LIVE REVIEW: Dean McPhee, Pinnel, Human Teith @ The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle (24.05.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Lee Fisher

Human Teith proved to be an (almost) anagrammatical The Unit Ama, and in a way their improv set tonight was just as anagrammatical: all the musical elements of a typical UA set were there, but beautifully disordered. It was fierce but intricate, rhythm driven, slowly coalescing towards something almost math rock in its mid-section but then fragmenting again, beautifully. Christian Alderson and Jason Etherington are an almost telepathically connected rhythm section, and Steve Malley’s shards of guitar worked above and within their clatter and thrum to glorious effect.

Pinnel is Lindsay Duncanson’s experimental sound project, rarely seen but always essential. Tonight’s piece was based around her work on the heath known as Canary Island (it was used as a site for part of the munitions process in the war where the cordite in the bombs turned the factory-working women’s skin yellow). Working with a small table of electronic kit, Duncanson’s piece started bucolically enough – field recordings, bird song, Duncanson murmuring the names of birds found there – before discordant sounds slowly filtered in, the whole piece ending up deeply evocative and moving in a way this kind of noisescape piece rarely manages.

In the fifteen-and-change years since his first recordings, Bradford guitarist Dean McPhee has made gradual, incremental shifts in style (and equipment) that have seen his sets move from something folk-adjacent to the almost space-rock (and certainly space themed) music of his most recent album Astral Gold, which provided most of the set’s tunes. Diffident and chatty before a behemoth of a pedal board, he talked us through the cosmic inspirations behind his tunes before setting up a series of loops and FX to play over, evoking lunar volcanoes, Ilkley aliens and a general sense of celestial wonder that at times recalled Ashra or even (say it quietly) Steve Hillage (but shorn of any hippy nonsense). McPhee has some excellent techniques up his sleeve – fine use of the e-bow, and a roaring fire playing on his phone being fed through the guitar’s pick-ups – but as with everything about him, it was all low-key and quietly impressive. A closing Sky Burial flashed back to his earlier style and then he was gone. Another excellent bit of booking / programming from Unit Ama. More of this sort of thing.

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