Last Friday, word went out to the Shriekback mailing list that lo, a new field recording of Barry Andrews on an exploratory jaunt through four cities of the USA in the winter of 2003 had surfaced and it was now available as a DL in the Shriekstore. It captured Mr. A at a juncture where he was attempting to see if he could make a viable stab as a live solo act. The show in question was recorded at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia in the hard chill of the ’03 winter. But Barry provided plenty of warmth on stage with his usual predilection for easy banter as he veered between loop-based performance with live keys and full on naked piano.
Barry Andrews: Live At The Tin Angel UK – DL 
- Hooligan Illumination
- At the Tuff Donkey
- This Big Hush
- Gods’ Gardenias
- Going Equipped
- Licking Honey from a Razor
- Eating Away at It
- Queen’s Beast
- Faded Flowers
Let is not be said that this isn’t a well-balanced set list of new songs, barely-out-of-the-oven Shriektunes and a pair of olde favorites. Right up front we get new sauce with the quintessential Shriekness of “Hooligan Illumination.” It’s a bold move to throw out a new tune up front, but it shows the confidence he had in this material as Barry Andrews plus keyboard still stimulates the parts of the Shriekback brainstem that others can’t touch. The squelchy loops here were abetted by the uncharacteristically mellow electric piano for frissons of musical dissonance.
The also fresh “At The Tuff Donkey” was another loops and piano tune, but with jazzier, freeform lyrics that tumbled out like free verse; a new wrinkle for Mr. A. The title “Claxon Bolus” from “Naked Apes + Pond Life” managed to make a showing in the lyrics here, interestingly enough. The string patches at the song’s midpoint lent it a dignity beyond its pub-name title.
The artist has self-deprecatingly refered to this recording in his mailing list announcement as being of his “full on cabaret piano _hit” but let it not be said that the rendition of “God’s Gardenias” here from the freshly minted “Having A Moment” didn’t do just that thing. And nicely done, at that. I’m just pleased to hear that the difference between a performer with an acoustic guitar and a piano/synth remains to these ears a huge stylistic gulf that I’m more than happy to hear. Keys are just more musically expressive than a guitar to me.
The arresting “Licking Honey From A Razor” would be from the also very current “Haunted Box Of Switches” album of 2003. It was a very productive time for the artist with a solo piano album as well as a Shriekback EP emerging at roughly at the same time. And the urgent, Glassy piano of this one was another new flavor in the Andrews mix. But material that was still yet to find a public airing like “Waterbaby” from the still-gestating “Cormorant” album of 2005 fearlessly debuted live here in a soufflé of underwater loops and electric piano that nailed the “classic Shriekback” sound proudly with its artistic DNA. Bonus points for Mr. A working the phrase raison d’être into the lyrics!
Perhaps the strangest outlier of Andrews entire career figured here as “Mini-Break,” was a song about a weekender gone bad that marked the end of a relationship. Fortunately, for its lyrical commonality, it was built on a noisy, buzzing chassis of loops and what sounded like a chorus of frogs. Maybe a little close musically to the Stump target, on reflection! “Queen’s Beast” was another current track on both “Having A Moment” and the “Haunted Box Of Switches” album, so you know he really must have enjoyed this self-described attempt at his own “My Way.” Another of the tracks here that fearlessly flirted with cabaret chic. The album closed with the jaunty, piano-led doggerel of “Incredulous;” also from “Haunted Box Of Switches” for something amusing to close the show on.
More than anything, this album was a lovely companion piece to the “Haunted Box Of Switches” album, and it was well-recorded in the intimate environs of the Tin Angel [cap. 118?] by Barry Crell. This is not one of the “bootlegs” that Team Shriek occasionally unleash [with provisos]. This almost stands as a live in the studio recording of no little polish that is somewhat belied by the lack of antiseptics that accompany such an endeavor. The audience here were a polite, but minimized presence in the mix as the spotlight was rightly on the man who carries us on his musical shoulders with his humor, grace, and effulgent musicality. Available as CD quality files for your £10 [or ala carte for £0.99/per] if you hit that button below… where one may try before you buy.