31st January | Exchange
Photos: Josh Adam Jones
Independent Venue Week, particularly in the bigger cities around the country, continues to grow in recognition. It’s seemingly down to their desire to promote conversation about the grass roots of the music industry. Whether it be home-grown bands and venues finding their feet within an ever-difficult industry, or the fans and audiences, without whom it could not really thrive, IVW shine a light on those investing their all into something we receive with love and gratitude. On nights like this, it’s unquestionably rewarding.
The whole event is in full swing by midweek as The Exchange and Big Jeff host three bright prospects from the Bristol music community for a night that encourages equality and embraces interactivity. Attitude Is Everything, the independent charity focused on improving access to live music for deaf and disabled audiences, provide an immersive and positive experience to the night. By working with the artists involved to include captioning of their performances, displaying each performer’s lyrics on a screen alongside them while playing, they give the whole evening a distinct, embracing atmosphere.
Emily Isherwood, playing her first show under her own name since concluding with the moniker Nugget, is a passionate force. Balancing a set of new workings with quietly-cooed-about tracks from the EP Demos, Isherwood demonstrates not only the evocative power behind her arrangements, but the kind of atmosphere that they can create, delivering an intimate and foreboding performance. ‘Dormant’ and ‘Lost Time’, two new tracks, stand as the highlights, possessing a sombre quality within a full-band dynamic. Her vocals on ‘Dormant’ are striking, expressive in their clarity even from a resonating murmur, showing she’s not afraid to be harsh and subtle in equal measure. It’s a deep performance, one that will be a marker for Isherwood’s promising future.
The Iceman Furniss Quartet are one of the most uncompromising groups you will see live. Playing an entirely improvised and instrumental set, the quartet are liberated by the free reign that they gift themselves. It’s an indulgent set, filled with harsh dissonance and little to grab onto in the way of melody or rhythm. The bass playing is impressive, delivering what seems like unlimited funk explorations, while the guitar weaves noisily within ambient texture. It’s interspersed with Furniss’ trumpet, layering the set with an eerie and fragmented bristle. The best thing about the group is you never know what to expect; they could venture into full noise, or simmer within disorientating claustrophobia, and tonight they explore a lot of both with success.
Jesuits‘ sound has adapted dramatically over the last twelve months. Their eight-song set tonight is performed under the cover of practical darkness, a sobering accompaniment to the group’s encompassing rhythm. They’ve evolved into a group with a really distinctive spirit. The invigorating rhythm section, controlled by Lily and Miles, is energetic and pulsating, while Arthur owns the stage, hurling himself across the floor with a guitar feeding back, as the mic hangs from its stand. It’s as hypnotic as it is forceful. Arthur’s vocal fills the large room of the Exchange. Lyrics that elicit shadowy moods fit excitingly within the context of their aesthetic. It will be particularly interesting to hear how this is all delivered on record, whether they retain a sense of atmospheric complexity or if recording is approached in a more restrained manner. Either way, tonight is exciting evidence of what they can deliver.