Monday, February 13, 2017

Syd Arthur

Syd Arthur

by Pete Clemons (another recent article earmarked for the Coventry Telegraph but unpublished by them)
syd Arthur

Not a Coventry band but one of Pete Clemon's many articles for the Coventry paper.

Having had a long day at work I felt lethargic. I knew that one of my favourite bands of the moment ‘Syd Arthur’ were playing in Birmingham but it was difficult to get myself going again on this dark and damp November evening.

But drag myself out of the house I did and off and set off for Mama Roux’s. This was a new venue to me situated in the network of narrow roads set within the Digbeth area and where the railway line network looms large overhead. The layout inside Mama Roux’s was particularly impressive.

By way of introduction Syd Arthur were named after a character of a book but the spelling was amended slightly so that it became a sort of nod towards Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee. They are also based in the Kent area of the UK where, historically, many a fine band has been produced.

Having said all that I wouldn’t even begin to compare Syd Arthur with any of those previously mentioned luminaries. This band is unique in that they have created and ploughed their own musical furrow.

Syd Arthur is made up of Liam Magill - guitar and vocals, Joel Magill – bass, Josh Magill – drums and Raven Bush – violin, keyboards and guitar. Previous drummer, Fred Rother who was present at my two previous Syd experiences, has sadly had to leave the band due to health issues relating to the ear.

A change of drummer, to most bands, would have been a big deal. But the beating heart of the Syd’s appearing to have adapted well. And, after all, the new drummer Josh is the brother to the bass player Joel.

The gig itself was a showcase for the bands wonderful new album ‘Apricity’ – the yearning for April – which was appropriate given how I felt earlier in the evening. They performed tracks such as ‘No Peace’, ‘Coal Mine’, ‘Portal’ and of course the album’s title track.

The Syd’s also find the time to delve back in time to their back catalogue by way of ‘Hometown Blues’, ‘Ode to the Summer’, ‘Autograph’ and many others.

Previous albums have seen Syd Arthur being completely self-produced. At their record labels suggestion ‘Apricity’ is the first album where the band have worked with a nominated producer.

It was a strange new experience for them. The whole thing was totally alien. But they were totally open to it and it seems to have paid off as Apricity has been a total success.

On almost every song the Syd’s get the opportunity to cut loose and display their dexterity of instrumentation. The rhythms being played are almost jazz like at times. Very free form, but all within a rock music framework.

On record the Syd’s sound composed and structured. No such thing in a live environment as they cut loose. One of the things I enjoy most about this band is that they do not perform their songs verbatim. There is certainly room for expression and improvisation. And that does indeed bring a smile to the face.

You get very little chat from the stage, the band preferring instead, to let their music do the talking for them. Liam Magill certainly comes across as a pleasant but modest front man. I did notice that Raven Bush flits constantly between guitar and keyboard occasionally appearing from beneath his huge mop of hair sporting a broad smile. And it was the kind of knowing smile that you only produce when you are on top of your game. Clearly the band was really enjoying things.

Like a breath of fresh air, Syd Arthur write elaborate tunes in a very unique style when viewed against what the mass market has to offer today. And from initially feeling lethargic at the beginning of the evening my spirits had certainly been lifted by the end of it.

By the end of it all I was so glad I made the effort to get to this gig.

The Syd’s music is incredibly refreshing. They band are tight, the sound they create is soulful and it is very swayable. Simply, they put in an absolutely tremendous shift this particular evening and I felt all the better for it.

Pete Clemons


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