Review Black Angels: Manchester Collective & Harrga, Strange Brew, Bristol by James Ellis 

Photo credit: Chris Payne 
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

After their Bag of Bones delight, the Manchester Collective are unstoppable in their scope and creativity. In tours all around the UK, it would be a delightfully morbid night in Bristol at Strange Brew that they offered up another stellar concert.

As if were weren’t treated enough we had a warm up act that of Harrga. Dali se Saint Paul and Miguel Prado remain a fascinating duo. Sat in the front row, their sonic offering was not blazing loud, more a sort of political upset in sound, It worked well, Dali appearing more busy in their vocal work, though Miguel helped create the crumbling, formulated noise. Dali has a resounding voice, proven in little moments of opera and French, there is a pressure in the work as if we are hearing a manifesto or a protest of some kind. My plus one had seen them before and spoke well. They were a fine addition prior to the Collective’s feature event. 

Starting off with Carrot Revolution by Gabriella Smith, the piece could only be described as The Straight Story on acid. It remained quite thrilling, it’s country vibe brought smiles and head bopping jerks. The String Quartet No. 2 from Edmund Finnis was next and had a soft, sensuality to it, the string quartet much more subdued in moments in the mostly enticing thing. Moor Mother’s DREAM CULTURE had a volcanic presence to it, a strange urban fiver permeated the work and proves the value of the composer in perhaps soundtrack form. It deserves more listening time (we got to digest it before an interval) and also the collaboration with Harrga proves elaborate more tingly music making.   

Respite would heard the second movement of Schubert’s 14th String Quartet, better known as ‘Death and the Maiden’. It has to be said that this was performed exceptionally well. The kinetic energy between the four players. It was as if the work has never been done before, their emotive grip never wained the tenderness and passion abound forever. With no pause, they burst into the main event: George Crumb’s Black Angels. Here everything came into its own from the recently departed American composer in his best known piece. There is everything in this: shouting, glasses filled with water, German, thimbles, tam-tams and more delights. A fairly dense offering, the Collective made it all their own, the sheet music massively presented in front of them. Even the Schubert we just heard is quoted, touching moments unfurl with a mock viol-consort sees them play high on their instruments. I found the water glass moments incredibly moving. 

I’m already thinking of their new event: Rosewood with guitarist Sean Shibe featuring John Cage, Julius Eastman and new work as well. I can’t believe my luck! 

Black Angels continues on tour to London

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