Siskiyou / Silver Pyre / I Know I Have No Collar @ The Cube, Bristol 12.11.11

The Cube Cinema/Theatre is a wonderfully intimate venue; it is small but houses one of the biggest indoor stages in town. Tonight, it is littered with a staggering array of instruments belonging to all three bands and decorated with giant fabric tulips; it looks a picture. The seating is sadly far from full as the first band take to it (all braces and Bristol whimsy) but the audience keeps coming in dribs and drabs, every one eager for a comfy chair and a soulful homely atmosphere. The nights draw in - music is our salvation.

Nov 12th, 2011 at The Cube, Bristol / By Cloudrunner
Siskiyou I Know I Have No Collar, who on record sound a bit quaint and shambolic at times, are a live act to be reckoned with, they shift around the stage swapping instruments which include stand-up drums, clarinet, trombone, bass, six-string electric and keys – there's even a twin melodica led track. They are quirky for sure but also talented and Aaron Sewards' lyrics are playful and often thought provoking. His dry wit comes across well between songs and he strikes up a real bond with his audience. This band of Bristol artists and arty types do feel more like a collective than a band, and though this lends them a certain charm perhaps they do lack a certain cohesion needed to raise them to the next level.

Silver Pyre are a much more professional outfit in terms of their sound and their stage presence, but the music has that element of workmanship, rather than a folk-y things falling into place vibe, they fuse electronic beats and triggered effects and synth lines from David Edwards on one side of the stage into driving and exceptionally tight kit beats from the other played by circuit pro Dave Collingwood. In the middle is main-man Gary Fawle (composer and rural archaic culture obsessive) with his minimal but neat guitar work and honey-gruff vocals that offer brief glimpses to his obsessions, sadly these are slightly too low in the mix to cope with the dazzling rhythm play that acts as the lead instrument, taking the place of the guitars in a more traditional set-up, if you like. It's clever, slick and borders the line between indie and dance music.

The common way of introducing Siskiyou is to talk of it almost like a side project for two (one ex) of The Great Lake Swimmers, but this does a massive disservice to their other two members, who are a massive part of what is one heck of a live performance. Heart wrenching and upbeat sits alongside bittersweet simple melody and musicianship of the highest order, but this is a songs band primarily, and just two albums in they have a set full of classic material and a future glistening golden, an open road, with great songs rising like mountains on either side. Drummer Shaunn Watt plays soft, kicks up the leaves when needed, and slips moments of Jim White-like jazz-folk chaos into the mix before falling back in time with the precision of a Shakespearean sonnet (I've never owned a Swiss watch) all with a wild, almost pained, totally focused expression on his face. Watt also sits at his kit with a guitar, painting a backdrop, and offers ghostly backing vocals that are some of the sweetest ever heard. The band rip through songs from both their records, they play their fabulously alternative version of Simon and Garfunkel's 'El Condor Pasa', heavy with soft doom keys that twinkle on the way out. They turn it on with 'Never Ever Ever Ever Again', fan favourite from their eponymous debut (a classic), bassist Peter Carruthers playing with such focus, and throughout, he plays the roll of the rock, listening with joy and responding accordingly. Erik Arnesen plays with intricacy and passion on banjo and keys (once, both together) he has a true folk style, simple lines that send the mind on a journey from the wilds Canada to other kinds of wild under Californian skies. 'Twigs and Stones' from Keep Away the Dead (perhaps another classic), has that folk-y foot stomp vibe that also allows them to brave the hallowed ground of Neil Young's 'Revolution Blues' they cross it unscathed. The set seems to reach a peak, bringing all these elements together in the song 'Big Sur', where our front-man Colin Huebert leads us in with a beautiful picked acoustic part which becomes intertwined with banjo, before Huebert's throaty but luxurious and oh-so-Canadian vocal sings of California, taking us from the seashore, through an internal monologue, to the party and the refrain of 'Let's party... all night long' which is spattered with drum bursts, and melodica from Carruthers. The crowd bristle, some want interaction, some are there to be moved; everyone goes home happy.