(Photo credit – Jessica Holt)
After long last, I have finally been impressed by a musical release by a band from the British and Irish Institute of Modern Music! Too often am I exposed to acts trying to capitalise from the success of their influences in shameless tributes to Mancunian indie legends and pointless imitation of other existing acts – a trend which leaves me horrifically bitter and in a seemingly endless pursuit of something original and interesting. Despite relentless flattering towards this band, I felt as a cow might as she awaits the final bolt in the head until the moment this glorious act eased forwards with majesty and grace to release me from the confounds of my miserable existence. At long last, I’m faced with something with heart, variety and imagination and I am all the overjoyed for it.
Gathering of strangers are difficult to characterise, drawing influence from a seemingly endless source and including a glorious contribution from a wide range of instrumentation and effects, my personal favourite addition being the versatile and often bold input from keyboardist, Callum Witts. The instrumental composition never falls below a very high bar throughout the entire EP, with everything working within its rhythmical and tonal range to truly optimise the ability of every musician whilst providing relevant atmosphere and space to truly support the heartfelt and emotionally devastating voice of frontman, Conor Rabone.
The contrast in tones between tracks shows a wonderful appreciation and respect for dynamics and the most evident display of this exists in the bass guitar in opening track Something in the Water where the tone varies between a heavily driven and punchy tone and a balanced and spaceful tone which works into a slightly overdriven voice towards the end of the song, this working in tandem with the wonderfully creative guitar work and brazen sound of the keys combines to create a truly wonderful dynamic and remarkable climax to a truly epic track.
(Live photo from Gathering of Strangers Facebook page)
Criticisms are difficult to find with this EP, with most aspects working far above the level I would expect from this scale. The most outstanding negative point I can make being in regards to the use of harmonica in War and how I feel it seems out of place with the tone of the song, I understand this may be an artistic decision, but I find it too distracting from the rest of the song and feel it draws too far in timbre from the rest of the EP – this issue with timbre also extends towards the keyboard in the earlier sections of the same track to a smaller extent, though this is easily redeemed by the beautifully smooth and tasteful use of keyboard in the following track, Lies. Another aspect I would like to hear is a more extensive use of a darker bass tone in some of the more haunting sections to help capture a more emotionally desolate feel which may better accommodate the deep and profound vocal style of Rabone.
The EP is very well balanced and versatile and the structure of the tracks is absolutely flawless. Though lacking in structural complexity, there exists an incredible flow between every track and this flow which extends to the entire compilation of tracks. The songs scream from a personal part of your own buried past and lead you through events long forgotten through use of such personable and relatable lyrics and the use of atmosphere truly benefits this experience. There is so much to appreciate about this musical release and the reputation the band has amongst the few I respect indicates a body of work which could appeal to anybody.
Flights of fancy aren’t in my style when discussing music and I’m never one to over-compliment something, but Gathering of Strangers demonstrate a level of musical mastery which should serve an inspiration to other fledgling bands. The band show true vision, creativity and professionalism and deserve the utmost of respect and admiration and I feel we all owe it to ourselves and the smaller-scale music scene to support this incredible act and help launch them into the success they clearly deserve. If ever there was a time to care for a score let it be now: the EP scores five stars, 10/10, 176 golden cocks out of 176 golden cocks – I don’t care, just listen to it!