I had a small window of opportunity to catch Simonne & The Dark Stars supporting Dr Scardo at The Albert last night. We’ve been hearing their name a lot at BrightonsFinest HQ recently so I was dispatched to investigate. Simonne is an excellent pianist with a distinctive vocal that immediately made me think of PJ Harvey’s recent ‘Let England Shake’ record and Kate Bush’s wonderfully eccentric approach – a dramatic style that suited her piano-driven melodic songs. She was joined onstage by The Dark Stars – Mark Robbins on bass and backing vocals and Billy Poole on drums, who did a great job providing a solid backbone to the music. Robbins made some creative choices with the bass, playing some fantastic slide-bass on the opening song, using what looked like a small beer bottle, and later in the set it sounded like he was using a pitch-shifter, perhaps to compensate for the absence of guitarist Andy Small.

The band was joined this evening by a multi-instrumentalist who was introduced as Jules, “a one man junkyard orchestra”, playing the saw, shakers, harmonica and a tiny saxophone-like instrument that sounded quite Middle Eastern to my ears. Jules turned out to be an excellent saw player who not only used a bow to create haunting string-like sounds but also used it as a percussion device, using the teeth of the saw to sound almost like a guiro and hitting it with a spoon to make a combination of the two! He got some fantastic noises out of it, but I must confess towards the end of the set I felt he could have eased off a little or perhaps I was just missing the clarinet parts I’d heard on their soundcloud page (http://soundcloud.com/s_thedarkstars).

The band seemed to take a couple of numbers to get into their groove and I felt the arrangements of a couple of songs slightly too long at the start, but by the end of the set they had me and the whole crowd in the palms of their hands. I was ready for a storming finale when the soundman told them abruptly that they had over-run and had to stop: very frustrating! I’m look forward to seeing this band again and watching their sound develop, those hats are brimming with potential.
Adam Kidd