Hebden Bridge Trades Club
1st November 2013
Former Steals singer-songwriter Jayn Hanna has a new band; we venture out into the hills to catch them on home turf.
You’ve got to love a venue where you can get your tea before the gig. And no, I don’t mean one of those trendier-than-thou places where you’ll get scant change from a tenner for a posh version of something that’d normally cost three quid from a van – here you go to a window and a lovely Tibetan chef called Lhamo dishes you a plate of whatever she’s rustled up today. There’s no choice aside from meat (£4) or vegetarian (£3), but when it’s as good as the delicately spiced potato and aubergine curry we had (and the pork meatball stir-fry looked equally satisfying) you don’t need one. It’s so very Hebden Bridge – no-nonsense Yorkshireness meets the truly modern and broad-scoped.
Describing itself rather wonderfully as a “music venue and socialist members club,”, The Trades Club was built in 1923 as a joint enterprise by local trades unions; ninety years later it’s a finalist in NME’s Small Venue of The Year Awards with a fine bill of local, national and international acts drawn from various countercultures. And some very strange beers. Take “Soulless” for instance – a somewhat paradoxical “black IPA” it’s more complex than initial impressions might suggest, with a delayed kick of bonfire toffee, and as dark as the moors beyond the town. All of which – bar the name – is rather appropriate on an evening like this: the launch night for Darkher‘s new EP. Jayn Hanna lives and creates her music out here in the hills, and there’s often something special about watching musicians on their home turf wherever that might be.
Previously Jayn had a band called The Steals whose template of haunting folk influences and hypnotic shoegazey sounds drew comparisons with Mazzy Star, Sigur Ros and Sarabeth Tucek; Darkher are, well, darker. Solo, supporting Dylan Carlson a couple of weeks ago, she unveiled a few of her new songs – slow building storm clouds of guitar around a voice at once powerful and fragile, wracked and serene. This is the full band version, with sometime Steals Chris Smith on drums and Daniel Land on additional guitars, plus Martin T Wissenberg on bass; a carefully chosen cast who know how to enhance the songs without danger of suffocating them.
The effect, in both spirit and at times sound, is very similar to the more recent works of Mount Eerie – like Phil Elverum, Jayn is both singer-songwriter and conduit, translating the atmosphere of the landscape around her into music while the other players add light and shade and texture. Daniel’s fluid, open tuned ripples float through the ether in much the same way that Dave Fielding’s did in the Chameleons; Martin and Chris build brooding foundations; then half way through the set we meet the Ladies Of Light, three women draped in black whose close harmonies dance like shadows around Jayn’s vivid imagery. She herself is an incredible figurehead, standing red lit in front of an illuminated cross which is, we’re told, a symbol of the ancient Día de Muertos (Mexican Day of the Dead) which falls tonight, with her endless waves of deep red hair and a shamanic presence that seems to come from a possibly mythical time long past. And that voice, of course: uniquely and spine-tinglingly evocative – but it’s all done without any arrogance or pretension. A shining black instrument is brought out for one or two songs, but “I only bought this guitar because it looks like a bat, it’s not actually that good”. She may have something of the dark angel about her, but a dark angel you could go for a pint with.
We step outside into a night that even with the town’s street lighting is still a shade darker than the cities ever see. Darkher would be great anywhere, but here they’re sublime.