ILL EASE / MUSIC FOR ONE / LILY GREEN, 21ST MARCH 2007, CARDIFF OLD ORLEANS
What initially strikes me as being a potentially terrible venue for the latest F.A.G Club event turns out to be an inspired choice. It may be the function room above a chain restaurant, but it's dimly lit, equipped with its own bar and an ideal size, meaning tonight's gig is intimate without being uncomfortably cheek-to-jowl crowded.
For Lily Green, this is at least the fifth different Cardiff venue she's played since making her debut here in October - that tally is about to rise again, with her involvement in an improvisational performance at Chapter this coming Sunday. Tonight sees the exiled New Zealander play what seems a darker set than before. She eschews singing about ladybirds in favour of performing a strikingly sinister cover of Lamb's 'Cotton Wool' (the promise to wrap a lover up in the white fluffy stuff seeming more like a threat) and concluding with two of the claustrophobically intense electronic tracks from her recent self-titled full-length release. Surely Cardiff can claim her as one of its own now?
Sadly, Music For One aka Canadian-born guitarist Sherry Ostapovitch is just passing through, having already been claimed by one of SWSL's former operations centres, Nottingham. Hard to believe that it's been five years since I saw her supporting Fly Pan Am in the Social. The fact that she's also played with fellow Canadians Do Make Say Think gives some indication as to the unashamedly experimental bent of her music. That said, she steers clear of post-rock convention, preferring to cover legends Elizabeth Cotten and Skip James and to charm us with her own instrumental sketches in avant-garde blues.
If (thankfully) neither Lily nor Sherry fit the stereotype of the female singer-songwriter, then Brooklyn's Elizabeth Sharp certainly doesn't. Having tired of drumming for New Radiant Storm King (yes, really) in the 90s, Sharp decided she was better off going it alone. As Ill Ease, she's a one-woman tour de force and quite possibly the most remarkable thing I've witnessed in the flesh in the past week - which, given that includes gigs by Howling Bells and The Fall (reports to come - promise!) plus a ludicrously high-scoring football match, is saying something. Just as well she warns us we're in for a rock set, then.
Ill Ease songs are typically about things like strategies for dealing with having two parties to attend on the same night ('The Two Party System', from latest LP All Systems A-Go-Go) and wanting to jump your babysitter's bones ('Me & My Babysitter'), and begin life as crudely effective guitar riffs sampled and then looped while Sharp attacks her kit with such vigour that the bass drum continually seeks to escape her foot by shuffling across the floor. I find myself compelled to stand up. "This is a love song", she says of the particularly raucous set-closer, before adding "You know it's a love song when you have to say it's a love song". 'My Heart Will Go On' it ain't - but it's a fine way to round off the evening.