Deep Throat Choir: Union Chapel – live reviewDeep Throat Choir
Union Chapel, London
11 December 2021

A stunning performance by London-based Deep Throat Choir and three other Bella Union artists at the label’s Christmas event.

With the name Winter Wonderland, the Christmas programme of Bella Union feels like an alternative reality to the eponymous entertainment at Hyde Park. Though the stained-glass rose windows of the chapel conjure up the illuminated Giant Wheel, the atmosphere is festive and intimate. Quite an opposite to the frenzy of mass cookie-cutter events.

All Bella Union signings, the artists on the bill seem to have certain elements in common. The melody-driven approach of C Duncan and Penelope Isles might trigger a train of thought in the direction of ’60s psychedelic folk. On this journey back in time, Fleet Foxes would be an intermediate stop. There is also minimalism, sonic transparency and allure. The last can especially be attributed to Laura Groves, whose floating vocals fill the space with intense yearning.

Amongst this lot, Deep Throat Choir might look slightly different. Formed by Luisa Gerstein in 2013, the collective started as a group of five friends who found choir singing therapeutic and joyful. By 2017, the year of their debut release Be OK, they had transformed into a 30-member choir, with occasional session musicians joining for live shows.

In keeping with their name, Deep Throat Choir is a solid body of an ensemble that contains numerous micro elements, including singers and instrumentalists. Although each of these voices is very individual, they feed into a single forceful energy. Such unity creates a communal feel which is probably akin to the experience of nonconformists who founded the Union Chapel in 1799. Like individual singers aiming for integrity, the choir ostensibly expresses the desire to merge with the world’s artistic heritage. They start the set with a cover of You Can’t Kill The Spirit by a feminist songwriter Naomi Morena. “Nobody can push back an ocean. It’s gonna rise back up in waves”. Framed with folk-esque chanting, these mantra-sounding lyrics are powerful.

When their unison chant-like singing attains polyphonic power, it is hard to avoid the direct emotional message of the music. It aims at heart level. Their delivery is deeply spiritual and rebellious at once. Although evoking associations with Polyphonic Spree, they are unlikely to be characterised as a happy-clappy collective. Yet, the church’s acoustics add to the sonic image of Deep Throat Choir a halo of pleasant reverb.

It is interesting to compare live versions to the recorded songs as you can associate them with a performer. Featuring different soloists, all compositions from their latest In Order To Know You are defined by distinct timbres. In Patience, written and led by Rosa Bowler Slade (member of an indie-folk duo Peggy Sue), the alto voice delivers a swooning emotion, taking over an unsettling feeling from the song’s background. Slade wrote this song shortly after her mother’s death. The gentle soul-inclined vocals of Katy-Beth Young on Unstitching leaves you dealing with a different kind of emotion. As the song gradually transforms into a reverberating wall of sound, there is seemingly no way to escape an overflowing feeling of tenderness.

Performing together, Deep Throat Choir and other collectives finally give their audience a much needed soothing Christmas spirit.

More music by Deep Throat Choir on their BandCamp. Find more information about Laura Groves, C Duncan and Penelope Isles on the official website of Bella Union.

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All words by Irina Shtreis. More writing by Irina can be found in her author’s archive.

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