Serafina Steer, St Leonard’s Church, London

4.00

 

If ever an instrument comes loaded with preconceptions, it is the harp, yet Serafina Steer proves this stately instrument can play some unexpected roles, at various points tonight accompanied by a pounding house beat, treated guitar and - musical pun intended? – a Jew’s harp.

While Steer remains rooted to the spot for most of this one-off set, her musical kaleidoscope serves an even more vital function: augmenting flights of fancy that range from feminist sea shanty, though alien abduction to an uncomfortable jaunt down a nearby road. “I don’t hate Brick Lane,” she claims, introducing ‘Ballad Of Brick Lane’ which suggests just that. “This is meant to be all love and light, this gig.”

Yet running through the disparate subject matter and sonic landscapes of third album The Moths Are Real are dark hints at relationships gone wrong, something you get much less with established American harpist Joanna Newsom. Furthermore, the local player approaches the instrument more from a minimalist perspective than Newsom’s baroque folk. That was especially apparent on Steer’s first two albums, the second of which, Change Is Good, Change Is Good, was praised by Jarvis Cocker as “my favourite record of 2010”, leading him to produce this year’s follow-up.

Its more ambitious chamber pop nature, while still intimate, is evinced by this showcase in a church where some recording took place. Steer fits in comfortably, her arpeggios and cut-glass accent’s perfect diction cutting through its woolly acoustics. On more fabular songs she is reminiscent of Vashti Bunyan, though with additional cutting asides. Steer lacks vocal variation, concentrating on the possibilities of her chosen instrument, as she ranges from rolling near-glissandos to delicate lacework.

Notes cascading like a babbling brook sound especially bright counterpointed with a string quartet’s warmer tones and also complement collaborator Kristian Robinson’s Radiophonic synths and drum machine. Other guests pop up in odd corners, leaving Steer looking distracted. Dave Maric’s church organ lights up the acerbic ‘Removal Man’ with Cocker’s head bobbing behind a speaker as he provides lugubrious backing vocals.

That tune starts a fine triptych completed by the Dorothy Ashby-style psychedelic funk of ‘Island Odessy’ (sic) and the eccentric, loungey strut of ‘Night Before Mutiny’, aided by Pulp’s bassist Steve Mackay with Cocker on wind machine. At the end, Steer proves she can cope without an extended cast on the clanking ‘How To Haunt A House Party’, having shown the harp can mingle freely.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before