Erland & The Carnival

It is a nice Friday night when Erland & the Carnival members unload the van and set up their gear on the dark Haymakers stage; the pub that quickly achieved the reference role to listen emerging live music in Cambridge.

Behind Erland & The Carnival there are some big names of English music.

Simon Tong surely is the most renowned. Originally with Verve in the heydays of Brit Pop, then moved to the court of His Majesty Damon Albarn to whom he has been linked throughout all his projects: late Blur, Gorillaz and The Good The Band and The Queen. The latter is the one you can find most influences in this new ensemble.

Committed and concentrated on his guitar for the next 70 minutes, snobbish in his Superga shoes that are far more hipsters than the ubiquitous Converse, he seem to ignore everything (and everyone) around him, despite the audience isn’t further than 30 centimetres.

Gawain Erland Cooper is the frontman and the band leader and doesn’t hand it over to no one else for the whole set.
He sings, plays the guitar and handles a strange item which I couldn’t understand what sort of quirky sound can produce.

Gawain is a strange and curious character, mixes together the passion for Bert Jansch and golden era of Brit folk, a stylish black and white guitar reminding me of The Jam Rickenbackers and has a wobbling stage presence that calls to mind Pete Doherty.
He is the soul of the band and balances the jangling guitars of Indie-rock, This Night could be seen as a homage to the early Strokes, Brit Pop sing-along choruses, Trouble in Mind and its La La Las, and the folk vein that in the last 5 years permeated and became a must-have of the British scene.

The band wouldn’t be the same without mentioning the impressive contribute of David Nock on drums. His beat belongs to the rare class of drummers who shine out because of their powerful style and influential contribution. A thunderous presence which is the backbone of “the Carnival”. Nock is the one who supports and lights up every single song.

The line up is completed by an alienated keyboardist on the back and an alienated bass player on the front that seems to live in a planet of his own. As a whole E&TC keeps the concert on a high level with songs expanding beyond the vinyl grooves sold at the merchandise stall and Gawain Erland Cooper embodying the band’s vitality in a theatrical way as Simon Tong, with his secluded body language, embodies band’s Britishness.

This tour is the occasion to present Nightingale, their sophomore album out few weeks ago.
The long experience of the band members in their past projects all gather together in E&TC which has so many facets which are difficult to condense in few words but preserves a remarkable unity.

English folks has been rooted since the origin in a bucolic psychedelic atmosphere. I could find this into Erland songs, from the opening Emmeline disclosing hints of Syd Barret’s Pink Floyd to the sweet cover at the end, Love is a Killing Thing. Those vocal harmonies open the debut album before a strumming guitar is arranged with weird sound of psychedelic times.

If I have to think of a band that reminds me of Erland & The Carnival, a band that put together all these influences in a peculiar yet similar sound, that band is The Coral. The Coral 10 years ago launched this vein that has been followed in several aspects by many other bands, from Noah and the Whale to Mistery Jets. Erland and the Carnival in song structure and sound are the most similar to the Liverpool folkers.

The cover that suggested the band’s name, My Name is Carnival, is a folk traditional rearranged in a way that would suit perfectly into Coral’s masterpiece, Magic and Medicine. The same can be said for Everything Came to Easy or You Don’t Have to be Lonely.

As an album, Nightingale is not too different from the self-titled debut, E&TC. It came out just a year after that, an unusual speed for albums’ releases at these times.
It confirms the idea of an inspired band, that needs material to play a show that goes beyond a couple of singles, some beautifully interpreted traditional covers and some fillers.

Live they incarnate (to an Italian guy, let’s specify!) the quintessence of British music. The gig is a sort of encyclopaedia in which all the influences that made the history of English popular music great appear: from the Who to Pentangle, from the Jam to the Libertines, from the Coral to the Good the Bad and the Queen you will find any of this in their show.

If you love Albion, treat yourself with an Erland & the Carnival gig whenever they come playing close to you.

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Photo tip

It looks you appreciated the more technical tip on the exposure compensation I blogged while talking about the recent Elbow show, so I will keep on the same space trying to open a discussion on the mode settings.

Since I moved to digital, I still haven’t clear which is my favourite mode. I used to work fully manual on film, the fixed ISO setting let me no chance to intervene on film sensitivity so full control of shutter/aperture pair was ideal.

On digital the classic exposure pair becomes a triad for the addition of variable ISO. I love the option of modern cameras to adapt to different light condition, so while I set my ISO for gigs at 1600, I leave it free to go up to 6400 in case the light is not enough.

With such setting a manual mode wouldn’t be really manual, it becomes a ISO priority mode. Aware of this I tried to add a further variable and stress the capability of matrix exposure, its accuracy being the secret behind this more versatile options.

Aperture priority is my second option of choice, the one I only use when doing documentary photography. I believe is aperture that makes the picture most of shutter so having control of it leaves me more “in control” than other options.
I am happy the way (Nikon) matrix works and with knowledge of exposure compensation I talked on the previous tip I manage to shoot most gigs this way.

When things become livelier, I opt to shutter priority. I recently started to appreciate a mode which I never considered with film cameras. I find it useful to freeze the action for particularly excited performers or when using telephotos or to let it long enough to couple with some slow sync flash if you are after a different vibe.

Want to share your experience?

~ by Valerio on April 3, 2011.

2 Responses to “Erland & The Carnival”

  1. really intimate pictures, thank you for getting so close and posting this review. I found your words very interesting. I will see this band in London in May.

  2. I only use manual mode on my canon eos 5D, I’ve noticed that the light metering isn’t very reliable on this camera, especially when dealing with constantly changing lights in a concert environment.
    Most of the time I can fix the lighting if it’s a bit off in Camera Raw though.

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