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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CD Review: Gwyneth Herbert:The Sea Cabinet

Gwyneth Herbert (vocals, piano, ukulele); Fiona Bevan (vocals, guitar, piano); Dave Price (percussion, strings, piano, programming, backing vocals); Al Cherry (guitar, backing vocals); Sam Burgess (bass, backing vocals); Harry Bird (guitar, clarinet, piano, strings, backing vocals); Christophe Capewell (fiddle, accordion, piano, melodica, backing vocals); Tom Allen (trumpets); Ollie Parfitt (Moog); Jack Carr, Alex Carr, Robert Harder (additional mob chorus); Will Mcvay (chain); Brian Herbert (gramophone operator)
(Review by Ann Alex)
This show was recently performed at the Sage (see Lance’s review), so it is interesting for me to compare the CD with the live performance. This is not a jazz CD, but rather a concept album, all about a woman collecting debris from the seashore which arouses memories from her life and experience.  The music has elements of folk, jazz, music hall, and pop.  It’s obvious from the musical instruments and effects listed above that the sounds are cleverly constructed, especially those portraying the sea, sounds of waves and underwater mystery.  The live performance had the added attraction of an effective light show with lots of blue and green.  The songs have a strong narrative element, exploring different aspects of the sea and seaside life. 
The Regal gives us the sound of an old-fashioned tea shop;  Alderney portrays the German invasion of the Channel Islands in WW2, jackboots and all, and a mournful cry of ‘Alderney, remember me’; there are the bells and echoes from the drowned village of Dunwich; a pirate song; a drunken song from a tavern; an exploration of the story of red-petticoated women frightening away soldiers; beautiful singing on the track about the Lorelei myth; The King’s Shilling, about soldiers and sailors being press-ganged.  Thirteen tracks in all. With the CD you are given lots of explanation of what the album is about, which was missing from the live show, which must surely have confused some of the audience.  But with the CD you don’t get the benefit of the light show, and some of the drama is missed, such as the voice of the woman herself, talking about the objects which stimulate her memories.  The general ‘feel’ of the piece is mostly light-hearted and sometimes funny, a portrayal of a lonely but optimistic woman.
Gwyneth Herbert wrote this work as part of an artistic residency with Aldeburgh Music, during a week spent living in a cottage in Suffolk, whilst nursing a broken heart, so the CD insert tells us, which seemed to fit with the mood of some of the songs.  An enjoyable and interesting piece of work.
Released on 15th July 2013 on Monkeywood Records (Monkeywood002) 
Ann Alex.

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