As I have mentioned before, I am not exactly an aficionado of live music. I went to my state-mandated Muse concert during my first year at university and I braved an unnaturally sticky floor once to see The Ordinary Boys (remember them?). There was also the time where I was the squarest person at a Megadeth concert and spent the whole night looking at the clock and avoiding the mosh pit. Anyhow, I recently had cause to venture back into that particular arena of uncertainty when Patch And The Giant (with aforementioned family ties) played at Gullivers in Manchester's Northern Quarter.
After lubricating with a couple of whiskies, I was informed that the done thing was to go and at least show one's face during the opening acts. Being an individual of impeccable scruples, I agreed. What confronted me on the stage was one man and his acoustic guitar. In all honesty, the thought that went through my head was 'here we go again – another indoor busker with grade 8 guitar who thinks that being musically proficient is an act'. Fortunately, Greg Larkin seemed intent on that night to expose my opinion as beyond foolish as he delivered a set that had more imagination, creativity and originality than anything I had seen before. The morning after, I contacted Greg to see if he had an album that we could review and he pointed me in the direction of his second record, An Ecstatic Lightening Of Strange Birds.
Each track is a wordless adventure, teasing your imagination whilst beckoning it onwards. Title track An Ecstatic Lightening Of Strange Birds flits between quiet reflection and whirling maelstrom, highlighting the calm and storm of nature. Each section feels like a section of avian conversation – each bird given its own voice with subtle tone changes which invoked memories of Prokofiev's Peter And The Wolf. Backwards Revolves The Luminous Wheel, presumably a reference to Lowry's Under The Volcano, adopts a Mexican feel and conjures up a dark magic in the notes. On The Delinquincy Of Laudanum Drinkers, we see Larkin use a juxtaposition of calm and frenetic playing to represent the sensual overload of the drug in question. Closing track With Eyes Closed To Keep Out The Danger leaves us with a more reflective piece that is almost medieval in tone.
The first thing that struck me about this album was the same thing that dazzled me during Greg's live performance – that he is only one person. It is impossible to listen to his music and imagine anything other than a series of guitars playing simultaneously in one's mind's eye. It is spectacular. The music itself has an undeniable, raw intelligence. A learned artist, Larkin brings a power to his music that feels almost literary in its origin. He is an artist that appreciates and understands the importance of silences – that the anticipation sometimes says as much as the louder moments. He is also not afraid to dangle a solitary note into those silences and allow it to speak for itself. In addition, there is a lot to be said for the enigmatic, dynamic deviations that his music takes – quick switches from one melody to another, branching out and then returning to the main form. It is a microcosm of the surprises thrown by life, catching you off guard before returning you to normality. It is a truly beautiful technique.
Where the future lies for Greg Larkin, I know not but the possibilities are endless. His most recent work sees him collaborating with rapper DRS on track Your Name, something which showcases his talent exquisitely. I would personally love to see how he might sound when paired with a female singer who has a latin jazz feel, almost a Rodrigo Y Gabriela vibe. Whichever way he chooses to go, he is an artist that I will be keeping a close eye on because his talent and versatility are immense.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Month
Fast fingers rattle
Soaring soundscapes and show Greg's
Not Larkin about
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