Ambience Affair at Bello Bar – Review
Having bolstered their ranks in early 2014 with the addition of guitarist Conor Deasy, Ambience Affair return as a four piece to celebrate new single, ‘Prophet’, their first release since the critically acclaimed 2011 debut, Burials. Tonight, inside the intimate surrounds of Dublin’s Bello Bar, we get a taste of what to expect from their sophomore long player, expected later this year.
Popping my cherry seeing the band live and based on what I’d seen and heard, I was expecting to see the acoustic guitar strapped round singer Jamie Clarke, but he’s done a Dylan for now and ditched it in favour of a black Telecaster. On set opener, ‘Shards of Time’, he interplays with the icy picks emanating from Deasy’s Strat, immediately throwing up a Television-esque dynamic, which sounds much different from anything the band have done before. Singer Clarke also benefits from Deasy’s presence vocally as gorgeous harmonies close out ‘Clarity Appears’. New single ‘Prophet’ is perhaps the most orthodox song with its 4/4 beat, but most of Ambience Affair’s material is a wonderful smorgasbord of unusual time signatures, tempo/key changes, refrains, codas and outros that touch on post-rock. What strikes me, especially on songs like ‘Sale of Lakes’, is that a lot of the songs end abruptly just as they hit stride. Clarke and co have built so much space into each song, that they could go off on any number of tangents and you feel there would still be plenty of life left. This humble writer was getting happily soaked in each song when someone pulled the plug in the bath. Or something like that. Clarke’s raspy vocal conveys genuine emotion, which clearly resonates with the crowd, as the room hushes when he sings ‘Deep Blue Sea’ unaccompanied, which along with old favourite, ‘Fragile Things’, is one of the few occasions that he plays acoustic guitar. ‘Veracity’ closes out the night, beginning with a gentle piano loop and building to crescendo without cliché or grandeur, which Ambience Affair can pull off because of the honesty of the lyrics, encapsulated by Clarke’s raw delivery. Throughout, the rhythm section of Marc Gallagher and Yvonne Ryan are quietly impressive, Gallagher’s tribal percussion adding an edge to the material that many of their local contemporaries lack.
I was expecting, dare I say, generic, acoustic folk rock from Ambience Affair tonight, but this new material displays greater scope and ambition and hints at a more layered, intricate, perhaps even noisier direction. More Mercury Rev than Mumford, it will be interesting to see where they take their sound over the next 18 months. Their second as yet untitled album drops sometime later this year.
Review by Keith McGouran