Balloon Ascents + Duotone @ The Bullingdon, Friday 23rd January 2015
A duo tone, and a balloon ascent, both point to a shape or colour. Musically the monikers Duotone and Balloon Ascents seem equally sharing of colour and shape, as Barney Morse-Brown and the fast rising, late teens indie starlets prove on this double bill from Tigmus promotions.
usually a one-man band, evade soulless pomp and on his first track
lifted from 2012's "Ropes", the chirpy cello opener "Walking To The Shore". Barney beckons in well-orchestrated loops and exact delivery of
his vocals in the manner of the record, but with a sense of place that
is warming in the newly-refurbished confines of The Bullingdon. Speaking
to the music promoter in the intermission, there seems wanting to put
the previously pretense-heavy screen of the "Art Bar" name-change intent
aside and make the bullingdon THE venue for live music in Oxford. With a
start to the show like this from Tigmus, Barney at least hits his
stride with the lilting loveliness of "Little White Caravan", one of Nightshift's tracks of 2015 so far. Peppered with two standouts from his
first album "Work Harder..." - "Greetings Hello" and "You Don't Need Church", the result of the crowd's salute to Duotone tonght is shaping
and colouring of ambient pop, in the eyes of one mass that doesn't need
religiousity to power its group function.
And what a group function Balloon Ascents are in a longer linger around the clouds of shoegazey, dub-inflected indie that post-rock
left behind. Subconsciously seeming to owe much bassline-wise to King Tubby, the wandering waltzes never meander in their own shadow, or fall
over from friction between instrumentalists. The players all appear to
be doing their job with a smile and this energy translates to the crowd. This is Balloon Ascents single ep launch since their Nightshift cover
in September and the four tracks are "Cutout" and glued into the narrative tonight. Starting with that lead, then working systematically through to my personal highlight, "The Only One", for once a short, sharp shock of a 2-3 minute length works less well for the band, as they stretch their sonic intent further than the clandestine Radiohead influence. So while post-rock has been flipped out of the fold in terms of its peak/trough nature, the progressive nature of Balloon Ascents tracks
remains a strong connector that pushes their work further than genre limitations allow. This makes it sound fresh and exciting, for one, and also in terms of a live experience, they inject more welly into what may come to them by way of wonder. And wonder, duos of tones and shape and colour is certainly what their set is full of this evening.