Sea of Bees – Reviewed

Matt Longworth is all a-buzz about the recent Sea of Bees visit to Liverpool…

Ivan Campo seem to go unnoticed as they set up, unpretentiously fumbling with wires in the low light and swilling from their pints. Without commanding any attention, lead vocalist Adam Shaw casually sweeps back his hair and begins to sing, hands clasped. There is a gentle ease to the way Ivan Campo play. Their folk-acoustic sound crafted by Shaw on guitar, Will Rodgers, guitar/keyboard and Ben Atha on bass seems to float through the crowd as the trio harmonize over poignant lyrics.

Citing Hitchcock and Wes Anderson, Ivan Campo conjure up vivid images with their songs, which unfold like intricate stories. Finger-picked guitar rifts and piano melodies act as the stage for these tales to play out. Emphasized with simple percussion instruments that they flit between effortlessly, they are captivating. No two songs sound the same – Seamstress of Song is flamenco – tinged, while Bleakest of Darkness, has a dejected, Nick Drake quality to it, with a surprising emotional intensity.

Next, the GIT award nominated Stealing Sheep take to the stage; all big smiles, probably excited to be playing to some familiar faces. The Liverpool-based band have been supporting Sea of Bees on their UK tour, and Queen Bee Jules is stood waiting in anticipation. The gig has such a nice ambience to it: people casually mull around, perched on tables sipping their rums, enjoying the night. The gentle hum of conversation dies down as Stealing Sheep begin and the audience is blown away by their sound.

Rocking a distinctly folk-pop sound, combined with simple keyboard, sweet vocals and passionate harmonizing, they create distinct hypnotic noises. Though tempted to compare them to CocoRosie this feels a little lazy. However, as with CocoRosie, they have inexplicably beautiful, slightly slurred lyrics, and at times it almost sounds tribal. The heavy drum beat, the chant-like quality created by all three Sheep singing at once, speeding up to create intensity and then slowing down and lingering on notes throughout the track The Garden to a mesmerized audience.

“The evening has been like a river meandering through talent”

Steeling Sheep make their earthy sound seem effortless, as if they are organically creating the music on stage. Then all of a sudden they will do something in sync, a perfectly timed handclap for instance, and then it becomes clear, everything has been so well thought out.

The evening has been like a river meandering through talent. Sea of Bees saunter to the stage from their different places amongst the crowd, Jules wears a maroon sweater vest and an excited expression on her kind face. They start with a track off album Songs For The Ravens entitled Gnomes, and from the first note the band fill the surprisingly large room with warmth. And there seems a communal acceptance in the air that every member of the audience is clinging on to every syllable.

The song Wizbot is littered with well-crafted folk guitar riffs, which are accentuated by subtle piano playing and simple percussion, allowing ample room for the – extremely emotive – lyrics to take form. It is in the delivery of these lyrics that sets them apart from other artists of this ilk. Jules’ voice, childlike yet powerful is seemingly effortless, especially as she performs Strikefoot. Almost letting the words fall from her mouth, her melodies fill the room and find a way to resonate somewhere inside you. Jules sings with a unique subtlety, her voice isn’t needy or dejected – though at times her lyrics can be – instead she sings with a real honesty that is refreshing and whimsically adorable.

Sipping a mug of tea, which she confesses is full of whiskey, Jules brings a whole new meaning to John Denver’s Leaving On A Jet Plane, adding a poignant sense of dread at the prospect of losing someone that is missing from the original.

Sea of Bees finish their set with a standing ovation from the crowd, and in her sweetly casual style Jules exclaims “it felt good to be here, it really did,” she smiles before entering into a solo encore armed with just her voice and her acoustic guitar. She picks at her guitar strings and her face twists and contorts as she makes her beautifully alluring signature sounds.

Matt Longworth

Posted on 20/04/2012 by thedoublenegative