Birmingham Glee Club * * * *
Review by Simon Harper
Everybody likes a good story – Sam Genders sets his fully-formed narratives to a sonic template which takes in folk, psychedelia, subtle electronica and inventive samples. Part of digital folk protagonists Tunng, Genders’ songs are simultaneously moving, vivid and whimsical, being full of an almost child-like sense of joy.
Their debut full-length album, Mother’s Daughter and Other Songs, was largely the work of Genders and Mike Lindsay, although it’s follow-up, Comments of the Inner Chorus saw their ranks swell to include four other members, providing a whole raft of instrumentation and vocal touches which moved Tunng even further ahead of the competition.
It’s this expanded line-up which takes to the stage. Opening with the wistfully delicate Beautiful and Light, the six-piece recreate their often complex arrangements with astonishing dexterity.
Drawing inspiration from folk luminaries such as Pentangle and Bert Jansch, they weave magical layers of picked guitars, melodica, electronics and a variety of organic percussion.
Songs from their latest record seem to work particularly well live, with Sweet William and the chiming, interlocking guitar lines of Woodcat proving to be highlights. Engine Room – probably the first folk song to merge seamlessly into a trance workout – is symptomatic of their sense of adventure, bringing a palpable feeling of euphoria to an enraptured audience.
Certainly the most striking member of the band is Becky Jacobs. Lending cooing vocals to most songs, and even playing the odd toy instrument too, she stands barefoot on stage looking and sounding resplendent.
Tunng’s other trump card is their ability to pen intriguing vignettes, complete with such forward-looking arrangements. Ending with Surprise Me 44, it’s awash with glorious harmonies which make for a blissed-out finale.
Like falling in love with a book and reading it all over again, Tunng are elegant and bewitching, and highly recommended.