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The Beep Seals / Congregation / The See See / Pete Greenwood – The Spitz , 14th April 2007

Blossom is weighting the trees in the park. The air is unseasonably balmy. We have cast a clout before May is out! It must be time for a Spring Gathering. Time to fling on your tunic dress and/or comb your beard and hasten to The (poor beleagured, threatened by capitalist pig dogs) Spitz for a night of psych-ish, folk-ish, blues-ish Spring-tyde celebration courtesy of Graceless Lady, the evening's organiser.

To begin we have the folk-ish, blues-ish Nick Drake-tinged acoustical guitar pluckings of Pete Greenwood. Mighty fine stuff it is too, though the sound is damned by Spitz Babble Syndrome - a common problem here, where the cacophony of people wittering at the bar crashes in irksome waves over the music emanating from the stage. Still, Pete attacks those strings with gusto, thrumming and striking them 'til you fear they'll snap beneath his merciless fingers. “When the going gets weird the weird turn pro” he sings on the brilliant ‘Bats Over Barstow’ (spot the Hunter S. references), which circles and swells like breathing. Greenwood’s mellifluous guitar picking tumbles out like it’s the easiest thing in the world to create songs of fluid beauty, edge them with darkness and send them skating through the heavy chatter-laden air. If you have functioning ears on your head, let those songs command your undivided attention.

Bats over Greenwood
The See See

Next, our main reason for being here: The See See. This is Richard ex-Eighteenth Day of May's new gang, all looking pretty cool in a scuffed, ramshackle troubadour kind of way. They include the aforementioned Pete Greenwood weaving in pedal-addled guitar and Ben Swank working his usual wonders (and possibly winging it in places judging by the grins) behind the drums. As we are still mourning The May, it's comforting to hear the ghost of their sound being carried forth here, especially in the first song, a drone-folk wonder that rises from the stage and curls around our ankles.

There are a couple of roughed up country-folk tunes, as Richard points out this is the band that's "Taking the 'o' out of 'country'", ho ho. The sleepy-eyed ‘Late Morning Light’ with its shining furze of circling guitar sounds loops lazily through the air. ‘All Too Tired’ is a bluseily hiccupping stompy end number. It's early daze yet, and a short set, but I don't want these songs to just vanish into the smoky Spitz night, I want them in my grasp. Roll on The See See recording sessions.
Congregation Victoria Yeulet is the kind of girl who you see at gigs and happenings off and on down the years and you wonder about her because she always dresses in an immaculately off-kilter, out of time way. Recently she's been seen lending vocal charm and a ladylike calm to The Television Personalities' often chaotic proceedings. Tonight she's dressed in a black lace tea dress and is one half of Congregation, a spare, but never sparse set up with Victoria on vocals and ankle bells (adding an eerie fragility to the sound as her foot stamps time) and Benjamin Prosser on slide guitar and kick drum. With the TVPs, Victoria has a small voice, nudging in and around Dan Treacy's expulsions, with Congregation she has a BIG voice that glidingly wails the heaviest blues.
It's utterly captivating and truly powerful, vocals delivered with a hand on the hip literally and metaphorically. One song is introduced as being about "boys you think are clever, but turn out to be stupid and boring". I catch odd lines, and am intrigued, straining my ears to make out the words. "If you want my love step up to the light / come on baby let me test your might". The songs are like rain lashing down window panes, annotated by heart-beat thumps of the kick-drum. The guitar crawls and slithers around the voice, and sounds like deep, wet mud. It's an intense, concentrated sound that narrows your focus right in until all it contains is these two people and the startling sound they're making. Or at least it should do if you're paying attention. Towards the end of the set, the Spitz Babble Syndrome gets too much for Benjamin and he snaps angrily at the crowd of bar-side bletherers. They sneer back. Their loss.
Finally, from Congregation's selectively chosen palette of sounds to The Beep Seals multi-hued rush of psych pop babble. The Beep Seals display an Elephant 6 style love of child-like melodies and delightful harmonies, creating simple skewed English pop delights like The Beatles of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. ‘She Sells Seashells’ is plinky piano chords and a jolly swayalong tempo. Single ‘Tell Your Friends’ has nervy verses with a Kinksy marching beat, choppy guitars and swirling keyboards that burst into rays of sunshine for the harmonious chorus. The best tune tonight, though, is an effervescent cover of ‘Jumping Fences’ by E6 miracle-workers The Olivia Tremor Control, closely followed by The Beep Seals own sparkling ‘Stars’. To end, there’s ‘I Used To Work At The Zoo’ that rides in on a ferociously fanged grunting Sabbath riff before giving way to twinkling harmonies. Song and set crash to an end on monstrous growls of guitar, cheekily executed top riff wankery and the wearing of Native American head-dresses. A fine way to welcome in the Spring. Beep
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