friends, Me Lost Me, Pentecostal Party, Penance Stare, Bad Amputee, Drooping Finger @ The Cluny/Cluny 2, Newcastle (17.11.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: The Cosmic Dead by Lee Fisher

Drooping Finger’s slow-moving, thoughtful drone is an apt soundtrack for some of the hangovers in the crowd, but the big reward for early attendees is another exceptional performance from Bad Amputee. Pushing beyond slowcore pioneers like Codeine, their vision of rock music without the safety net is enthralling and overwhelmingly emotional – when Phil Tyler and Claire Welford launch into their shared harmonies, it feels like levitation.

The bracing, brilliant atmospheric black metal of Penance Stare continues to go from strength to strength in their current duo formation, while Pentecostal Party’s newly upgraded set-up allows her to find new depths of nuance and illumination in her pleasingly wonky take on dance pop. The cancellation of The Unit Ama on health grounds is a real shame, but the brief break in proceedings ends up an accidental masterstroke ahead of an incredible, genre-defying final evening. Me Lost Me puts in another great shift (with one new song seemingly perfecting the blend of innovative electronic production with folk melodies and themes that Jayne Dent purses), while the slow-moving minimalist percussive compositions of Thor and Friends prove an absorbing and delightful palette cleanser.

Long in the works, the finally released new Nathalie Stern album gets a suitable reception in front of a rapt audience, expanding her synth and vocal loops compositions with the sympathetic assistance of Hannabiell Sanders and Lindsay and Market from the Noize Choir and revealing the compassionate core beneath the icy surface of Stern’s recent work. Xylouris White offer up a masterclass of their own, delivering a modernist, DIY take on Cretian folk music that amps the pace back up (watching Jim White on the drums is a joy in of itself) before de facto headliners The Cosmic Dead show how quickly their revamped line-up has come in the last year, giving their psych rock assault a new immediacy and visceral impact that rounds out this year’s festival in a blaze of lysergic glory.

Improving on an already impressive first year, the expanded and diversified line-up for this year’s festival (not to mention the positivity and open-mindedness of the crowd all weekend) made for an exceptional second installment of Brave Exhibitions. A superbly run and carefully programmed weekend like this will hopefully be a part of the Newcastle calendar for many years to come.


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