George Wood Theatre: Goldsmiths, University of London
Monday 5th September 2022
Just days after seeing Yiskãh perform at Vanishing Point and some six weeks since seeing all three acts perform at the Contemporary Music Proms, I had the opportunity of a free concert on a Monday evening at my old University. Moreover, I was accompanied by Brian O’Neill, owner of the fantastic indie label Dimple Discs, guitar legend and Vanishing Point/AMP Studios sound engineer Donald Ross Skinner and artists Nick Haeffner (formerly of The Teaset), Hannya White and Jera Diarc (Fat Concubine). Such was the interest in seeing these acts again.
Goldsmiths has long been recognised as an important hub for the development of exciting music and art talent. I can attest to this. I studied, give or take a year out that was never really a year out (!), there between 2008 and 2015, acquiring a masters (mmus.) degree in composition and a PhD on Developing an Urban Art Music. Even though I was working full-time and supporting a family, I found the time not only to take part in a great many live music events but, along with fellow students, to curate and put on our own too. It was a wonderful experience and I still love an excuse to spend time there. I am also hugely grateful to the music department for the help they provided in recruiting acts to play at my recent Contemporary Music Proms including the three involved in this review; all students beginning Year 2 of the same degree course.
Yiskãh (aka Jessica Beechley) was first to take the stage. It was great to see the same video footage she had used at Vanishing Point a few days earlier playing out on a gigantic movie-style screen that emphasised its quality. Meanwhile she built a growing arc of fluid, ambient and intriguing sound; partly based on the slowly fluctuating harmonic language of the synth and partly based on a series of evocative sounds. It is testament to the meticulous work that went into this performance that she held our attention for the duration as the track quietly deconstructed to a silent ending.
Next it was the turn of Digital Roses. With the memory of their shuddering performance at the finale of the 2022 Contemporary Music Proms still relatively fresh, it was joyful to experience their unique sound for a second time. They kicked off with a goose-bumping harmony on Trudi’s voice that instantly captivated. In contrast to the other two acts who focused on presenting one lengthy and continuously developing track, Trudi and Joanna chose to play a set of individual songs. This enabled them to set out their stall as a unique duo mixing trippy electronica and synthwave with earth shatteringly soulful vocals that, at times, were genuinely emotion-shredding. At least one of my friends confessed to being reduced to tears at one point and certainly, when Trudi sang the words ‘Show them your heart’ with her otherworldly alto voice rising into a supernatural force, I felt myself turning to jelly! Right now Digital Roses are absolutely out on their own as a band who bring the absolute best of two unusually different musical states together with devastating effect. It seems astonishing that this is just their second gig [and I have been at both]. It is surely just a matter of time before they are on playing the big festival stages and tearing up the airwaves on the likes of BBC 6 Music.
Next we had Tam Lin who, when he performed at my Proms, was billed as That Which Crawls. I wonder, though, whether this is meant to be another side of Tom’s musical and sonic character because this set was quite distinct from the more heavily electronic one he played in July, Tonight he made quite stunning use of reverberant and softly played guitar mixing in with the electronics to dreamy, ambient effect. Then, as he built an impressive and ethereal atmosphere with this sound combination, he ushered the other two acts back onto the stage to end the night with a communal jam that brought together a chocolate box of sonic delights that managed to remain light-textured and uncluttered. Trudi even got to introduce some poetry into the mix. It was a lovely and unusual finale to a night of new sound and music that underlined the importance of cutting edge institutions like Goldsmiths University in nurturing talent and originality. Long may it continue.