Stray Borders, Lily Green, Danblagroyd

Edmund Townend 25/01/2008

Rating: 4/5

Cardiff was in need of a new gig night, a weekly live music to enrich the mind on a Friday night (if it's not being doused in alcohol). The Family provides this. In Tommy's Bar, a small club tucked away in Cardiff Art School, the night unfolds.

Lily Green is a quiet Cardiff singer-songwriter, aided by piano and laptop. On her own, she displayed an intangible and enigmatic stage presence, shy but free. She has an impressive and well-structured electronic background, which is well prepared and rehearsed and works as an ensemble where a band would be impossible. It was unfortunate that the crowd at the bar only started to quieten down and really listen to Lily after her fourth song, loud and crisp showing power and emotion. She plays piano in a seemingly untaught way, despite being classically trained and it rings true with and without backing. Despite her classical roots, her voice is beautifully undamaged by restraint with no hint of anything but emotion. Any influence seeping through from her aura of originality may be likened to Alanis Morissette, Regina Spektor and Imogen Heap. Lily Green is a young, underground talent that deserves to stay underground, in order to protect the purity of her music. I would recommend you have a listen, but I would prefer she stayed hidden, in a good way.

Cataclysmic. There, I found a word to describe it at last. With hints of uncaring perfection (similar to the likes of Nirvana) and without announcing themselves, Stray Borders broke into quiet instrumental, an eerily ear-splitting fury. It's hard to define a noise level for such a quiet feel at such a high decibel, so cataclysmic might as well do it, being heavily influenced by Sonic Youth and Mogwai, whilst even branching into the proggy world of Tool at some points (without the famous vocals which we'll come to later). For Stray Borders, it's all about the music. They glide through the quiet-loud dynamics made famous by American grunge rock in the late 80s accompanied by the complex bass riffs and layered, fast drums. They make much use of delay pedals throughout all of their songs, sounding vaguely familiar to Leeds-based post-rock instrumentalists Vessels. In their last, and probably most accessibly awe-inspiring song “In Case Of Emergency Break Glass” they extend and break down the common protocol of song, by replacing lead vocals with lead guitar. Soft, almost whispery vocals compliment the song on a whole and the lyrics give it an incredibly peculiar feel, “She's stopped breathing, by my mouth, roll up my sleeves, bring her back to life.” The song reaches its climax as singer Matt screams an agonising cry and the song descends into a final feedbacked chord with guitars on the floor.

Some bands are more impressive on record rather than on stage, and some bands don't sound good in either case - this is much the category Danblagroyd belong to, who, for starters, use a backing track for drums instead of actually having a drummer. The Wrexham quartet, rather unconvincingly, describe themselves as 'electro-miserabilists'. It seems they're rather more interested in moaning than music. In “Work Song” the singer complains that he needs to find a new job in a very stilted manner. Yawn. It seems their main influence, alcohol, seems to have had an effect on their song writing. With multiple instrument changes, you wonder if they are all as good as each other at each one. The bar seems oddly like a church hall whilst they're on stage, as the main setting on their keyboard seems to be 'organ'. Criticisms aside, they play a mean bongo solo.

Pictured: Lily Green, Stray Borders and Danblagroyd, by Stellar Spontaneous Photography.