One More Grain, Madame JoJo's, London

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The Independent Culture

Dour is being given a new definition in Soho tonight. That adjective is regularly used to describe a particular brand of northern stoicism, but in a part of London known for strip joints and gay bars, Daniel Patrick Quinn is pushing its remit to new limits.

"Ah didn't think that would go down well," he shrugs after the challenging number "Northern", a downbeat excursion that takes in sights from Cumbria to the Scottish borders, so precise it will have the psychogeography community reaching for Ordnance Survey maps.

Despite audible chit-chat over the top, you still suspect One More Grain's frontman of false modesty, for his band are pursuing a singular vision that ought to earn them a fanatical fanbase happy to tread such remote footsteps.

Having established himself as a solo artist in Scotland, Quinn formed this five-piece in London and emerged last year with a limited-release debut album, Pigeon English.

It is Isle of Grain, though, due out at the end of this month, that ought to furnish them with greater recognition, as the group devise more engrossing arrangements to accompany Quinn's musings. Rather than sing, Quinn declaims his street-poet lines over a trumpet-led accompaniment in a broad Lancashire accent.

With flat vowels and dry intonation, the vocalist occupies ground somewhere between punk versifier John Cooper Clarke and Mark E Smith, though without the former's paranoid edge or The Fall mainman's scabrous intensity. Instead, he comes across as tinder-dry, albeit with a questing mind. As you might expect from a northern lad based in London, alienation remains ever-present, though with a distinct optimistic note as he daydreams of moving on in "A Town Is What You Make It". He has also developed a disconcerting habit of breaking into brief snatches of song, tentatively at first, but then with great effect on the exuberant "Having a Ball".

Backed by rhythms that bring to mind Can's dense improvisations and the Afro-punk of Talking Heads, One More Grain also remind us that post-punk is not just about choppy guitars over disco beats.

Another avenue, rarely pursued nowadays, is the collision of punk ideology and jazz stylings, usually through the medium of brass, as originally expounded by James Chance, Tuxedomoon and obscure English eccentrics Blurt.

The woozy "Northern" suggests Robert Wyatt's eerie lounge music, while the effects Andrew Blick applies to his trumpet help it sound like a brass section and suggest common ground with the rock dynamics on the contemporary jazz scene provided by Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear.

It is a beguiling mix of ideas, hidebound only by Quinn's determined lack of mystique. One More Grain aren't as cute as the latest exciting US exports Vampire Weekend, with whom they share parallels, but you can imagine if this lot came from New York by now they would have earned a ticker tape parade.

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