The Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath ditches the rock and roll guitars on Wednesday 12 October, and becomes home to a showcase of artists who are doing their best to break down the boundaries between classical and modern music. Emily Abdy, composer and performer, with the help of Nonclassical, brings together four musicians whose personal styles could not be more different for Vox.
Singer-songwriter Chloe Knibbs opens the event with a set of songs which are as moving lyrically as they are harmonically, accompanied by herself on piano, with cello and violin providing texturally rich backings to Knibb’s’s unconventional songs. This shines through especially on ‘Waiting’, the last track of Chloe’s latest EP Bargaining.
Following Knibbs is something inspired and profoundly different. Fiddle player Sean Morrison performs ‘Ruminant’, composed by Abdy, a piece for fiddle and spoken word. The subtle intensity of this performance is noteworthy, the tune isn’t halfway through and I’m utterly submerged in Morission’s vocal and instrumental delivery.
Passages of largely abstract and discordant fiddle playing are sandwiched between exposed lines of highly introspective dialogue, joined only by a wandering two note crotchet line on fiddle. As the topic of the monologue becomes more stressful, so does Morrison’s playing – incorporating the fiddle into his speech, replacing words with sudden glissandos or a harsh pluck of a string.
Abdy shows off an exceptionally well-composed, reflective piece of music which I will remember for a long time.
Third up is Abdy’s own project, a new duo called Enjika. Abdy, who is on keyboard and guitar duties, is accompanied by synth and samples from a laptop. I’m immediately captivated by the melancholy and would place it somewhere between the softer side of Nine Inch Nails, and Kate Bush.
Enjika performs for about half an hour and I don’t think the music has stopped once.
Different sections of their set are bookended by samples of the tide moving or a bustling city street. Perhaps the only shortcoming of the whole night is that, after half an hour, the tempo of the music doesn’t change, and the dirge-like feel becomes quite monotonous.
However, that is not to distract from the lyrical and harmonic beauty of the performance.
The final performer of the night, Blue Ruth, brings along perhaps the most shockingly different set so far. Going from dulcet and tender singer-songwriter, straight into hard going, beat driven, synth-scapes – I’m really taken by surprise. The ‘sound worlds’ Blue Ruth creates are heavy and apocalyptic, which seamlessly sets up her vocal performance.
Verging on chaos, Blue Ruth would have the whole audience trapped in her whirlwind of synth tomfoolery were it not for her talking between tunes, which can only be described as the opposite of her music. Cracking jokes and interacting with us, Blue Ruth feels like the natural choice to close the event, bringing the intensity to a new high and not letting us come down when it comes to creating a welcoming atmosphere.
Emily Abdy and Nonclassical have put together a really special showcase tonight. Allowing these composers and performers this collaborative opportunity is what this country desperately needs more of.
And Nonclassical are planning on continuing to do exactly that. Much to the detriment of my job as a critic, the music I saw tonight might be some of the most objectively clever and subjectively beautiful I’ve ever heard.
To find out about Chloe Knibbs go to: www.chloeknibbs.com
For more from Blue Ruth go to: www.blueruth.bandcamp.com
For more from Sean Morrison got to: www.instagram.com/seanmorrison.sounds
For more on Emily Abdy got to: www.linktr.ee/emilyabdy