REVIEW: Lauren Kinsella Ensemble at Omnibus Clapham

Lauren Kinsella. Photo Credit: © Adrian Pallant

Lauren Kinsella Ensemble
(Omnibus Clapham, 18th September 2016. Review by Leah Williams)

Last night, I did something I very rarely do and ventured south of the Thames. It was for a particularly good reason though. The Lauren Kinsella Ensemble were playing one solitary London date during their current tour, which is taking them throughout the UK and Ireland until the end of October.

Having first come across Lauren Kinsella in mesmerising Snowpoet – her collaboration with Chris Hyson and also Nick Costley-White, Matt Robinson and Dave Hamblett – I was immediately struck by the unique, emotive quality of her voice that immediately draws you in and then haunts you for days afterwards. Needless to say, I’d been looking forward to another opportunity to see her live and was excited to see her in a different setting. Alongside her amazing ensemble – Tom Challenger on sax, Dan Nicholls on piano, Conor Chaplin on bass and Simon Roth on drums – she was performing new music that was originally commissioned by the Marsden Jazz Festival.

The gig took place at Omnibus in Clapham, a venue that I had never been to, nor had any expectations about. It was therefore a very pleasant surprise to walk into a small, intimate setting that more resembled a living space than a music venue, with comfy armchairs and tables scattered in front of an informal band set-up. With probably a maximum of 20 people there, it seemed we were in for a far more exclusive experience than I’d realised.

Beginning as they meant to go on, the Ensemble opened with the quite beautiful Natural Watch, which treated us to their multi-layered soundscape in all its glory. As is to be expected with all of Kinsella’s music, the lyrics are incredibly poignant: “Forget the past, and move on. Open your eyes and see what you are missing… Someday all this will be forgotten”. And even when she moves into her own unique style of scatting or vocalising – with words that sound quite simply magical, as though from an other-worldly land (although with no small hint of the Scandinavian about them) – the emotion and communication is not lost. Her style of delivery, which seems to hang delicately in the balance between the sung and the spoken word, with a virtuosity that is entirely natural and non-showy, keeps the audience captivated.

It became quite clear, throughout the evening, that the instruments are not really seen as individual soloists at any point, not even Kinsella’s voice. Each is part of the larger whole, each vital to the rich tapestry that creates this wonderful sonic effect. Within the ensemble, there’s also much duo and trio work that appears and disappears softly, adding to, rather than distracting from, the overall effect of the music. Kinsella often doubles the other instruments with her flexible tones, adding a unique and impressive texture to the sound.

This isn’t to say that the merits and virtuosity of each player aren’t clearly heard throughout. Kinsella’s voice, in particular, is showcased to perfection with impressive range, power and clarity of tone which isn’t pushed unnaturally to the forefront, but instead presented with skill, control and softness. It seems to both drive and follow the tonal and rhythmic modulations, entrancing with unexpected turns and shapes combined seamlessly with soft legato sounds and lyrics weighted with emotion.

Certainly, seeing Lauren Kinsella in action – either here with the Ensemble or as part of one of her other ventures – is always a real treat and there’s never an uninspiring moment. Whether for the carefully chosen and expressed lyrics, the digital effects softly included to enhance the sound or the intricate web of instruments and voice, the music is progressive, emotive and worthy. Nothing is arbitrary, no note superfluous. This is superbly crafted music telling stories which I could listen to all night.


Categories: miscellaneous

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