sat 22/06/2024

Laura Moody, The Forge, Camden | reviews, news & interviews

Laura Moody, The Forge, Camden

Laura Moody, The Forge, Camden

Avant-popper demonstrates developing songwriting skills ahead of her debut album

The unclassifiable Laura MoodyGerald Jenkins

Laura Moody says she was given a cello as a child to curb hyperactivity, but listening to her last night you might well have wondered if she’d had Tourettes too. The singer-cellist’s sound included clicks, shrieks, howls, and a lot of things that probably shouldn’t happen to a cello - as if she had taken every musical influence that had come her way in her 28 years and put them in a blender. The result? It was certainly extraordinary and sometimes disturbing.

What surprised me most, though, as I sweated it out in a muggy hall was just how often it became mesmerising.

Moody has a natural inclination towards the unusual. Most of her recording career so far has been with the Elysian Quartet, best known for their work with Gabriel Prokofiev, the DJ who wrote the “Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra”. Other offbeat projects include working with “human beat-box” Killa Kela, and with the physical theatre group the Gogmagogs. 

She also cites individualists like Joanna Newsom and Bjork as influences. Really, though, there are few points of reference. Tonight she came on in a prim Fifties-style red dress muttering something about "gender identity", started plucking out some bass figures on her cello and then began singing an Indian poem about eunuchs in a soulful jazz style. It was actually after this, however, that things started to get a little strange. “There Could be no Doubt of his Sex”, again on the subject of gender variety contained an unusual amount of cries and yelps. The cello abuse on “They’re Saying it’s Over” sounded at first like the creaking of a conjugal bed, then as if she were trying to attack the instrument.

But as fun as Moody’s stranger songs were, there were limits to how far emotionally they could go. Still, the four brand new songs from the forthcoming album, much straighter pieces of music, gave Moody a real chance to show what a rich instrument she has in her alto voice. “Like Water” is apparently inspired by African music, but it sounded more as if it were inspired by Southern spirituals. “Call This Time Love” with delicate arpeggios being hammered on with one hand and a gentle rhythm tapped out with the other, was simply lovely and got the biggest clap of the night. However, my favourite was “We are Waiting”, a folky love song, a little reminiscent of Tim Buckley.

All these new songs demonstrated emotional development as a writer with experiences worth sharing and the artistry to communicate them. However, she chose to end the evening with a cover. Her version of Nick Drake’s “Cello Song” was simply stunning. Her bow made a sound like a dawn chorus whilst her voice poured out such melancholy it was hard to believe it was the same girl who, minutes earlier, had been singing a cheeky song about her teenage affair with a middle-aged man.

Tonight’s performance augered very well for Moody’s debut LP. That won’t, however, be ready until the autumn. Meanwhile there’s the EP which Moody gave away free after the show. When I got home I was surprised iTunes recognised mine. Album: EP, Artist: Laura Moody, Genre: Unclassifiable. It’s certainly true she's hard to classify, but there's no denying she’s pretty easy to like.

Watch Laura Moody playing with the Elysian Quartet on YouTube:

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