Cobalt Fire’s Butterfly

In the words of the great Suggs, “but I like to stay in, and watch TV, on my own, every now and then,” after three gigs on the previous weekend, I opted a weekend off, albeit I was with the family, and succumbed to Britain’s Got Talent for my entertainment, one little part of me wishing I’d headed down the Southgate.….

To rub salt in the wound, Swindon-(I think)-based Cobalt Fire, who were providing the sounds at Devizes most dependable pub for original music last Saturday, also released a debut album called Butterfly, so naturally I wanted to hear what I missed.

Self-defined as a fusion of “the retro sound of 90’s grunge and post-punk with a modern take on folk,” I can see where they’re coming from, and it’s no new thing for them, formerly known as Ells and the Southern Wild, the band developed their fresh sound from acoustic roots, and yes, there’s tinges of this still in them. Though their bio suggests they formed in 2103, I gather there’s either a typo or a gothic timelord in there! But in their switch to electric they strive to retain the core features of the songs, “creating a more muscular beast in the process,” they put it.

And they’ve certainly achieved this, Butterfly, usually more bug than beast, is a boom of emotional overdrive, as grunge commands, with echoes more of Evanescence than Nirvana, what with Ells Chadd’s haunting vocal range. It packs punches from beginning to end, the finale of which, Another Round, particularly poignant to this nod to acoustic roots, middle tracks like His Words Lie Heavy breath an air of eighties post-punk, ah, goth tinge, Siouxsie Sioux style, while it begins strictly grunge, with those rising and falling echoes of emotive authority.

The magnum opus, though, is three tracks in, Crimson Red summarises everything great about this potent four-piece, it’s dynamitic, driving.

It’s basically ten professionally executed, blindingly touching three-minute heroes, in a fashion not usually my cuppa. But if I sing praises for a genre more me, that’s easy work, for music to make me consider oh yeah, I like this though pigeonholing obligation says I shouldn’t, the result is even more impressive, and with Butterfly I’m near to breaking out some multi-belt buckle platform boots, growing my hair and dying it black!

This is a powerful and emotive creation, indulgent of all rock subgenres, yet beguiling grunge, and it never strays from its unique sound. See now, I’m sorry I missed you guys, another time and I’m beeline; embarrassingly for BGT too, though I’ve given my best cat ate my homework excuse, and though I doubt you’ll turn Simon Cowell’s frown upside-down, going on this album, you’d have got my golden buzzer.

Ah, it’s all lies, anyway; not sure my hair will grow back!


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Barry Reviews Strange Folk at The Southgate!

Well, what can I say? They might lose a couple of brownie points for the singer continuously referring to me as “Barry,” but Somerset-Hampshire psych-folk rock four-piece, Strange Folk, who graced Devizes’ Southgate’s little magic box last night can afford to!

Aside an acoustic set in Crewkerne, it was their first electric gig post-lockdown, and the first time they’d played at Devizes answer to the O2, though some may cast their minds back to a brighter sunny day when they showed us what they’re made of at Pete & Jackie of Vinyl Realm’s alternative stage at DOCA’s street festival. It was on the grounds of this outstanding performance which summon me to the Gate, not forgoing the awe-inspiring tune they sent us for the Julia’s House compilation. Which, in turn would’ve substituted any lost gold stars for the Barry banter!

A small price to pay to ensure they played Glitter the very song they kindly contributed, a request which took them by surprise, being recorded during lockdown, they were unprepared, and hadn’t yet played it live. Still, as was the entire gig, they made a grand job of it, and I’m about explain why.

It’s David Setterfield’s sublime electric and acoustic guitarwork coupled with the awe-inspiring power of Annalise’s voice, which bounds their sound beyond the confounds of the usual gothic-folk rock genre. So soulfully captivating is this voice, and is the gifted guitar, at times there’s a natural nod to electric blues, particularly of the late psychedelic sixties sort. In fact, I was praising them to someone, Bran Kerdhynen, I believe, one half of the Celtic Roots Collective, by suggesting they remind me of “White Rabbit,” which they indeed later covered, along with the other Jefferson Airplane anthem “Somebody to Love.”

If I could think of no other cover so apt for their particular and inimitable sound, covers of T-Rex’s 20th Century Boy, Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac, and the Stones at their most enchanting with Gimmie Shelter, also fit the bill perfectly. Tainted Love being perhaps the outside chance, but very much based on Soft Cell’s version, I’ll give them that too, for the goth perspective.

Similarly, though, as I said about Frey’s Beer’s Beast album a few days ago, the professional finish and hauntingly alluring female voice, rather than the gritty vocals common with said genre, despite not being the black hair dyed and leather friendship bands type, I devoured, because Strange Folk sweep the arena of All About Eve, into System of a Down and Blind Melon, to blend Fairport Convention with Jethro Tull and Hendrix. And I was born out of time, loving to have hitchhiked to San Francisco with a flower in my hair.

Yet at times covers at the Gate last night felt pushed, as to appease a perceived audience, compared to their own original compositions; they were the icing on the cake and truly ushered you away on a petite mind-trip. The coupling of David and Annalise would be bare without the proficient bassist, Ian and drummer, Steve tucked in the back of the skittle ally, and they rocked through their own songs more so. For future reference, unlike many a pub gig, originals are encouraged here.

