As several articles ran in film publications like Sight and Sound commemorating many a great double-bill at the Scala in its days as a repertory film house (on the 15th anniversary of its demise), the music venue that the King’s Cross building now stands as hosted another exiting twin header: first up, the first live airing of Daniel O’Sullivan and Antti Uusimaki’s new project Mothlite, and then Dylan Carlson’s Earth, who are always a mind-lockingly captivating experience.
O’Sullivan, best known for his work with Guapo and Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses (but also a keen collaborator/member of groups such as Aethenor, Sunn O))) and Chrome Hoof) and Uusimaki (who has previous collaborated with O’sullivan in Aethenor, Guapo and in guapo drummer Dave Smith’s The Stargazer’s Assistant group, as well as other work) were joined by several other members offering a full band with an array of backing instrumentation (including flutes and extra percussion — cue Dave Smith) as well as backing vocals (including from Alexander Tucker). Mothlite’s music has an element of what you’d expect given the imposing piano presence and the ethos of the body of work the pair have previously forged, however, there are distinct and different trends and focuses in the sounds and moods created.
O’Sullivan has not been a vocal presence in the majority of bands he’s played in and his efforts here are strong and lend to the folk edge offered by some of the instruments on offer — piano, flute, bassoon etc. The synthetic edges added by Uusimaki twist it up but instead of into the swirling Zeuhl you’d be forgiven for expecting, the music often has a more atmospheric edge, jazzed and ethereal, or sometimes a pulsing, sometimes pounding feel which can strike eighties experimental pop chords. Atmospherics are built with vocal repetitions and layerings and instrumental builds, with dynamics rising and falling around the piano riffs — overall offering a promising body of work. However, there are also moments of flatness and less of the perfect unit communication and movement that fans of groups like Guapo have come to expect. Unfortunately as well, Alexander Tucker’s backing vocals are often played incorrectly for the mood — too loud and imposing in the moment and unfortunately often swaying off correct pitch as well. The majority of these complaints are easily attributed to the fact that this is the project’s premiere, however, and as the promise is greater than the negatives, it is to the future that we look.
converting the droning riffs into more complex formations
Unfortunately, to continue the nagging sense of disappointment in the back of the mind though, Earth started somewhat poorly — not helped by the high bar they consistently raise. An only fairly full venue didn’t help matters either as the sound of the four-piece band became more sparse and cold than works (does the new material need two guitars live?), and Adrienne Davies’ percussion also seemed often to be not quite on the mark. As the band moved a couple of songs into the set, however, the initial creases of disappointment were ironed out as the sound warmed and filled the space more, the beats clicked into step and the whole thing lifted up. The Earth which has consistently dazzled and positively dazed audiences was definitely in attendance. The band offered pretty much all of their most recent studio effort The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, an album which displays just how much the group are still morphing within the new incarnation, here continuing the same slow, cleaner trends, but converting the droning riffs into more complex formations and with Steve Moore’s keyboard work ever stronger and his brass work adding a touch of bombast to some of the chord delivery. Continuing to rise and engage with their entrancing repetitions the band finished particularly impressivley with an encore including Hibernaculum_-ised classic material including _Extra-Capsular Extraction’s “Ouroboros Is Broken” and Pentastar’s “Coda Maestoso in F (Flat) Minor”.