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  • Writer's pictureCHRIS FARLIE

Charm Of Finches - The Stables Milton Keynes

As #TEAMw21 made the short stroll from The Stables car park to the venue there was unmistakeably the definite sound of bird song in the air, which seemed apt for our first meeting with Charm Of Finches, a pair of Australian sisters embarking on their debut European tour. Their recent single "River" and a quick flick through their back catalogue suggested that that this duo were certainly worth checking out and we were not to be disappointed with Ivy and Mabel WIndred-Wornes as they produced two spellbinding sets.

The stage was set with three microphones, one behind a keyboard, one next to a violin and the other prepared for a guitarist. In the event the sisters were to prove interchangeable in many respects which only added to their mystique. Arriving marvellously overdressed in what they would later inform us were second hand wedding dresses dyed different shades of blue, the sisters cut a dashing figure.

Mabel was mainly the guitarist for the evening able to deliver between song patter either dead pan or with a light comic touch, while sister Ivy, surely with the most expressive hands since Kate Bush, at times seemed as if she was being moved by invisible strings like a puppet - it became impossible to take your eyes away from either for fear you might miss something.

The first set commenced with "Concentrate On Breathing", immediately setting the template for the evening, excellent sibling harmonies, Mabel on guitar, while Ivy holding tambourine in one hand would provide a number of sophisticated hand movements with the other.

Quite how to describe their sound is difficult, there are elements of folk, pop, Americana all wrapped up together to the point that it becomes something new entirely - something that demands your attention.

"Canyon" came with one of Mabels hilariously deadpan introductions, the essence being that the each sister keeps a dream journal and that dreams were the basis of the song, a collection of surreal mages.

"Treading Water" saw Ivy holding and plucking a violin like a guitar, only sparingly yet each time it added to the overall ethereal feel of the song, a song pondering on the embers of a past relationship. Things continued in a similar vein, "Miranda" for example seemed to possess almost a classic sixties feel at times and was puncturated by Ivy this time playing the violin with a bow, the tale sung so sweetly that soon developed into something quite dark.

The ethereal nature of the sisters also came across in some of their inspirations - not many visiting acts mention the Battle Of Bosworth Field or its surrounding trees. For "Heavy", Mabel moved to piano which was partly inspired by the planets current situation - occasionally each sister flashing a glance at the other though curiously not at the same time.

"Fossil In Stone" built around a delicate repeating guitar melody was hypnotic in itself, even more so with the sweet sound of the sisters swirling around the venue. The next song was a new unnamed tune which saw Ivy move to piano, "You Bend Or You Break?", a dramatic mixture of harmonies and instrumentation. The first set would close out with "The Bridge", which came with a dramatic introduction and showed the sisters to be incredibly attuned and inspired by all that they come into contact with, whether if be people or nature. Ivy was to hold the violin in position for sometime before actually playing it and then again ;ater switched to plucking it as a guitar. With swirling interweaving vocals this closed the first set out in some style.

The second half would see no let up in standards, opening with "Fish In The Sea" from their "Your Company" album, a folky pop song that would swoop up and down and be replete with a jaunty violin solo - the song ended with the sisters performing syncro hand expressions without even looking at each other.

"Where Do The Ducks Go" found its inspiration in "Catcher In The Rye" in the most unlikely way, yet it again highlighted how attuned the sisters are with the natural world - with a series of seemingly childlike questions that deserve detailed answers.

"Her Quiet Footsteps" saw Mabel again move to piano - the song came with a heartbreaking introduction and was duly breathtaking, the audience completely caught up in the unfolding story.

"Gravity" came with a perfect pop harmony and saw Ivy take the lead vocals- a song at times that seemed so delicate and fragile that it might collapse at any moment - a thing of sheer beauty.

"Paint Me A Picture" was another song built around a seemingly gentle repeating guitar line yet elevated by the beauty of the vocals.

There was simply no let up in quality "As A Child" once again saw the sisters able to recall their feelings of wonder as a child and consider where they had gone. It is hard to encapsulate just what an enthralling web that Charm Of Finches create - for "Pocket Of Stones" the sound was a marvel with the interweaving vocals and was built up with the piano and a more stridently played guitar beefing up the overall sound.

The second set was to close with the title track of the new album "Wonderful Oblivion", an uplifting lullaby of death which the Charm Of Finches delivered on with some panache.

There was of course time for an encore in the shape of Leonard Cohens "Famous Blue Raincoat" which seemed to seamlessly fit in, and brought proceedings to a close.

Charm Of Finches are now off to tour around Europe but will return to cast their spell over UK audiences at some Festival dates in July - for lovers of harmony and overall musicianship they are an absolute must see.




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