Talking of here, it was lovely to be back at the Southgate after gallivanting somewhat to bring news of other venues in our rural precinct, for while they do exist, for me, just like Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, except, it seems for the lead singer on this occasion! I mean, Barry, for crying out loud; do I really look like a Barry to you?! Rhetorical, you don’t have to answer that.

The canopies over the beer garden have become locally legendary, a testament in our town, to upholding live music throughout this era, and Deborah and Dave have created this haven, where you’ll see no drunken squabbles and feel no bad vibes.

Nice to hear their communal acoustic jams have respawned on Wednesday evenings, and next Saturday is the time for The Blind Lemon Experience, Billy and the Low Ground following on the 23rd October.

Meanwhile Strange Folk have three singles, an EP from 2014 called Hollow Part 1, and a debut promo EP from 2004, which are very worthy of your attention. Around our way again at B-O-A’s Three Horseshoes for Halloween, their sound is a gorgeous gothic-folk crossover professional enough to captivate even those with a passing interest in the genre.


Freya Beer’s Beast

Driving my inner-goth, I’m comfortable with this, because London-based Freya Beer’s voice is hauntingly alluring, similar to Nina Persson of The Cardigans, or more obviously, Siouxsie Sioux, rather than the gritty vocals common with arch art-rock. So, despite not being the black hair dyed and leather friendship bands type, I devoured this long-awaited debut album, Beast, with the emotive response it evokes, and thoroughly deserves cathedral-sized praise.

Beast is out today, 7th October 2021, via her own Sisterhood label. I’m going to nail it to a few words after only an initial listen prior to this review, lyrically it needs time to fully digest with the clarity it warrants, but I can appreciate the echoing expression and exceptionally grafted narrative of disheartening passion. Savour it, this is a keeper.

It’s perhaps the crashing drums, almost the Burundi style slued upon eighties post punk pop by Malcolm McLaren, through Bow Wow Wow and Adam & The Ants, added with Fuzzbox frenzy, which gives it this welcoming retrospective tangent, or the mainstay All About Eve feel of the aforementioned sublime vocals, like Kate Bush at her darkest moment.

Yes, Beast is all these things, yet a contemporary, calculated record of primal power and animalistic instinct, carnal; hence its name, I guess!

Expressing her joy at finally setting her first collection of songs free, Freya Beer said, “it feels really exciting that I’ve released my debut album. I would never have been able to achieve the album without the incredibly talented people I met and worked with along the way. At my upcoming live shows, you can expect everything you hear on the album because my band is bigger now.”

Recorded between studios in Manchester and London, ‘Beast’ features longstanding drummer Owain Hanford on percussion, Arnoldas Daunys on bass, and lead guitars from Peter Hobbs (The Boy Least Likely To), who also produced the album. Additional contributions come from Dave Fidler and Andy Hargreaves. The album artwork was photographed by Paul Johnson (Say Goodnight Films), accompanied by Jupiter – the Sphinx cat.

Swiftly following the album’s release, Freya will be embarking on a major UK tour throughout November and December 2021. Full dates and details on the website. Closest to us is The Lanes, Bristol on Wednesday 10th November, or on Sunday 5th December at The 1865 in Southampton.

It conjures visually like Hieronymus Bosch, literate, a tangle of Edgar Allan Poe, but through sensual masochism, felinely elegant but eerie, all unpromising, like goblins will materialise out of inimical misty woods to corrupt your most emotive moment, or, something like that!

Website: http://www.freyabeer.com

Facebook: @freyabeerofficial

Twitter: @freyabeer

Instagram: @freya_beer


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Salem Announce National Tour with Sheer Hosting Swindon’s Vic Gig

There’s something indefinitely old school punk about Salem, with nods to pop-punk, goth and rockabilly, hoisting them to the absolute top of their scene. No one in the UK are delivering this genre better right now.

This side project of Will Gould from Creepers and Matt Reynolds of Howards Alias is loud, proud and spitting; dripping with Siouxsie and the Banshees, laddered fishnet stockings and Robert Smith influences. Quite honestly, Kieran’s right, again; it’s knocking deafeningly at my front door!

They described their self-titled debut 2020 EP as “spooky, silly, romantic punk rock songs.” Yeah, figures.

Today they announce their October UK tour, with Oxford’s Bullingdon, Frome’s Cheese & Grain, and Bristol’s Exchange included, and nestled between them, on October 16th, Sheer Music & Bandit present them at Swindon’s grandstand music venue, The Victoria.

Support for the Salem’s tour comes from a new solo project from Welsh former Holding Absence bassist, James Joseph; James and the Cold Gun. A playful twist on his name, James and the Cold Gun is named after a Kath Bush song. They promise to be something of a rock n’ roll blues revue, akin to former British rock n’ roll heroes The Computers. They signed to Gallows label Venn Records for the release of their debut album.

Tickets go on sale Thursday (6th May.) £10 adv. / £13 OTD for the Vic.


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Subscribe to her YouTube channel, hear her own stamp on Radiohead’s Creep, and realise, her talent is so very special.

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