Of all the improbable places we've visited for gigs, this is right up there. It nestles in a crinkle of a serious West Yorkshire moor, more than half hidden. Its full name, St John's in the Wilderness, seemed – in the black March night - appalling apt. It was pitch dark when we arrived, only the faintest glow from the windows indicated this might be the place. Cautiously turning every doorknob, a low blur of melody meant yes, it was right. Dark sank from the ceiling, our names were on a list that it was next to impossible for anyone to read. A couple of candles glowed.
We slid into a rear box pew. Pictures of worn steps, floor tiles, pews, slowly drifted on a screen. We caught the final five minutes of an unfurling, shifting soundscape (riverrun from Manchester).
The second chap was Pimmon, who is from Australia but very good mannered, “This is the first time I've played in your country and I'm honoured to be here.” All the way from Australia and you end up half-way up a moor in the 'scuse me shitty back end of Yorkshire! Ah well, really is time I stopped being surprised.
For Pimmon, Mr. Hazeldine had provided footage of a wavelets drifting over the sand, crossing and ebbing. But after a while, even these minimal visuals seemed a distraction; I just closed my eyes and listened. Pimmon's laptop did the usual things – clicks, whistles, breathing rises and falls, golden glow. I opened my eyes and watched the candles on the window ledges flicker, lighting now more now less of the stone arches. A pillar to the left cut across the view of a tall lancet window. And it was alright. Outside was black untamed night and who-knows-what but the church ploughed forwards, time running from her bows, the threaded golden glow warmed us. Not that all was honey and perfection for chunks fell off the ship that Pimmon built but with a little moue of his mouth and tiny shake of his head he patiently began again built himself a little castle, a place which caught him singing silently and ecstatically for a few moments. You have to treasure surprises when they happen.
Then we went outside, many people did. Jupiter stood above Venus and both shone through the narrow door. From the cup of the valley we were stunned. So many stars. Such a glittering peace. A stream racketed somewhere. It seemed a beautiful place.
Then a film and soundtrack from Antonymes. You can't go wrong with a bit (or even quite a chunk) of Antonymes who is secretly (not very secretly) Ian Hazeldine, an affable chap who has adventures in Wales. His film politely credited the locations he'd shot as if they and not he were the true star: Jodrell Bank, Ironbridge Power Station, a country park. The elements he explores sit neatly with Hibernate 's stable. The night was put on by Jonathan Lees (Mr. Hibernate) who has put out rather a lot of beautifully presented, often limited edition CDs – some in little cloth or knitted covers - and whose postcard series of 3” CDs is elegant and tasteful. Nature and simplicity to the fore. Where Ian's work is piano-based; Will Bolton, who was last on, bases his on guitar. He sits hunched at a table, a little white anglepoise lamp shining over a few boxes of twiddly knobs - stares at his computer, strums his guitar absetmindedly and tweeks knobs carefully.
I like Will Bolton's stuff. It is very ear-friendly but when you're sat so quietly listening I think you need more meat. No doubt will Bolton will continue to delight us every time we play it in the living room where Pimmon will probably cause us to go Oh for F***s sake when it catches us unawares and we're not quite paying attention. Some music is for deep listening; some is not. And you need both.
Sometimes the overheard bits at gigs are rather nice, “Disappointing” - this of the Hazeldine film - “The water. I was fine until the water. It all made sense. But the water just threw me.” It was, of course, tongue in cheek. And – of Hibernate, “Typical attention to detail . . . a little card, I don't know if you saw one, with the running order . . .” Then outside, under the awful stars, “ . . .once saw Orbital . . . better than sex really”. With Hibernate's “typical attention to detail” in between of things there was tea and coffee in cosy Hibernate mugs and everyone was presented with a Hibernate 3” postcard CD by Pimmon. All ather special.