Dark Inventions: FIREWHEEL

The Capstone Theatre
16th May 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Dark Inventions turned up on Liverpool 'Light Night' which was a shame for two reasons; 1) every art venue was open until 10pm for free, so why would anyone pay to see something? and 2) it was good stuff.

This tour showcases a young ensemble attempting a blend of inspired new music interspersed with traditional folk ballads, and it worked through the quality and sometimes eccentricity of the performers. As they trouped on stage a warm welcome was given to Neil Smith (flutes), Johnathon Sage (clarinets), Rebecca Smith (violin), Cecily Smith (cello), Martin Scheuregger (percussion) and conductor Christopher Needham; voice came courtesy of Stef Connor of Unthanks fame.

She got the evening going with Death and the Lady, a sorrowful cold clay and earth of a song, setting the theme of what was to follow. Untceare(2014) is an old English term for the claustrophobic anxiety experienced before dawn breaks. This featured singing ringing bowl, edgy strings, flute and scary percussionist tropes - a veritable tarot pack of sounds.

Another traditional soliloquy, I once had a Sweetheart, brought on Mobius Sticks. This conjured primordial and post everything else music composed by the Conductor, turning in and out on itself as it strove for a conclusion, to a repeating vibraphone persistence. In Banks of Green Willow Connor's voice conveyed lost love again before she sat out on the headline 2013 work, FIREWALL. Based on perceived abstract patterning in the natural world everyone got a chance to improvise in Philip Cashian's piece, which kept on coming round as it's embers started to die and the interval approached.

Bizarrely, one of the crowd tried to carry a packet of crisps into the second half before Connors (2014) own take on The Shipwrecked Ghost. This was all wind in the reeds and a stretching of the vocal chords for the best voice in town tonight, as the travails of My William ensued to sympathetic cello and violin backing.

She would end the concert with the Cruel Mother who bound her baby's hands and legs; a less than happy song on the heels of Come at Dawn in which the all in black singer carried off the words with religious fervour: a splendid session from her.

The collective followed the free flowing Three Inventions (2014) for flute, clarinet and vibraphone with a piece reflecting on Hieronymus Bosch's The Seven Deadly Sins and (here), The Four Last Things. This provided the impetus for vibraphone, clarinet, and cello to perform spare music worthy of the medieval images brought to mind.

This was then an intriguing evening and deserved better.

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