Ålesund and Agata at Trowbridge Town Hall

With Andy gig-galivanting the Vizes this weekend, I trekked to neighbouring Trowbridge, to find mesmerising and enriching vibes at the Town Hall, via Ålesund and Agata; hold my hat, there’s a good fellow……

Just as Jim Crow segregation laws spawned juke-joints, the twentieth century is littered with examples of mainstream music venues unable to stay in touch, and consequently underground scenes progressing and pushing musical boundaries. It’s true for the Mods, frequenting coffee bars when pubs closed early and refused to play jazz, for beatnik outlawed psychedelia, and from Jamaican sound systems to bless ghettos of New York with hip hop.

Late eighties and early nineties Bristol reflected a different party from the paisley clubs of London. Leftover reggae sound systems merged dub back into hip hop, and a subversive scene of downtempo “trip hop” was innate, swamping rave chillout tents, and imaged by supplementary graffiti artists. If worldwide recognition for Banksy puts Bristol on the art map, I deliberate the music clearly rubbed off on a new generation, subsequently resulting in Bristol’s paramount cultural scene today.

I ponder this while a youthful Bristol-based four-piece fill Trowbridge Town Hall with blissful ambience. The band is Agata, based upon the Polish-born singer-songwriter’s name, and they’re only the support act, apparently! I’d blue-in-face argue this gig is a double-biller, not only from Agata’s proficiency to perform, but similarities to the headline, Ålesund, complimented them perfectly.

It’s spellbindingly mellow, even if the sound is stripped of yesteryear’s trip hop beats it maintains shards of electronica’s downtempo mellifluousness, of Massive Attack, and is governed with emotively powerful female vocals, riding me back to Portishead on a drizzly Glastonbury stage of yore. Drums prominent on these wholly and uniquely original pieces, bass and lead guitars sprinkle over the electronica soundscape, caressing Agata’s delicate but emotive and elegant voice. I love Salisbury’s Timid Deer for all the same reasoning.

Gavin Osborn, the town hall’s music and performance programmer is Bristolian, ergo he’s bringing a taste of the city to Trowbridge, which itself has a blossoming post lockdown gig map. Yet if the mass appeal of Gary Kemp deejaying eighties’ dancefloor fillers at the reopened Civic this weekend wasn’t your cup of tea, make your Trow-Vegas sojourn the Pump or Town Hall. There’s a continuous programme of exhibitions, arts and music at the Town Hall and musicians queue orderly for bookings at the Pump.

With music performances set in a characteristic yet intimate setting, gigs are a convivial experience here, one easy to interact with the bands, and you come away feeling part of it rather than a face in the crowd. Agata though would make for a perfect Sunday festival act, and have played Larmer Tree, Dot-to-Dot and Simple Things.

Currently touring a lockdown inspired EP “A Thread in the Dark,” Ålesund likewise, but the similarities don’t end there. Again, a Bristol-based four-piece creatively pasting natural soundscapes into a mellowed original repertoire, with upfront drums, female vocalist on keys, and bass and lead guitars adjoining them. The main difference is only a hint more professionalism than Agata, a tad more powerful voice commands, and more prominence on that mystifying Celtic folk-rock of say, Florence and the Machine.

Alba Torriset fronts the band, explained to me the Norwegian namesake is rooted to her father’s side. She cites Florence as a major influence, alongside Bat for Lashes, but she was eager to indicate Kate Bush to me too, as I nodded approvingly, thinking the same, and pointed to the preponderance of drums akin to Running Up That Hill. Also, her ability to use her voice as a musical instrument, results in a striking performance, as her naturally emotive soothing vocals carries you aboard her journey, equally as Kate Bush could.

On this particular occasion, in the usual drummer’s absence, an apt replacement was found, and boy did she give it her all, causing me to reason she must belong to a more hard-hitting rock band, later confirmed by sound technician Kieran J Moore. And in turn, this was a spellbinding performance. Hypnotically pleasing it cradled their new lockdown inspired songs, as Alba expressed her solace to the tranquillity of the moment, in the absence of industry and traffic she focused on the birdsong, and her writing reflected this, a song called Dawn Chorus particularly inspired from the notion, enthused with subtle birdsong samples in the background.

So yes, yes indeed, a memorable and most enjoyable evening at the Trowbridge Hall; both Ålesund and Agata less hip hop than predecessor Bristol scene acts like Massive Attack, less gothic than All About Eve, and less retrospective dejection than The Strangler’s Golden Brown, or 10CC’s Not in Love, but equally capsulating, emotive and euphoric; just with an uplifting contemporary method, gaging and merging aforementioned influences, future-beautiful. If either of these bands play near you, you’d be a fool to miss them.

As for the Town Hall, next Saturday (20th Nov) night proves not to be so laidback, as another Bristol-based band, IDestroy plans to bring a riotous, all-female party-punk live show to Trowbridge. Kid Carpet, Larkhall, Katherine Priddy all lead up to the new year, when 22nd January sees Gaz Brookfield booked, and com’ ere, there’s more……


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