Skip to main content

Tag: YES

Review: MorMor at YES

Last week in the basement room at YES, MorMor played his first show in Manchester, and proved that he is an artist of breath-taking versatility and control.

Toronto musician Seth Nyquist, aka MorMor, is something of an enigma. An enigma whose music some reputable sources have labelled “psychedelic indie-pop”. I have no idea how MorMor might feel about that categorisation, because I didn’t get a chance to ask him after the show, and even if I did have the chance I think there’s other things I would rather pick his brains about. Personally I’m not so sure there’s any mishmash genre bracket that can really contain him: his music straddles genres and styles effortlessly, often within the space of a song. One thing is certain though: last week he played a set that was so eclectic, so present and full of feeling –  that it felt like something of a revelation.

For some reason, I and most of the people I know seem to be completely unable to arrive in time to see support artists. I’m not sure what the reasons for this are, but seeing acts like Duendita make me fear that we might have been missing out on a whole lot. Duendita’s music is really one-of-a-kind; filled with tender moments of warmth and genuine feeling. Her deep and jazzy range was textured with a voice that felt somehow joyous and melancholy at the same time. In fact it felt like a lot of things all at once. Duendita used a small vocoder to explode the boundaries that should normally contain the human voice.  In the course of one song “baby-food”, her singing evolved from a bass-coated baritone to a rapidly clipped falsetto that made it sound as if she was being recorded through the engine of a 747 – it actually sounded great I promise. The other band members both blended seamlessly into the mix, providing off-kilter drum patterns and atmospheric synth melodies to accompany Duendita at the centre of it all – an artist totally and gleefully her own.

Then came the break in between, and a moment to savour one of YES’s £2.95 pints (a beverage sensation more than deserving of its own review). MorMor’s band came on stage and started easing in to the first bars of the shimmering, airy “Whatever Comes to Mind”: one of the tracks on his debut E.P Heaven’s Only Wishful, released just last summer. The man himself was nowhere to be seen. But then, just as a cry of “MorMor!” left the lips of a trim-bearded punter, a door opened behind the keyboardist, and Nyquist quietly and confidently made his way to the microphone.

Over the mid-tempo drums, languidly strummed guitar and floating synth chords of “Whatever Comes to Mind” his voice roamed free; delivering smoothly sung-spoke lines which then blossomed into a falsetto somewhere between a whisper and a yell. In person Nyquist’s singing is just as effortlessly expressive as it sounds on headphones, and it was a real thrill to watch him unleash every word in an intimate venue which meant that we were only ever a few metres away. Even without the subtle support of layered vocals, his voice more than had the strength to carry it all.

In the middle of his set MorMor dropped “Lost”; a track that combines massive, droning synth chords and the clatter of a drum-machine to propel crisp, clean vocals. This landed extremely well in the cosy confines of the basement and was a perfect display of the tightly controlled vision Nyquist is able to exercise.  He writes, records and produces practically everything you hear in his songs, and this allows him to craft music in which absolutely nothing is wasted, or even expendable. His stage presence was quietly focused throughout; determined to nail every vocal melody and every guitar part, and achieving this with calm style. There was no sense of aloofness in all this though, he seemed to enjoy himself and thanked us all for coming out to his first ever show in Manchester. He’s a pretty likeable guy really.

What became clear to me, on an almost physical level, is that this music is totally steered by emotion, and that’s a great thing. As a songwriter he has the appealing ability to feel a melody rather than think it: to sometimes let it speak more clearly than words. Very often, he manages to capture a feeling, or even a tangled mess of them, and distil it in one crystalline hook. The coda of “Heaven’s Only Wishful” is one of these such moments, and made a perfect finisher for the set that left the crowd in a satisfied daze. I won’t try and crudely recreate that experience for you here, instead I would urge you to go and listen to it and experience it for yourself.

All in all, MorMor’s set was a powerful statement of his abilities as an artist. It was a performance that seemed to vibrate with the bittersweet sensations of being alive, and with a new E.P on the way this year, it seems that he’s only just getting started.

