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David Moss David Moss
Album: The Clinging Tree
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 15

Readers with long-ish memories may remember (with much affection!) the brilliant trio Banoffi, which was based in the Glaisdale (near Whitby, North Yorkshire) area for a good part of a decade (treading the boards for its final gig in August 2002).The band's front-man was the eternally youthful multi-instrumentalist, singer and song/tunesmith David Moss. Since the break-up of the band, David's relocated to Trowbridge, and now (with Masha Kastner) performs in the duo Lightgarden. But this new solo release is something more directly personal - a revisit of a bunch of tunes which he'd written in the early 90s during the process of "feverishly discovering, digesting and devouring tunes in the many Irish sessions in the north of England". As luck would have it, David had "had the presence of mind to record them on a cassette, which then vanished and lay forgotten about until it turned up during a house move over 20 years later"! Such are the vagaries of life… And so these tunes have now been re-recorded by David, with cognisance of all the water that's flown under the bridge in the intervening years.

In these simply configured tunes it's possible to hear prefigurings of, or embryonic studies/essays for, stylistic experiments that were such a feature of his work with Banoffi, all played with a stylish natural energy. So there's Irish jiggery, sure, as on the track 2 set, but then the identically-metred track 3 set has an almost baroque feel and the melodies of Rats In The Corn/Diarmuid Deeney enjoy some delectable twists and turns (and are dispatched with a devilish Paganini-esque elan!). The Emma At The Door set is a welcoming old-timey fiddle-and-mandola reel, whereas an exercise in nonchalantly quirky jazz syncopation (Tom Heyes) is nonetheless a strong contender too, evidence of a direction that David's subsequent music hadn't pursued. The title track is a kind of English pastoral, while End Of The Dale and Jackie Murray's are contrasting, wistful exercises in elegant folk-baroque which, together with Bev's Bourée, The Smile Of A Beautiful Girl and The Beautiful Sisters, possesses the eloquent lyricism that characterised the gentler, more idyllic ("floaty") side of Banoffi.

Hindsight reveals these miniatures, sketches, essays as really charming, but also not lacking in musical substance; affectionate and unpretentious formative compositions. They can be basic, sure, but for those in the know this little collection proves a fascinating exposition (and exposé?) of the early stages of David's insatiable thirst for musical adventure. Even so, judging by the tunes resurrected for this disc, there was little evidence of David's penchant for the more irregular time-signatures of Eastern European musics, although the wildness of his playing and invention is audibly starting to beckon towards those cultures. Here, David's natural and unassuming instrumental virtuosity, honed over the decades, is allied to an acute ear for the sounding-together of different textures by judicious double-tracking, blending the ringing tones of the mandola (Julie's Jig), fiddle and viola in counterpoint (Janet Parry) or twin fiddles (Maid Behind The Mirror Shades). Finally, the cover art is really attractive (David's a talented artist too), tho' perhaps more impressionistic than might be expected from the music.

David Kidman