Busman’s Holiday

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Mono Café Bar presents – An Evening with Kría and Ryan. Monday 17th February.

If I’m in Glasgow, and if I have time, then Mono Café Bar is the one place that I will always visit; a bar, restaurant and music venue that hosts Monorail Music (CD’s, vinyl, DVD’s etc.) and Good Press (independent publisher). This evening, after some great food, the free (and rare) performance is by Kría Brekkan (aka Kristín Anna, formerly of múm) and Ryan Erskine.

The performance itself featured two three song sets (one set from each of them) and a final four strong collaboration. I can’t be any more than vague about the song titles, so I won’t try. I’m not sure titles were the point of this evening, it was relaxed but intense and memorable. Two softly spoken individuals, Ryan in particular was fond of a story – engaging, charming and funny.

Kría Brekkan Ryan Erskine 8 300x300 - Busman’s HolidayKría is a vocalist and classically trained multi-instrumentalist. She is best known as a former front-person of múm. múm were an Icelandic group producing ethereal and experimental music – electronic effects (almost IDM in feel), soft vocals and a variety  of traditional and unusual acoustic instruments.

Tonight in her solo set Kría drew heavily on those múm sensibilities, she played acoustic guitar, used voice as instrument with some exquisite mic technique and silenced the place – chillbones I tell you. The one element I recognized was at the end of song two which segued seamlessly into The Small Faces’ ‘It’s all too beautiful’ – complete with backing vocals from the crowd.

“Ryan Erskine is a musician born in Long Beach California, so really, a gangster surfer off screen movie star, native american cowboy, appearing as a witch doctor shaman medicine man full of insight about nutrition and herbal healing, in essence a desert boy, having spent most of his twenties growing in Joshua Tree desert.” You get the picture, There is a lot of time and space around Ryan.

Kría Brekkan Ryan Erskine 300x199 - Busman’s HolidayIn talking with him I can tell you that he is far more grounded than his description of himself makes out. For me, a strong flavor of James Taylor, in fact, vocal style aside, I was sure he was channeling Taylor’s character from Two-Lane Blacktop. What to say, he was really very good, distinctive mellow voice and some fine picking patterns on the guitar.

The intensity dials up a few degrees when they duet together. These are some of the finest harmonies I’ve heard live for a long time – and given the year I’ve had they are not short of competition. A real Americana country/folk feel to this set, I couldn’t have been happier if it was Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, it really was that good.

This is no retro offering though, there is a quality that Kría brings to the party that ensures there is something of the avant garde about what they are doing. As with the previous two short individual sets – they have the crowds’ full attention. And there are a few notables present; Stephen Pastel and Stuart Murdoch would make a pretty good duet themselves, but they are of course here to listen and appreciate along with the rest of us.

It’s maybe no surprise to find Stuart Murdoch there, Kría and her twin sister did grace the cover of a Belle and Sebastian album and I’m guessing they keep in touch. Alas no EP available for tonight but they are considering producing one – and maybe even one recorded from tonight’s performance. They are off on a mini tour that includes gigs in London and Paris although they didn’t say where – if you happen to be passing, you’re in luck. So, this postcard from Glasgow; wish you were here? Absolutely.

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Roddy McKenzie
Roddy McKenzie
Life-long engagement with music and a truly eclectic taste (although prog-rock and metal will usually have me scrambling for the off button). If pushed, I would have to say the Velvet Underground are one of the most important band’s of all time. Although I consider myself first and foremost a photographer, as regards reviewing I guess I cut my teeth in the vibrant fanzine scene of the 80’s. Around the same time I started taking photographs and, to be brief, performance and photography were made for each other: perfect match.