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REVIEW: Bill Ryder-Jones & Camerata

Cathedral proves perfect setting for haunting cinematic score

Written by . Published on October 10th 2014.

REVIEW: Bill Ryder-Jones & Camerata

EX-CORAL guitarist Ryder-Jones has claimed his 2011 album If was always meant to be his personal musical interpretation of the Italo Calvino novel, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, not a soundtrack to some imaginary film of it. Any straying, then, into Ennio Morricone territory is purely incidental?

He has come a long way from the scally pirate exuberance (I fondly recall Skeleton Crew and the like) of The Coral’s debut back in the early Noughties.

Well, yes and no. In stand-out tracks such as The Reader and The Flowers No 3 (Lotus) the music pans out from stealthy, laconic piano into wide-screen string intensity, where a pared-down Manchester Camerata, under Timothy Redmond, outdo the Liverpool Phil on the original Domino recording.

Bill Ryder-JonesBill Ryder-Jones

More of the same, too, with added electric guitar heroics from the composer, on Enlace, which adds a jagged edge to a work that can stray towards the doleful, especially when Ryder-Jones’s sweet but reedy voice tackles quietly disturbing lyrics.

In the programme notes the composer describes a near decade of struggle with mental health problems involved with leaving The Coral and struggling to cope with 'normal life'. It is implied this partly sprang from school stunting creative urges. A girl-friend lending him Calvino’s post-modern novel, playfully teasing us about the nature of literary creation, unleashed that creativity.

The pay-off, he says, is this first public performance, commissioned (bravo) by Sarah-Jane Roberts of Manchester Literature Festival.

What I liked about the work was the way it transports you, into literary landscapes. First you might be in some Mitteleuropa city, a Trieste of the sub-conscious, then shifting into bleaker, uncharted war-torn wastes (By The Church of Apollonia). Very Calvino, but also Ryder-Jones, producing against the odds a work of empowering substance.

Audience at the CathedralAudience at the Cathedral

He has come a long way from the scally pirate exuberance (I fondly recall Skeleton Crew and the like) of The Coral’s debut back in the early Noughties. The Camerata shared the stage with some of his rock associates (The Aleph’s Jon Herring particularly good on keyboards) for a properly multi-media occasion in atmospheric surroundings. If the closing track meandered slightly listlessly, maybe that is the point. There are no endings, according to Calvino.

The final memory, though, is of the always diffident Ryder-Jones, a beer can in his hand when not playing guitar, shuffling off amid ecstatic applause and eschewing those repeated curtain calls that are de rigueur at classical concerts. Literature. Cinema. Subversion. A triumph.

Cranking It Up A Notch

Rocking The Cathedral


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