|Snowpoet at Kings Place
iPhone picture: Leah Williams
Snowpoet Thought You Knew album launch
(Kings Place, 11 May 2018. Review by Leah Williams)
Snowpoet’s hotly anticipated new album Thought You Knew, which was released in February on Edition Records, comes only two years after their eponymous debut album, although it has felt like a longer wait.
Hall Two at Kings Place is the perfect venue choice for its acoustics and the way it manages to fit a fair amount of people in whilst safeguarding an intimacy that is really needed for the softly commanding and mesmeric music of this album.
The original sextet with Lauren Kinsella (vocals), Chris Hyson (bass/piano), Nicholas Costley-White (acoustic guitar), Matthew Robinson (piano), Dave Hamblett (drums) and Josh Arcoleo (sax) have been joined by violinist Alice Zawadzki and cellist Francesca Ter-Berg for this album. These additions provide an extra layer of dreamy qualities to the already rather ethereal sounds the band is so adept at producing.
Not least down to the distinctive vocals of Lauren Kinsella, which are somehow both gently pure and intensely heart-piercing at the same time. One of the few voices that, once you’ve heard live, seems almost constrained by the recording medium, which – try as it might – simply can’t capture all its resonance, emotion and harmonics.
Still, there is no difficulty allowing her voice to be absorbed into the larger soundscape. It is one of the wondrous things about Snowpoet that each instrument is inextricably part of the tapestry, to the extent that sometimes you’re not even sure what it is you’re hearing individually but are happy to simply let the mix wash over you.
There was little talking and no introduction or explanation of song titles or any themes or inspiration behind the new album, but the music of this indefinable band tells a thousand stories all by itself. It does feel appropriate when caught up in the atmospheric world of Snowpoet not to have any real interruption to the flow, allowing the audience to become more and more seduced into the silvery spiderweb of sound.
The new album certainly doesn’t disappoint and captures all the originality and beauty by which Snowpoet made its name, whilst also moving forwards. There’s less use of electronics and an even more introspective and personal feel to the tracks that leaves a real space for the listener to step inside.
One audience member behind me said: “it’s like a beautiful stream-of-consciousness”. The uniqueness of the lyrics, which manage to be both poetic and conversational at the same time, is one of the defining aspects of Snowpoet’s music and is delivered throughout. In Pixel, the opening line of “the end was in the beginning but yet we went on” is the perfect example of this, where the lyrics and Lauren’s incredible ability to speak-sing so magically immediately reel you in then take you on an emotive and cathartic journey you didn’t even know you needed.
Alongside new tracks, they also included a couple of favourites from their first album, such as Mermaid and If I Miss a Star. The latter induces sighs and smiles from audience and band members alike, feeling in its recognition and delicacy like a coming home of sorts. This then leads into one of the highlights of the evening, where they transition seamlessly into two further songs – from the new album – played through without stopping to create a wave that the audience happily rides. Firstly The Therapist, which although not technically the title track (as there is none) feels a little like one as the first single released and with quite a few lyrical nods towards the album title. This track, with its cyclical nature made up of intricately woven layers that build up almost imperceptibly, is a thing of beauty. This is then followed by a move into the stripped back cover of Gillian Welch’s Dear Someone, a song of tender longing performed by Lauren alone with a polyphonic vocal effect sensitively applied by Matt Robinson.
“It’s a privilege and a pleasure to sing about love,” Lauren said towards the end. Love is certainly a theme that everyone will have taken away last night, be that of the highs, heartbreaks or simply the love for this thought-provoking and generous music.