- by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date: Label:
While some music seems to go out of its way to grab your attention, there’s something far more subtle about the music produced by London-based artist, Rozi Plain. Her albums immerse the listener in a sound both experimental and accessible. Listen closely to new album What a Boost and you’ll be rewarded.
While tonight will be the third time I’ve seen Plain and her band, it will be the first time I’ve witnessed Otley’s long-serving, experimental folk oddball David Thomas Broughton. It’s going to be difficult to describe Broughton’s show but suffice to say he isn’t the sort of performer you see every day.
It begins regularly enough; an acoustic guitar, a loop pedal, and Broughton’s voice. His voice recalls the haunted tones of Antony Hegarty (Anohni) as the music sets us up for some folky, melancholic reverie. Then, before anyone can get too comfortable, things start to get strange.
No easy path is taken, no pretty melody allowed to play out without interruption. No, there’s nothing remotely conventional about David Thomas Broughton. Between sips of herb tea Broughton goes about sabotaging our preconceptions. The effect is jarring at times but it’s impossible not to be pulled in. Thrilled at the prospect of not knowing exactly what will happen next.
Some discordant and purposely wonky guitar is layered on top of an otherwise hummable melody, an amplifier left on its side allowed to hum throughout entire sections. At times it’s like listening to two songs at once, at others, Broughton’s voice glides above the noise. The lyrics themselves manage to be beautiful, funny, deep and nonsensical.
The juxtaposition is very much deliberate; a mix of chaos, noise, humour, and beauty. Broughton even manages to eat a banana while simultaneously adding vocal harmonies to his ongoing, uninterrupted, collage of sound. When I head to the bar after the performance I hear someone say, “Bit different”. It’s something of an understatement.
It might not be as bizarre as Broughton’s brand of experimentalism yet Rozi Plain’s music remains infused with a quietly thrilling, adventurous spirit. While Broughton’s music uses jarring juxtaposition, Plain’s music blends its sounds and influences in an impossibly smooth, wonderfully meditative style.
The band opens with ‘Quiz’ from the new album; woozy synth moans and a lovely, descending melody wrap us up in sonic sheets and lower us, gently yet purposely, into a dreamlike sound. It’s a sound you have to immerse yourself in. Plain’s music requires your full, unconditional, surrender.
The undeniably gorgeous melodies are almost misleading, the music bubbling with unconventional rhythms and ideas. Plain’s guitar playing and the bass interweave to create hypnotic, playful grooves. The jazz-like drumming, the dreamy synth swells and the folk-indebted banjo playing of Rachel Horwood each bring an essential ingredient to the overall sound.
The whole band chimes in for the meditative mantras that punctuate the songs. A sense of unity and a natural bond as they all step in time to the quietly joyous ‘Symmetrical’. Plain’s voice acts as an understated and comforting guide as she sings, “a dream/ a dream/ a realistic dream”.
‘Swing Shut’ finds Plain urging the music to speak to her heart and that’s exactly what tonight’s performance does. I’ve loved ‘Actually’ from the first time I heard it but tonight it seems to go that one step further, a beautiful and powerful piece of music that pulls you into the moment, “don’t get over it/ this is actually it”.
The jazz influences are acknowledged with the band's lovingly crafted, Sun Ra cover. The band eases us into an “eternal sea of darkness” with a minimalistic, thoroughly blissful take on ‘When there is no Sun’. Like the rest of tonight’s set, it’s a therapeutic and somewhat magical submersion.
Saw her with This Is The Kit last Summer - they were fantastic!