Rebekka Karijord, Magic Arm, Olympian, Race To The Sea - Manchester Ruby Lounge, 17/01/13

And if you ever thought the concept of melisma (you know, where you do loads of notes for one syllable) had been debased beyond redemption by said warblers then Rebekka is the woman to save it.

 

January's never exactly high season for live music, but this year seems even more sparse than usual. Maybe people actually believed that Mayan calendar shit and didn't book anything. Note to bands: now would be a good time to tour (well, this time next year, obviously) - people will love you just for being. It feels oddly Christmas-like in Ruby Lounge: outside the first few flakes of snow are falling, we're told there's going to be a deluge but right now it's still got that magical feel that always signifies Christmas Eve in sentimental films even if we know full well that here it never comes til now, while inside there are candles on tables. I love this venue; it's run by people who really love music and it shows. Support acts, for example, are always well chosen...

Race To The Sea: it's a great name, for starters (WW1, 1914 vintage, - Ed). Much more interesting and evocative than Dan Peacock, which is his real one. I always like it when solo artists (of any genre) have a band name: it says look, I'm not just another bloke sat with a guitar. Even if in this case he is a bloke sat with a guitar, it still says look this isn't going to be chummy-strummy bollocks (does anyone else want to grab young Jake Bugg by the shoulders and yell at him YOU'RE 18, FOR PITY'S SAKE, THERE'S TIME ENOUGH FOR THAT WHEN YOU'RE 40!!), and it isn't. It's reverbed and looped (though not overly so), the guitar coming in waves of shoegazey folky warmth; his voice searching and melancholy, the sea never far from his thoughts; the overall effect like half remembered dreams that wash over you in a rather lovely way.

Olympian, meanwhile, are - confusingly - two people. John "I Am Kloot" Bramwell is a fan, and the feeling's clearly mutual - there's a big influence worn here, but worn well. Though Aron Robinson's voice is a deeper shade of troubadour, almost Kurt Wagner-esque, spinning doomed stories over the other one's minor key piano and long synth tones. No, I don't know what the other one's called, but the duo format - sometimes it's just Aron solo, apparently - really works. I'd like to have heard more, but yet again I seem to have found myself sat in front of the "come to a quiet gig and yap about fuck all" brigade. The bar is that way...

Magic Arm (yep, another one man band thing) is a funny one, he's been doing what he does around Manchester for years to the point where you almost take him for granted, but more recently he's been all over Europe supporting artists from Grizzly Bear to Camera Obscura to Beirut to Final Fantasy - and tonight he's here tonight as tour support, though even he's not entirely sure how you pronounce Rebekka's surname. He manages to make the decidedly oddball sound very accessible (or the accessible sound very odd), firing off all manner of beats and tracks, building great piles of sound, and bowing his guitar into a spiralling orchestra, occasionally assisted by an affable looking type called Ben who does bits of clarinet and glockenspiel and everything Magic Arm's arms aren't quite magic enough to do all himself. Ben works at HMV, he tells us. Best write some more clarinet and glockenspiel parts...

Dear Rebekka Karijord's PR: seriously, 2000 words is not a press release, it's a life story. The (possibly) important bits: she was born in the north of Norway just outside the Arctic Circle to a pair of seasoned travellers; her father developed a serious drug problem, and her first songs were her interpretations of piles of lyrics the then very ill man handed his largely estranged daughter as a young teenager; by seventeen she was signed to a major label who wanted a Pop Starlet. They didn't get one, and instead her twenties were spent studying theatre and composing music for films, theatre performances and dance pieces. And eventually making records which tell as much of her story as that biography. Not that we have much idea what to expect - the one thing lacking from said opus is any real clue as to what this might sound like. So why are we here then? Well, it's January...

She walks on stage, silencing even the worst of the yatterers with her presence: draped in dark layers, even her keyboard is shrouded in black, and the drums begin. Deep tribal rhythms clatter from the drumkit and floor toms of her backing trio; the instrumentation is sparse, based around her piano, or the chimes of her harp - and her stunning voice. She's got the power that could oh-so easily be deployed in the area of big-haired soft rock, and an octave range all those wannabe Mariah twerpettes on the TV karaoke shows would kill for - my god, those high notes! And if you ever thought the concept of melisma (you know, where you do loads of notes for one syllable) had been debased beyond redemption by said warblers (I had - Ed) then Rebekka is the woman to save it. She doesn't do it to show off, or when it's not needed, but sometimes her voice becomes a kaleidoscope in the darkness. The weird thing being it is borderline soft rock at times, but in a very progressive way: these oddities and her heartfelt but never mawkish lyrical travels make all the difference. I don't want to say the K word, or rather the K.B. words, because she must be heartily sick of it - but if you're looking for possible heiresses to the almighty Ms Bush then you could be looking in the right place here. There's something oddly Icelandic in there too - and I don't mean the B word, not in any sense, more the sense of landscape and ghostly beauty. You can take the woman out of the Arctic, but...

It's an odd crowd. Not a single person familiar to me from local gigs of any description, but a fair few devoted fans; the couple in front of me, who look like churchwardens, have tanked a quite astonishing quantity of booze including a carafe of wine and several G+Ts by the time the set draws to a gloriously unhinged close sometime after 11, though some have left by then as the weather closes in and (in some cases) babysitters' time runs out. It's not necessarily music I'd listen to at home or maybe ever again, but that's what January's for. For going out and seeing what's out there, devouring bills full of names you've never heard of with the tantalising possibility that one of them, like for example the unknown Daniel Land And The Modern Painters who stepped onto a mixed-bag Roadhouse stage in front of your winter gig-starved correspondent some five years and one week ago, might be the start of a beautiful relationship. It didn't happen tonight, but it sure beats staying in and watching Holby City.

http://rebekkakarijord.com/

http://magicarm.co.uk/

http://olympian1.bandcamp.com/

http://www.racetothesea.net/