Arlet at The Parrot
10th April 2014
This was the second of a new monthly Smugglers Records night, upstairs in this beautiful timber-framed building (it used to be a trendy student pub called "Simple Simons" years ago, so I avoided it)...dates back to 1370, formerly St. Radigunds Hall. Across the road is Spirogyra and Steve Hillage's old house at no. 5 St. Radigunds Street (on the corner with Duck Lane). I was hosting the latest Sondryfolk artist-in-residence, Synnøve Fredericks, so although she was going to miss Arlet's woodland gig that Sunday, she got to see them in a pretty incredible setting. Before we went in, I pointed out one of the most complete bits of Roman wall in the country, part of the original 3rd Century city wall, just down in front, so we went to have a look and found most of Arlet eating chips on the other side, got to meet Tom, a cellist friend from Simon Langton who was guesting with them for a few gigs (including a big one at Cecil Sharp House the next night).
Will and Natasha from Cocos Lovers played a duo set first, something new they're doing, getting to try out songs which are in development, which might become part of the band repertoire, some which haven't done for whatever reason, a few old things. They sung that old American song "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" that I'm sure they learned from their American/Dutch punk friends The Bucket Boys (who, being real punks, appear not to have a website!). I'd forgotten that they used to do that one with the band for a while a few years back.
Dan Wilde is a singer/songwriter who recently moved from Cambridge, very accomplished, nice guitar style, but why the American accent? It sounded a bit like Paul Simon's, so I couldn't really get into it. But that's just me... clearly many of those present were much impressed.
This time Arlet were a seven-piece — the full band with Lucy on percussion and Tom on cello playing from sheet music for the first half of the set (masterful arrangements Aidan probably put together at the last minute — I'm continually amazed how effectively he can adapt one of his pieces for anything from three to nine instruments, somehow always sounding like it's the definitive version).
There's a new tune we all like called "Swiss Gourmet" (another name for the "Arlet" variety of apple). The first time I heard it was when they played at Free Range last autumn, and as I'm now the Free Range audio archivist, you can hear it via Soundcloud:
"Mattematix", the one they collaboratively wrote during the residency I hosted last summer, their first group composition, seems to have become the standard set-closer. It's pretty epic, stirring stuff and pleasing to think that I might have played a small part in allowing that one to come into being. As I remember it, they encored with "The Woodturner". There were some amusing technical problems, dealt with in a cheerful Smuggler-y sort of way, Will having to do his announcements through Rosie's violin pickup, Tom-the-cellist playing through a kids' beatboxing mic...