Free Folk in Brexit Britain with The Dead Rat Orchestra, Sutari & The Dyr Sister – 10/07/18 – Review

What an evening! A triple bill of alternative folk music to enjoy.

The Dyr Sister (aka Sally Currie) opened this triple bill with her techno-folk numbers. First surprise was that she plays a viola instead of the usual folk fiddle and has a voice reminiscent of Kate Bush. She incorporated an eclectic mix of looped and sampled sounds into her music which gave it a very distinctive sound. The highlight of the set for me was her second number “The Geography of Rivers” which evoked the sounds of Tibet and China by using samples of Tibetan bells. The lighting effects designed by Anthony Dowler added to the overall atmosphere. Her enthusiasm was clear to see in this performance but I longed for more tempo and rhythmic variety.

The Dead Rat Orchestra surprised us by starting from the back of the auditorium with a rhythmic, percussive number using just drums. The bodrun player was particularly flamboyant and the walls were lit up with stars. The range of instruments used by this ensemble was amazing! It included banjo, violin, bullroarer, ukulele, and other non-musical artefacts. They had a variety of songs; some accompanied, some a cappella and some using looped sounds like “The Trouble is….”. Overall this was a spirited and very well-received performance with genuine surround sound as the players moved around the audience. The final number, performed at the side, involved a tree trunk, knives and choppers and was an original and enjoyable end to their set.

The final act was Sutari a trio of Polish women. Their set began with a haunting number consisting of vocal sounds, violins, laughter and the sounds of water from water in a bowl. Again this group built up layers of sound to brilliant effect. There was beautiful singing, close harmony and polyphonic textures. Two of the performers played violins whilst the third played a 5 string instrument, called a basetla, which was a mixture between a bass viol and a string bass. This had been made especially for her. The performance also included an interesting array of other objects; goblets of water, and, in one number, household appliances – an electric mixer, a grater and a chopper which all combined to create the atmosphere of a kitchen. One particularly interesting number was about trying on a wedding dress which included chattering incorporated into the singing and rhythmic drumming. Sutari are all highly accomplished musicians who were a fitting highlight and ending to an entertaining and stimulating evening.

Wendy Hildreth

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