Admiral Fallow are a band evolving beyond what is expected of them, yet are still able to deliver the goods that made them stand out in the first place.
Admiral Fallow played the second date of their UK tour at The Prince Albert in Brighton. The band released their third album Tiny Rewards earlier this year, the result of an 18-month period of experimentation which saw the Glasgow based band move further from their indie-folk roots in favour of a denser, more electronic sound.
Despite this evolution, they haven’t lost touch with their distinctive orchestral elements. Set opener Happened In The Fall began with a pattern of beeps and a beat made for robots to slow dance to, but this was soon augmented by a woodwind section who weaved loose, ornate textures around the strict rhythm. Louis Abbott’s lead vocal rooted the song in a folk context, its upward inflections harking back nostalgically to “the time of our tiny lives”. It set the tone for what was to come: a careful balance between orchestral and digital sounds with touching lyrics, steadily building to an instrumental climax.
Of the new material, lead single Evangeline shone with a well constructed, precisely layered arrangement conjuring up a sense of dramatic momentum and remaining uncluttered despite the busy rhythm and canonic vocals. Liquor & Milk started with a single-note piano line and grew into a fine tapestry of sound, clarinet and flute riffs weaving around swirling synths and guitar loops. Exchanging grins as they built to a heady climax, the band seemed thrilled to be unveiling new songs like this in a live setting after such a long incubation period.
The new material’s translation to live performance wasn’t always as smooth, however. The combination of synth pads with guitar effects, bass and woodwind created a broad soundscape that at times threatened to overpower the venue’s sound system, distorting the vocal harmonies. The second verse of Broughty Ferry was marred by an atonal synth lingering on a chord that didn’t seem to fit with what anyone else was playing, leading to a few giggles and raised eyebrows in the audience. An outtake from the new album, it was an example of experimentation that didn’t work inside its melodic surroundings.
Thankfully, these problems were too minor to spoil the gig and were cushioned by the subtle, impressive musicianship of the players. Drummer Philip Hague grounded each song with meticulously precise rhythms and real dynamic control, and was at times joined by bandmates Kevin Brolly and Tom Stearn to create pounding, steady beats that drove the set forward. Hardly a song passed without at least one band member changing instruments, displaying both capability and a sensitivity to the material.
Overall, it was very enjoyable to see a band play with the formula and retain the lyrical and melodic elements from their previous work. It will be interesting to see what direction they take next, as they seem truly capable of pushing their brand of indie-folk into all kinds of new sonic territories.
Find out when they’re next playing on their website, www.admiralfallow.com.
By Patrick Lyall