Sunday, 29 January 2017

Modern Studies, live at Sage Gateshead 25th January 2017

If you aren’t aware of Modern Studies then please take note: You should be.

They’re a (largely, but not entirely) Scottish band whose debut album, Swell to Great, was released last year and gathered considerable acclaim. That’s not really the important bit. The important bit is that they make great music; thoughtful music with depth, and catchiness and, like all the best music, a little dollop of weirdness.

Central to Modern Studies’ sound is a slightly wheezy harmonium, that infuses the music with a distinctly analogue glow in an increasingly digital musical world and sees their tunes sliding around the little-known spectrum where ‘otherworldly’ lurks at one end and ‘Victorian Sunday school’ sits primly at the other. If this all gives the impression that Modern Studies are a bit grey and fusty then please forgive me, because they’re entirely the opposite; this is ‘feel good’ music, as those who have gathered in the magnificent Hall One at Sage Gateshead tonight will tell you.

Modern Studies (Emily, Rob, Pete and Joe) are here tonight primarily to support King Creosote, but their warmth soon engages those who have been sensible enough to arrive early, and the reaction rises from an appreciative ‘this could be interesting’ ripple of applause for their opening track, ‘Supercool’, to a full-on whooping and hollering for their last, ‘Ten White Horses’, which, like many of their tunes, starts slowly and quietly, then swells majestically with the aid of an almost military drumbeat and glorious group harmonies.

In between, the harmonium is used to best effect on the hymn-like introduction to ‘Bottle Green’ and when coupled with the double bass on the mournful and hypnotic ‘Sleep’.
For my money though, it’s the timeless ‘Father is a Craftsman’ that’s the best of the night, it’s intelligent and beautifully constructed and it sounds like it was written by a little-known folk singer back in 1962, rather than lovingly crafted by Emily Scott.

Not a bad way to spend Burns’ night.


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