Starless And Bible Black * * *
at the Cross Bar, Moseley
Review by Andrew Cowen
Make a note in your diary for the second Friday in every month, Moseley Lunar Society is well on its way to establishing a dependable night of acoustic music in Birmingham.
Under the rather uncomfortable title of "twisted folk" here's a chance to catch four acts operating at the fringes of the resurgent folk scene.
The night is run by the people behind the annual Moseley Folk Festival. It serves as both an advert for the main event and an intimate taster of some rather talented people.
The only Brummie on the bill, Richard Burke, proved a good guitarist and his songs of unrequited love were announced almost apologetically.
He was followed by Londoner, Robert Jessie who peddles a nice line in Tyrannosaurus Rexish whimsy, complete with kneebells and another powerful guitar technique. His over-mannered vocals proved initially irksome but you get used to it.
Nancy Elizabeth Cunliffe, from Wigan, declared she was tired, having just returned from a holiday in France, but that didn't stop her from playing some charismatic songs on the harp and a borrowed guitar.
Comparisons with American Joanna Newsom are inevitable, but the English version is far more rootsy and less kooky, a song such as Coriander packing a highly sensual punch.
Main attraction was Manchester band Starless And Bible Black named after the Dylan Thomas line rather than the King Crimson album. They proved a very viable proposition with Peter Philipson's raga-ish guitar and Helene Gautier's superb vocals augmented by atmospheric electronics supplied by Raz Ullah. Their songs are up to snuff, rambling along on unfamiliar tracks. For larger gigs the band doubles in size, offering more scope, but as a showcase for their album, this worked well.
The only annoyance of the evening was an unruly PA speaker that rasped evilly at a certain frequency. Beyond that, the Lunar Society has hit on a winning formula.
Psychedelic lights, a projection of the Monkees' Head movie and candles on every table provided the perfect ambience and next month's bill looks even stronger.
See you there.