Acoustic music – everyone’s at it these days and to varying degrees of success or failure. On this nine track album recorded and released via the recently set up Darlington Road studios in Southsea, England, a handful of musicians came together to provide three notable performers from the UK DIY scene a platform to display their wares in this format.
Those three are Roo Pescod (Bangers), Giles Bidder (Great Cynics) and Kelly Kemp (Lungs and Livers and ex-No Comply), and the supporting cast is none too shabby either, which added to the anticipation before actually hearing this record. Each of the three take it in turns on the one sided 12-inch, with Pescod kicking things off with his distinctive, gritty voice offering a nice contrast to the acoustic guitar, violin and piano, and it’s an impressive beginning. Next up is Giles Bidder of the Great Cynics, and it’s probably good that I am listening to this now and not back last year when I first got this as a download: I had seen the Great Cynics twice, had heard their debut album and to be honest hadn’t really got into it, but I saw them play just before Christmas and for some reason (Alcohol?!) everything clicked, with Bidder’s voice leaving a big impression on me. On “Harrow Adam,” that voice is easily recognisable and like a new best friend I am able to embrace it and smile as I listen to him tell his tale.
In third position on this rotation is Kelly Kemp, who is no longer screaming and shouting as she was when I first saw her front the ska-punk combo, No Comply, many years ago one dreary Sunday afternoon in Cardiff. Who would have guessed that behind that attitude was the voice of an angel? I’m not kidding with you, Kemp’s voice is enchanting and mesmerises me in a way that few singers are able to manage (although one of them provides backing vocals on two later tracks – Lande Hekt of The Muncie Girls).
On “Banished to the Gods,” Pescod and Kemp join forces, and not for the first time as in 2010 Kemp sang with Bangers on a split single, once again displaying her vocal prowess to good effect. Once again, that pairing works well and the two voices complement each other perfectly.
The final track on the album see Roo Pescod undertake some sort of transformation into a slightly demented, gravelly voiced being performing over a thick bass sound with Kemp adding some well-placed backing vocals to lighten the mood a touch. This track certainly adds a contrast to all that come before it and as such, the record ends on a distinctly different high.
As this is titled Darlington Sessions #1 it will be interesting to see how the Darlington Road Studio follows this album, if there is to be a #2, because this is a very strong release indeed and I'm not sure who might match it (Darren Johns/Vicky Butterfiled maybe?).
The digital version has been available via Bandcamp since Christmas Day and the one sided vinyl version will be out within weeks.