God Unknown presents Horse loom, Peter J. Smyth: Bold Street Coffee, Liverpool

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Pete Smyth at the Shipping Forecast

Pete Smyth at the Shipping Forecast

Enjoying a bottle of Mexican Pilsner while he’s at it, Getintothis’ Mark Greenwood takes in post-punk sounds and sensibilities at Bold Street Coffee.

As an independent label and promoter, God Unknown are going from strength with a string of releases and gigs over the past year with many more in the pipeline. Tonight, at Bold St. Coffee, the label offer another side of their eclectic portfolio with a night of solo vocal/guitar work emerging on the warm edges of a post-punk sensibility.

An intimate crowd has gathered and the show has an informal and immediate mood, offering an alternative space to the hustle and bustle of Bold Street. The last time we saw Smyth play solo was at the Shipping Forecast supporting Richard Dawson and it’s refreshing to see him again venturing into unfamiliar terrains. Tonight, Smyth appears awkward and anxious, fiddling with leads and guitar straps and occasionally engaging in some self-effacing non-banter. However, Smyth provides an intricate and careful set, full of dynamic intensity and stark observations. Lyrically, Smyth shines with a collection of poetic sonnets that translate moments of austere contemplation and urban alienation. In a performative sense, Smyth is confounding, ambiguous but sublime in his output, leading the assembled audience through a series of dense pilgrimages, describing a lost prodigal son in search of redemption.

Smyth is given the privilege of a long set tonight and he charms the audience with a litany of melancholic, lo-fi folk muses. Getintothis look forward to the release of Black Smoke on God Unknown later this year.

Both Smyth and Horse loom have fed on much louder musical diets, constructing formidable back catalogues ranging from hardcore punk to avant garde improvisation. It’s especially interesting to seem them approaching material from a much more obtuse and careful perspective. Bringing music back to the body and the voice exposes a vulnerability and humanist perspective, immersing listeners in wistful contemplation as they peel the stickers off beer bottles.

So, time for a Pacifico Cerveza in-between sets. The label of this special little Mexican pilsner depicts a lifesaver against a foreboding hill, perhaps denoting the various expeditions that Steven Malley and Horse loom have engaged in prior to this performance. Malley has recently fulfilled a number of touring commitments, serenading the Trembling Bells across Northern England with sets that never fail to evoke episodes of tragic, terrible beauty and impossible optimism.

It’s easy to imagine Malley twisting through Arcadian landscapes, reframing the vistas explored by a number of folk visionaries engrained in the consciousness of Northumberland. As always, Horse loom presents a selection of virtuosic guitar sketches – delicate, tender and drawing on range of materials uncovered from the Northumbrian folk archives. Malley presents inspired new work, including Beastings, gently revising a violent and terrible love affair set against a gloomy Pennine Way. His guitar work and poetic imagination skilfully shapes a range of stories that emerge and echo eerily across Bold Street while retaining a sense of the immediacy and honesty offered in punk genres. Older numbers, such a Fisher Boy and Lie Here hit the spot, beatific and shadowy, tracing footprints that meander around abandoned beaches and deserted shipwrecks. Let’s hope both artists return very soon.

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