Review by John Bodyy

Live Review: Adrianne Lenker at YES

Now Wave’s YES is fast becoming a firm favourite of Manchester’s music goers, and with good reason. Their roster of touring artists is consistently impressive, YES’ basement and Pink Room are both lend themselves well to electronic and instrumental-led acts respectively, and at £2.95 a pint I have nothing but good things to say about the venue’s bar setup. The Pink Room’s small size and mid-range capacity makes for a reliable up-close and personal gig experience, its marshmallow walls pressing the crowd face-to-face with the artists. Last month Fuse had the pleasure of enjoying Snail Mail’s somewhat hard-fought performance there (Lead singer Lindsey Jordan’s voice had begun to suffer during her long UK tour), and this week we were only happy to return for an act beloved by many in our esteemed upper echelons; Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief fame.

Lenker is no stranger to Manchester from her tours with bandmates Buck Meek, Max Oleartchik and James Krivchenia, but this was her first time taking on the city alone. Though most well-known through Big Thief, Adrianne has an impressive backlog of solo albums, dating back to 2014’s Hours Were the Birds, a youthful, soft-tempered bildungsroman of earnest vocals and upbeat pace. Next came a-sides/b-sides, written and recorded over two days in New York with bandmate Meek on guitar. For her January YES gig, however, Lenker was firmly focussed on her newest offering, 2018’s abysskiss, a brooding, rain-soaked hearth of an album with a few powerful tracks and a smattering of experimental embers attached.

Lenker, it would seem, can tell where the strength of the album lies and where it sags. After a brief struggle with a guitar lead and a quiet hello to the already-enamoured crowd, Lenker went straight into the stronger tracks of abysskiss, rattling off Symbol with percussive bombast, before sinking through the meat of Womb, From and Terminal, all lyrically interesting and well-worked songs in their own right. Terminal especially enraptured the audience, its spellbinding refrains lifting the room each time Lenker swooped into them. abysskiss doesn’t lend itself to crowd participation, instead it is anthemic in a quiet sense, and Lenker’s performance lulled the crowd into an intense emotional stream, punctuated only by brief words of thanks. A grateful performer, but not a talkative one, her presence felt ethereal and fleeting.

One wonders whether she is conscious in keeping a distance from the audience, an air of otherness that allows her to reveal her vulnerabilities in song rather than in conversation, bleeding them for all of their emotional content rather than giving them context. Still Lenker’s reticence was equalled only by the admiration she was met with, a few bold onlookers braving a shout to her between in moments of quiet between songs, all in praise, of course, and gratefully accepted. Playing on her 13-year-old acoustic guitar, missing a front tooth and with one rogue lock of hair caught in her mouth, Lenker seems either wonderfully real or an expert at curating an amicable image. Regardless, her music is phenomenal, and her performance was pitch-perfect. With a voice more beloved for its fragile straining than for its power (though there’s plenty there), Lenker never sounded like a live-album. Each song felt like it was being performed for the first time, and some of them were.

After pulling out some old favourites, Kerina, Hours Were the Birds and Big Thief’s Lorraine, she quietly debuted some brand new material. The experimental sensibilities of abysskiss already seem to have provided some growth to Lenker’s ever-dynamic songwriting, and her new efforts ring somewhat stronger than her most recent release. The (working title) Pizzeria Gusto certainly inspired confidence for a future album, more nuanced than Hours Were the Birds early tracks but less overtly melodramatic than a-sides/b-sides safer pieces, and altogether more listenable than some of abysskiss’ misfires. Out of your mind is one such misfire, but Lenker gave it a hero’s burial at YES, receiving hoots of applause for managing to break its high notes perfectly despite an up-pitched start.

Though her interaction with the audience was limited, sometimes to the point that it felt like I was simply waiting for the next song to begin rather than for any kind of artist-audience connection, Lenker remains an inspiring figure and a masterful storyteller. Her performance was less like a modern solo artist and more like an old session player, setting herself down, weaving her warm-hearted stories and eventually leaving with a grateful smile and a “thanks y’all”. I was left wanting more, and wishing I could have a chat with her and pick her brains to see how much of her reticence was real and how much was just for show.

The former of my wishes, thankfully, has an optimistic trajectory, promised by the gripping new track that Lenker dropped for her second encore piece, untitled for now. As for the latter, Big Thief are returning in May for their 2019 European Tour, and this time there’s no PR manager that can stand in my way when it comes to securing an interview.

Watch out Lenker. Fuse is coming for you.


Review by Jacob Thompson