Review by Toni Woodward with Photography by Nikki Rodgers

Liela Moss is usually seen fronting The Duke Spirit however, in late 2018 she released her first solo album on Bella Union, which sees a departure from the usual indie-rock sensibilities into the realms of soundscapes and intricately layered opulence.

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Only having the one album means that every song from My Name Is Safe In Your Mouth gets played, plus an additional three tracks, creating a well-crafted set for a Sunday evening. Venue 2 at the Hare and Hounds is probably one of my favourite places to watch live music, not only are the acoustics fantastic but the space allows for an intimacy between the audience and the artists and neither are wasted on Ms Moss.

The dramatic drum line of Subequal heralds the tone of evening with its soaring vocals accompanied by a warmth of instrumentation including harmonious backing vocals and subtle violin parts that flow effortlessly, weaving amongst the guitar part. The audience are suitably in awe of the performance, attentively digesting the experience and as Manipura heightens, Liela uses the microphone stand to point out to the crowd drawing them further into this exclusive world. The singer pervades an air of confidence not only in her vocal delivery but in her on stage postures often raising her hand with such a delicate strength both of which are evidenced in the fullest with Above You, Around You.

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Credit to both the band and to the sound tech, as the levels are superb allowing for each instrument and the vocal parts to be heard without any one noticeably dominating. This is crucial for Wild As Fire that sees Moss use her voice as an instrument at times to enhance the differing strata contrasting with Quinta’s wraithlike violin line. The opener of the album, Memories And Faces, continues the otherworldly tranquillity, generating imagery through both the music and lyrical content allowing the audience to enter a trance like state.

Moss competently can interrupt the atmosphere with jokes and anecdotes, including an event that had taken place at a local eatery that meant she could not contain her laughter, yet return the onlookers to the serene ambience within a note or two. Liela Moss is keen to emphasise the abilities of her band by noting how privileged she is to be able to play with such a fantastic selection of artists and it is clear to see and hear how much each individual brings. Lucy Underhill swaps between guitar and keyboards throughout the set depending on the song’s requirement, however, her true skill comes from such beautiful vocal harmonies that enrich the sound perfectly. As a small aside, Lucy also writes her own music under the moniker Gris-de-Lin, which is worth checking out if you like Liela Moss and one that Moss promotes during the set too. As collaborator and producer, Toby Butler plays bass with utter sensitivity providing a deep warmth to whilst drummer, Ian Kellett, approaches each beat with consideration alternating between beaters, sticks and brushes to ensure the rhythm captures the mood rather than overpowers.

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The UNKLE track featuring Moss, The Dog Is Black, makes a surprise appearance in an alternative guise as the harsh samples of the original are softened to produce a song that could have easily fitted on her album. For Hidden Sea, Liela moves to the keyboard for the grandiose selection of chords supported by tremolo guitar to produce one of the most compelling songs of the evening. The amplitude of Hidden Sea contrasts beautifully with the simplistic and sparse beginning of The Duke Spirit’s Wounded Wing, elegantly conveying fragility.

The last track of the evening is a Scott Walker cover, It’s Raining Today, which Moss and her band have skilfully arranged to create a suitable finale to the set. Liela Moss has provided an hour’s worth of beguiling and empyreal music which was appreciated by all in the room looking at the numbers waiting behind to thank her and I look forward to heading more from both her solo work and with The Duke Spirit.

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Setlist:
Subequal
Manipura
Above You Around You
Wild As Fire
Salutation
Memories and Faces
Moon
Into The Flesh
New Leaves
The Dog Is Black (UNKLE cover)
Hidden Sea
Wounded Wing (The Duke Spirit cover)
It’s Raining Today (Scott Walker cover)

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