Review: Hannah Peel | Voodoo, Belfast
Tonight’s gig is something of a homecoming for Hannah Peel who originally hails from Craigavon, despite now being based in London, and before the gig she is casually milling about the darkened venue greeting friends and relatives warmly. But first up is Penny Police, the alias of Danish singer Marie Fjelsted. Her slow synth led songs have an 80’s flavour with a modern twist and her breathy airy voice is reminiscent of Emiliana Torrini and Lamb. ‘No Horizon‘ is a standout number in her set. She’s one to look out for.
When it’s time for Hannah Peel to take to the stage she calls us all to attention especially her family, ‘family, I’m on’ she jokes as she begins with playing her music box – something she has gained great acclaim for as each music box is played with hand punched music. ‘Standing On The Roof of The World‘ is a beautiful swirling affair as Peel beckons ‘come follow me, follow me my lover’ like a siren. ‘Shadows Of Your Heart’ is piano led and gives me vibes of Tori Amos. For only two people onstage, Peel and her drummer, they create a large soundscape and let us escape into another world. A lot of tonight’s set list comes from Hannah Peel’s critically acclaimed album ‘Awake But Always Dreaming‘ which is something of a concept album about memory and she has openly spoken about the impact dementia has had on her family. She talks with reverence about how, although her grandmother’s memory was failing, she could recognise songs and speaks about the positive effect music can have on people living with dementia. As such, the set is emotionally charged.
The title track is an eight minute sonic assault of swirling melody, synth, breathy lyrics, and sounds space like and hypnotic. The insistent drum beat and violin are somewhat unexpected but a welcome intervention adding to the buildup of the track. ‘Hope Lasts‘ is a poppier, more upbeat number and signals a welcome upshift in the mood of the set.
I hear alot of Kate Bush’s influence which is no bad thing so I laugh when Peel talks about tweets she received about her music. One of her favourites being that she ‘sounds like the love child of Liz Fraser and Kate Bush if Mike Oldfield had donated the sperm!‘ And whoever said that isn’t far wrong! ‘Don’t Take It Out On Me’ wouldn’t sound out of place being sung by Liz Fraser and is gracefully layered. ‘Cars In The Garden’ is a cover of a song by Paul Buchanan from the 80’s group The Blue Nile and again she plays the music box on this. It has to be seen to be believed and I still am quite unsure how it works but it creates a strange sadness and melancholy as she feeds the paper through the box, stopping when it hits the floor.
Ending with ‘All That Matters,‘ a slice of astro pop, brings a positive ending to an emotionally charged night. Again, Peel impresses by playing the violin on this song and it ends in an intense buildup of drumbeats and synth.
An ultimately uplifting experience from a unique and innovative artist who is homegrown to boot.
Photo: Stormy @ Rebel and Romance