cold nights, warm sounds

It’s been a folkier-than-usual week for me. On Tuesday night I went to see Anaïs Mitchell perform her Hadestown album at Union Chapel. I adore the album but had mixed feelings about the gig.

And last night I went to the tiny Green Note Café in Camden to see The Magic Lantern, supported by Mariner’s Children. The Green Note is all you would expect or want from a folk venue. Vegetarian food, organic lager and chai lattes at the bar, high quotient of waistcoats and facial hair. The music happens in a back room, so illogically configured that in order to enter, leave or go to the toilet the customers and staff have to actually walk between the musicians (the frontman of Mariner’s Children was complaining about having once been upstaged by a chocolate soufflé).

The Magic Lantern are a wonderful little band whom I discovered through their clarinet player Dave Shulman (who played on my EP). For a group who have yet to release an album, their sound is wonderfully complete: the line-up of vocals, guitar, percussion, clarinet and cello gives them a chamber-music spareness but also a real warmth of texture. Their songs are sometimes very straightforwardly melodic (like the track below) and sometimes have the looseness of jazz or the rhythmic intricacy of afrobeat (they are associated with the F-IRE collective). In frontman Jamie Doe they have a voice that communicates, that takes you by the shoulders and unpreciously, unaffectedly tells you about it. His style as a frontman is similarly straightforward: it felt almost as though he was presenting slides rather than introducing songs.

They’re back at the Green Note in February and March.

(photos above by James Randell)

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