Monday, February 17, 2014

Arlet in Whitstable

Pizza Express(!), Whitstable
13th February 2014

In their earliest days, all of Arlet's gigs seemed to be in interesting places — the undercroft of a 13th century hospital, arboretums, boats,... It's 2014 and they're playing in a Pizza Express. But no one's holding it against them. It was a bit of an odd space, but they (with just a string of blue fairy lights offsetting the sterile interior) managed to transform it into a magical one with their music. Even as a four-piece (Aidan, Rosie, Ben and Lucy this time, the nth permutation of Arlet I've seen) they're just soaring these days.

It was mostly (as you'd expect in a pizza restaurant on a Thursday evening) people eating pizza, with no idea what they were listening to. But from the applause levels, they seemed to be well into it. It would be a real treat to go out and unexpectedly hear this lot for the first time. There was a small contingent of us Arlet-heads at a well chosen table listening intently. Again, I was amazed by how just four of them can play some of their material so satifyingly (covering the reed and brass parts) at times I almost thought I could hear the absent Owen and/or Thom. They played some stuff they hadn't for six months, so there was a pleasing looseness in amongst their default tightness. And three new pieces, a couple of which seem to have been developed specifically for this quartet formation (which is more geographically plausible more often than the dispersed sextet). One of these sounded a bit like what you might get if Tim Smith arranged a Northumbrian dance tune (so I was into that!), another with more of an Americana leaning, a slight old-time or cajun lilt to it perhaps (not as sure about that one, but it's still in an embryonic state I suspect). The other new one had an almost-but-not-quite drum 'n' bass rhythm, interestingly structured... but they seemed to agree that it didn't quite gel as well as it could have. Promising material, though.

So historic spaces, beautiful woodlands, yeah, great, obviously... But even a Pizza Express in Whitstable can become a temporary sonic temple if Arlet are installed. So where next?


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