David Thomas Broughton/ Twi the Humble Feather
@ The Faversham, Leeds, 21st September 2008
The Faversham is not my favourite Leeds venue, to put it mildly. I find the layout exasperating; the enormous pillars forever eclipsing your view of the bands, the bland floorboards giving it an odd village-hall type feeling, and the bar so lengthy and omnipresent that, in quieter musical moments, you are often distracted from what you came to see by the perpetual tinkling of ice and clatter of glasses. Tonight, though, this oddly-shaped and occasionally alienating space has been transformed into one more intimate by the simple means of adding a few tables and flickering candlelight. The change is an effective one, creating a pleasing cabaret-type feeling, as well as, more practically, giving the impression that the room is fuller than it is; tonight’s gig has heavy competition in the form of Nodzzz at the Brudenell and Florence and the Machine at the O2 Academy. Despite this, there is respectable turnout and the atmosphere is cosy and inviting.
New York guitar-based trio Twi the Humble Feather open the night with a sound immediately (and inescapably) comparable to that of Animal Collective, though (thankfully) without the enormous flashing strobe lights they so favour dragging around with them when they tour. The music is acoustic, classically-based and textured, creating echoing soundscapes rather than traditional songs. They play without drums but nonetheless there is a driving percussion provided by rhythmic, falsetto chanting and sudden taps and slaps at the strings and wood of the guitars. Their sound is at once folky and spacey, and their first release, Music for Spaceships and Forests, could not be more aptly named.
The performances of David Thomas Broughton are always difficult to review as they are exactly that: performances. The music almost takes second place as he acts as crazed ringmaster to his own show – I have seen this man leap up on desks and start madly sweeping up with a sweeping brush – and tonight he alternates staring intensely and broodingly into the middle distance with sudden, jerky dance moves and bizarre poses. Despite this performance-centric approach, his folk-drenched and lyrical songs can often be heart-wrenching, brutally honest and humorous by turns. After carefully crafting these fragile songs, they are then systematically destroyed; overlaid and distorted by loop after loop and layer after layer until what remains is a disorientating cacophony of sound, through which fragments of the original melody can only be glimpsed in snatches. Some of the audience look slightly nonplussed, although this is perhaps to be expected. Wandering amongst the audience bellowing at the top of his lungs and rearranging people’s pint glasses on their tables, David Thomas Broughton is on characteristically unsettling form, massive beard and all.
You can also read this review over at LeedsMusicScene.