Dog In The Snow – Wagner Hall – 28th October 2017

They’ve moved the entrance to Wagner Hall. I’m starting off with that statement straight away because it would have been real good to know before the show on Saturday! I’m not sure how long the new entrance has been in place and it’s a definite improvement, but not knowing made me miss Yumi & The Weather. I first went to the old entrance, round the back of West Street, where I could faintly hear them kicking off. The new entrance is just off West Street on Regency Road, but it’s obviously an old Brighton road which got cleaved in half when Churchill Square and its car parks were plonked down in the middle many years ago. So it’s a street with two halves which do no connect, and Google Maps sent me to the wrong half.

When I finally worked out how to get into the building, Knightstown were setting up. I must admit, having not heard the act before, my heart sank a little as the acoustic instruments were cleared from the stage to make way for a couple of tables loaded with electronic equipment. I really must get over this instinctual prejudice of mine though! Many times in the past I’ve found that purely electronic music is a little hard to connect to when you see it live – like, when you go to a club you don’t watch the DJ, you dance, right?! Signed to FatCat last year, Knightstown is the solo project of singer/songwriter Michael Aston. Joined live by producer Matthew Hodson, these guys create a captivating live sound. Aston’s heavily processed vocal and mellow keyboard tones form the centre-piece, with compositions that move you both emotionally and through their grooves. To top things off they had some excellent visuals, working around the motif of animated brush strokes against a black background. Their chill music is definitely something I knew I’d be seeking out after the show after only a couple of tracks.

Another reset of the stage set and we were ready for the final act of the night, Dog In The Snow. It seemed strange to me that this was the first time I’ve managed to see Helen Ganya Brown performing live, having been interested in the act since I reviewed the Uncanny Valley EP in 2015. Her debut album, Consume Me, which was the focus of this launch show, had really caught my attention so I was excited to see it performed live. With minimal audience interaction and a pair of mirrored projection screens showing dark silhouetted scenes, our attention was pulled in to the lone performer on stage. She began at the beginning, with ‘Sea’, the refrain of: Will I ever see it again”, gaining even more spooky clarity in the live environment. Setting up the atmosphere for what was to come. I found my ears drawn to the guitar parts throughout the show, spotting sounds and motifs I had not noticed on the album versions, or had not realised were performed on guitar. There were a couple of songs I did not recognise and they were both very strong indeed, some of the most solid tracks I heard all night. I’m assuming they were new, which makes me eager to hear where she goes next. With fresh strong songs in the bag, perhaps we could expect a follow-up EP, or even an album, sooner, rather than later.

Throughout the show, efforts were made to blend one song into another somewhat, it certainly felt like the whole show was working towards becoming an immersive performance piece. Recordings of ‘Before The Law’, a parable that’s contained within Kafka’s The Trial, were played between songs, and Ganya Brown worked hard to segway songs together musically too – no mean feat as a solo performer. This actually made people a little uncertain from time to time when to applaud, but it just made us save up for one extra long and uproarious cheer when we reached the end of ‘Consume Me’, the album closer, which is really a song in two parts, the second part of which felt like it had been extended a little tonight. It was a powerful ending, and it came as no surprise there was no encore. This was a carefully curated set and it would have been strange to tag something on the end. I feel like Dog In The Snow is a project that lends some depth and, dare I say it, art to our local music scene. It’s a treasure I’m really appreciating this autumn, and I for one will be looking out for her next show.

Adam Kidd