MUSIC / Source of disagreement: Glory Box, Purcell Room

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The Independent Culture
'A treasure chest of delights . . . far more than mood music,' was what it said on the publicity. Glory Box are a music ensemble - singer Sara Parry, pianist Matthew Juckes and singer / composer Warwick Blair - who specialise in a kind of 'crossover' approach that owes something to minimalism, something to the singer / songwriter pop tradition and something to the radical experimental tradition of post-war classical music. They also purvey a nice line in poetic- sounding publicity, of a sort that immediately makes one wonder if the live experience will measure up to the hype.

Given the non-appearance of the advertised sitar player (due to ill-health) at their Purcell Room concert last week, Glory Box had to do without their 'sitar introduction', and started things off with a piece unashamedly based around a fragment from a Debussy piano prelude. Along with various bass drones and folksy vocals from Sara Parry (strangely reminiscent of Pentangle - remember them?) the effect was atmospheric, if static.

The next number (all the pieces were anonymous, in the absence of a programme) introduced vocals by Warwick Blair, and seemed to have something to do with a Debussy quartet. As one slow, atmospheric piece was followed by another, one began to long for an injection of rhythmic energy or even aggression.

There were a number of very attractive moments - sounds from inside the piano, including a sort of instant prepared- piano effect with assistants leaning under the piano lid administering to the strings, or the number with what sounded like a ukulele accompaniment, very much a la George Formby, not to mention the outrageous transformation of Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante Defunte into a schmaltzy ballad. Tape backgrounds showed a pleasingly subtle gradual transformation of material - this was by no means the kind of simplistic repetition that renders some 'systems' music so utterly maddening. There was a certain engaging informality about proceedings - this was the first time I've ever seen a performer at the Purcell Room retire to the back of the stage for a quick ciggy]

Given an obvious musical inventiveness, an ability to draw on so many rich sources and a clear intention to create something distinctive and refreshing, this should have been a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Somehow it didn't quite make it.

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