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The Paradox Twin

South Street Arts Centre, Reading
Thursday 20th June 2024

I can’t believe it was 2018 when I first encountered (and reviewed) the enthralling debut album, The Importance of Mr Bedlam. The scintillating fusion of intense musicianship with captivating storytelling creates an album that has the power to entice, fascinate and excite. Six years later, I find myself sitting (thank goodness!) in a delightful and intimate venue with an eager audience awaiting The Paradox Twin to take to the stage and perform it in its entirety.

Thankfully, the intervening years have done nothing to dull or blunt the inventive edge and poetic force of that original vision. If anything, tonight’s electrifying performance only serves to demonstrate just how far the music has evolved and matured. It expresses much deeper emotional resonances blended with an intense, carefully harnessed power that brings the album to life in ways I never thought possible.

In part, the key to it all is the addition of a visual layer to the storytelling, which begins well before the band takes the stage and remains a deft, permeating influence throughout every song. Immediately, our expectations are challenged, and our mindset is asked to make a fundamental shift. Usually, when the lights go down, we await the arrival of shadowy figures on the stage to whoops of anticipatory excitement. Not tonight.

The lights go down. A series of clips begin to play on the screen. The clips form into a sequence, which in turn forms into a connected narrative. It is a while before the band arrives, by which time our fascination with the story brings a curious expectation rather than fevered exhilaration. As they launch into The Mir, that effective reshaping of expectations begins to pay dividends, lasting the entire set.

The Paradox Twin at South Street Arts Centre, Reading

The synergy between the musicians is impressively tight. Not flashy. Not extravagant. Instead, we meet a band who are, to a person, supremely focused. Purposeful. Single-minded. Danny Sorrell is a man with singular intent, consumed with telling the story and expressing its intricate twists, turns and revelations.

I love a drummer having a good time and damn, Graham Brown is having a gooood time. Whatever world he’s living in as he plays, I sure as hell want some of that! Watch him long enough, feel his rhythms vibrate your bones and trust me, you will get the chance.

The Paradox Twin at South Street Arts Centre, Reading

Bassist Steve Mills, almost hidden to one side and rear of the main action, is laying down all manner of mesmerising bass lines with what looks like effortless aplomb but is, in fact, mind-blowingly accomplished and deliciously complex. He generates musical momentum, and his bass is the conductor for the rest of the band. John Mitchell oscillates between turns as lead and then rhythm/support guitar, coupled with supporting vocals: he is majestic, discerning, endowing every note and every moment with a profound sense of meaning and significance.

Sarah Bayley’s exquisite harmonies are perfect in their timing and alluring in the presence they create on the soundstage. She bestows an aching beauty on melodies and lyrics that speak of pain, love, and longing. I fancy her vocal prowess could have benefited from just a smidge more prominence in the mix, thereby providing greater authority and impact. But even without that, her interjections bring an impassioned resonance and heartfelt soul.

The Paradox Twin at South Street Arts Centre, Reading

By the time we breathlessly reach the end of Gravity Time Dilation, there has been almost minimal audience interaction. The music has done the talking. And what a consuming expression of musical brilliance and creativity it has been. Wow. I’ve spent the last two days looking at that album through different eyes.

We are afforded a ten-minute interval before the band returns for a shorter second set. Four songs from their second album, Silence from Signals, engage us with an intelligent mixture of transparent rawness, touching honesty, and emotional spontaneity that feels, at times, almost overwhelming.

There is little doubting the personal resonances which infuse the song selection. Danny alludes to the diagnosis of his eldest son with autism. The siren call “Come with me” from the excellent Prism Descent is an invitation to enter a world where the familiar is distinctly unfamiliar. The broken, staccato chords and the absolute precision of the band create a juddering, shuddering, disjointed feel; nothing makes sense.

Wake Vortex permits no let-up. Haunting lyrics performed with a strong vocal against a light guitar background is chilling. “A stranger in a world that’s passed me by”. Then Sarah’s poignant rejoinder comes to the rescue: “Open your mind, and wait, wait for me to come to your heart / Life is the light that hides in the shadows”. Goosebumps. But it is not over. The discordant power intrusion erupts, the band, as one, ruthlessly punching home chaotic, cacophonous noise.

The Paradox Twin at South Street Arts Centre, Reading

The Sea of Tranquility provides a welcome oasis from the emotional tsunami. Originally an older song, Danny transformed and revitalised it specifically for the second album. The music is stunningly beautiful. Everything about it exudes comfort, safety, and security; the gorgeous harmonies carry you away on a caressing melodic tide, gentle and nuanced: “I am meant to be.” You feel it. You believe it.

I Am Me, I Am Free brings the evening to an eye-opening climax and makes you appreciate precisely what lies in the engine room of tonight’s compelling and peerless performance. Bursts of unrestrained power assault the senses, provide a menacing steeliness to the lament: “All I wanted was not to be used/abused.” The iron fist in the melodically velvet glove. When all seems grim, Sarah provides the contrasting relief, luscious vocals smoothing the way and providing light in the maelstrom.

The Paradox Twin’s performance tonight is the complete package. Put simply, they rocked it out, not afraid to transition from seething crunch to delicate, airy harmonies and back again. That contrast, the stunning divergence, and variation provide the building blocks for what makes the performance so special. Everything is allowed to change, to have its moment, and then to move on. The seamless transitions deliver a tangible mood and atmosphere, born on the back of superbly integrated musicianship that is vibrant and riveting.

The Paradox Twin at South Street Arts Centre, Reading

Hearing it as a whole in this format, with this context delivers the musical vision which lies at the heart of what The Paradox Twin are doing. It has been a magnificent evening and an honour to have been there. A third album is in the pipeline; I can’t wait to see where the journey leads us next.

[Photographs by Rob Fisher]

The Importance of Mr Bedlam

The Mir
The Importance of Mr Bedlam
Gravity Time Dilation
~ Interval
Prism Descent
Wake Vortex
Sea of Tranquility
I Am Me. I Am Free

Sarah Bayley – Vocals
Graham Brown – Drums
Steve Mills – Bass
John Mitchell – Guitar
Danny Sorrell – Guitar, Keyboards, Programming, Vocals

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