She Keeps Bees with David Thomas Broughton
@ Westgermany 1.3.2001
David Thomas Broughton
David opened the evening in Westgermany with an uncommon surprise.
Standing on stage with just a guitar and loop pedal in sight he started
with a clear melody on the guitar. "Ok," a first-time-listener might
think (as I did), "we'll be listening to a nice English
singer-songwriter..."And then comes surprise #1. The slim Englishman
began to sing, belting out in a deep tenor, most comparable to Antony
of Antony and the Johnsons. The next thought of said
first-time-listener might be "Ok, an interesting voice, at least he
pulls it off well." But Broughton had not yet emptied his bag of
Beginning to loop his guitar, with his now-free hands he pulled out a small tape player. Pressing fast-forward and -reverse, he recorded the characteristic sounds of the tape's movement and incorporated this layer into his voice and guitar. He went on to loop a pin-pull whistle device and some simple drums into the set. This created a more complex and thick music, and the contrast of these shriller tones against Broughton's deep voice and lovely guitar melodies made the songs more thrilling. Transitioning between songs he allowed all the aspects/tones/recorded ideas to expand and multiply upon one another, creating a cacophony of sound, before releasing all of the sounds and emerging with the melodic foundation of the next tune.
Along with this interesting expansion from singer-songwriter into
singer-electronic-noise-songwriter, the lyrics of his songs were very
intelligent, funny, and engaging. The rarity of coming across someone
with such distinctive elements in their production makes encounters
like this very special and worthwhile.
She Keeps Bees
She Keeps Bees continued the evening with a much starker musical approach. The duo plays an intense combination of drums (Andy LaPlant) and guitar/vocals (Jessica Larrabee). The songs are short and direct, sometimes sweet-toned ballads but more often they lash out like fight songs. This music can slap you in the face with Larrabee's powerfully unique voice and the straightforward rhythm and melody.
There is no need for overdone explosions of sound: rough guitars or fast rolling drums, to exact the anger and pain of the lyrics. The songs are arranged such that they provide just enough for the listener to really get into the songs and feel their power, but they are in now way oversimplified. The basic nature of the tunes is part of what provides this stark yet soaring music its strength. This intensity made it interesting to observe the musicians' contrasting personalities emerging during the set.
LaPlant calmly laid a strong and steady beat, transitioning between bass and snare drums, and the lone rhythm of bells. Hyperactive Larrabee chatted about their lives and travels in between each song. Her giddy rush of words and movements were smoothed over as she began to plaintively sing. She has an incredibly powerful voice, which is perfectly complimented by the simple instrumental accompaniment. The broken down nature of Westgermany (literally, the venue is a partially renovated apartment) fit this alternative music night very well.
She Keeps Bees setlist:
You Can Tell
David Thomas Broughton's set included:
So Much Sin to Forgive
Potential of our Progeny
Written and photographed by Brit-Maren Schjeide