The Brackish at Fiddler's Elbow 2024 (TPA banner)

The Brackish / Sweetpool / Jon Hunt

Fiddler’s Elbow, Camden, London
Sunday, 16th June 2024

Many, many moons ago I wrote an appraisal of Jon Hunt’s compilation album Morning Sun, which I am well chuffed to discover is still being used on his advertising flyer. This likeable fella is infused with the English singer-songwriter tradition, and his intense, often psychedelic vignettes with their wry, observational lyrics shine a light on this odd thing called life, and the human condition, and how we cope with it.

Jon Hunt at Fiddler's Elbow 2024

Musically, much looping, and several effects pedals are used to create a many-layered but never overwhelming backing for Jon’s very human and involving songs. My favourite of this set was the heart-tugging My Circular Life, which sees the protagonist’s “heart ready to burst”. If memory serves, there was also a rather fabulous guitar break in it, too. Jon tells me that this one and set opener Somewhere Else are as yet unrecorded. Get to it, mate!

If any prog festival organisers are reading this, Jon would make for a great opening act on a Sunday morning, o yes!

Somewhere Else
Gorgeous On The Periphery
Emergency Call
My Circular Life

Jon Hunt – Vocals, Guitar, Pedalboard

LINKS: Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube


Sweetpool at Fiddler's Elbow 2024

Neu! vibes from Birmingham. Motorik drums pounding on the off beat, insistent. All as a starting point for an excursion into post-punky-prog-whatever. Fk, who cares what it is, it got me bouncing! It all locks together, tight as a nut. The highly disciplined motorik rhythm is a hard thing to get right and to keep right, despite sounding deceptively simple. Physically demanding for the drummer and the bass player, both of whom must have been somewhat knackered by the end of the set!

It’s a mix of influences, but isn’t everything? The Cure and Bauhaus are in there to these ancient ears. It’s funny how we hear things differently, as my companions heard The Fall a lot earlier than I did, and I was a big fan of that wilful band. I only heard it on the very last song Monsters, which to me is the obtuse Mancunians’ Container Drivers forced through an industrial metal press, with more than a hint of classic Hawkwind rifferama, speeded up to 100mph. The band describe themselves as a “psychedelic punk experience”, which definitely fits!

Singer/guitarist Nic Beales makes for a great focal point, with his warpaint and cowboy shirt, set off by his odd but cool looking guitar. I am told by an actual guitarist (rather than looking it up!) that it is a Yamaha Silent Guitar, or as my informant put it “…. it’s a big neck with clip on body bits. With the top half missing!” Apparently chosen and adapted that way, as Nic finds it easier to play than a conventional instrument, and not for its visual appeal, but boy does it look fabulous! Mind you, the drummer has coolest T-shirt of the day, advertising the wonderfully obscure Swell Maps. My companion and I exchanged knowing looks. 🙂

Sweetpool at Fiddler's Elbow 2024

The set drives along an imaginary autobahn with no speed limit, and my limbs flail about, hopefully in time with this irresistible beast of a thing! Until we get to the slower The Man In The Castle, a song which invokes mystery and desperation, “Looking down from my eyes, my place is not by your side”, and yet inevitably builds to and falls from a surging crescendo. After the aforementioned Monsters we head for the bar exhausted but happy!

In Winter
Here Are The Stones
Super Natural
May Not Be American
The Man In The Castle
The Fruits That Hang Just Out Of Reach
Back To The Factory

Nic Beale – Guitar, Vocals
Anthony Cook – Drums
Jason Holgate – Bass Guitar

LINKS: Website | Facebook | Bandcamp


The Brackish at Fiddler's Elbow 2024

Another locked groove with added gargantuan psychedelic waves crashing violently down on to a stony beach, drenching the visibly stunned hardy punters in huge washes of sound. Two guitars guardedly stare at each other through a wonky fairground mirror. The floor became unsolid such was the ensemble’s sheer volume. After that in-at-the-deep-end introduction to Brackishworld, we are informed by guitarist Neil Smith (stage left as we look) that the soon departing second excursion into the abyss does not have a title, although the hastily scribbled setlist I was given seems to think it’s called Dessert For Days. Apparently, this title is not fixed, and for what it’s worth I reckon it should be called Hammer & Anvil Blues. This second number was a brutal but slower, almost bluesy thing beckoning a Kraken from a swamp.

The Brackish at Fiddler's Elbow 2024

Once the body has adjusted to the sonic attack, the experience was akin to being shot out of a canon at the Sun. Other suitably excessive similes and metaphors are available. 🙂 By now the howling cacophony emanating from the embattled guitars was joined by bass player Jacob Myles Tyghe thrashing out chords on his instrument like his life depended on it, as drummer Matthew Jones, at times bearing an uncanny resemblance to Animal from The Muppets, manfully hammers out the rhythm. In contrast to Sweetpool, the audience is planted to the spot by the enormous weight of the sounds blasting off the stage, although swaying in the aural tornado was unavoidable.

Pinch & Roll has a Beefheartian/Pere Ubu vibe. All we need is the good Captain’s growl. An angular time signature sees Matthew and Jacob locked into a rhythm as alien crab-like creatures scuttle away on the sea floor. Hang on! This is Camden on a Sunday afternoon! What is going on here? My Human Gets Me Blues! Also, bulbous, and maybe a tad Crimsoid.

Brackish water is H2O in a transitional phase from fresh to saline, often found in swampy places, and it’s a good name for this singular band as they marry an improvisational Krautrock bent with those influences I’ve already mentioned into a mutant seafood platter that is ultimately satisfying.

Last choon Deliverance has a lolloping groove and lurches along, grinning malevolently. The rhythm tightens up as Neil whammy bars the protesting Kraken monster along the rock-strewn beach to its inevitable destiny. Descending into howling chaos the monster becomes a spaceship and takes off for the outer reaches. Neil and his oppo Luke Cawthra are now circling each other, phasers set to stun. What have we here? A drum solo? Well, I never! Short but sweet, they soon shoot off again to a place far away.

The Brackish at Fiddler's Elbow 2024

To use an appropriate football metaphor, as the imminent England game at Euro 24 was the reason for this early kick-off, the guitarists fought out an honourable, if exhausting 3-3 draw.

A well-earned encore sees these lads from Bristol mash it all up again. Just when you think you have them nailed, they take a sudden turn into another territory. Deceptively low key, J Und J sounds like it might explode at any second. It does, and then some, descending into a deep well where freaky nightmarish imaginings from the dark corners of the soul beg for forgiveness. This is the heaviest thing I have heard since the Pre-Cambrian age. Well, this year at any rate! As someone once said, “It’s so hot in here, what are they trying to hatch?”

Much merch was acquired, of all the acts. Jon Hunt I already knew about, but the two bands were new to me, and both are going to be on my listening agenda for some time, I think. A fine Sunday afternoon’s entertainment!

[Photos by Rosamund Tomlins]

Willox For A New Age
Dessert For Days (possibly!)
Pinch & Roll
Mr. Universe
~ Encore
J Und J

Neil Smith – Guitar
Luke Cawthra – Guitar
Jacob Myles Tyghe – Bass guitar
Matthew Jones – Drums

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