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Somnambule - Writing About Music


17th March 2005, The Spitz

It’s portmanteau time at the Spitz this Thursday evening and my target is the third of four groups. I’ve been told that Moist will be starting at 9 - so prompt are they that I arrive at 9.02 and miss the first couple of minutes of their set. The group are a quartet, three short-to-no hairs and a saxophonist with a wavy mop who makes up for the rest of them quite nicely thank you. Pete Marsh is standing guard at an upright bass that looks skeletal enough to raise suspicions about whether he’s been feeding it properly. Contrary to expectation however he pulls a big sound from the instrument that’s muscular enough to make your trousers vibrate. Ralph Littlejohn sends out melodic lines like chinese streamers falling gracefully to earth on a hot, windless day (later a storm will whip those streamers into agitated frenzies). Simon Hopkins, who tonight appears to share the exact same frown as the new Doctor Who, shoves notes out from his guitar with a movement like a hockey stick urging the ball toward the enemy’s net. There’s a determined stringency to his playing that suggests he’s having trouble controlling a spirited djinn trapped in his guitar. Andy Cato seated at the rear is an equal partner in the enterprise, playing with and alongside, underlining and driving the others forward.

Initially the front line appears to comprise bass and sax in a two pronged attack with guitar and drums in supporting roles, however as the songcount mounts, it becomes clear that the group’s structure is mutable, sometimes it’s guitar and bass, sometimes guitar and sax, and so on. In the latter half of their forty minute set, they develop a dervish-like intensity which, married to a notable sense of honesty/lack of pretension, brings to mind Tarkovsky’s observation that “content and conscience must come before technique – for any artist in any form.” What’s clear throughout is that here are four people unafraid to be musical - there’s a remarkable degree of confidence to the ensemble sound and a pleasing willingness to steal the ball and run like fuck with it. Moist: ruminative and melodic, heavyweight, noisy and soulful.

Colin Buttimer
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