The Dreaming Spires & The Wilderness of Manitoba / Lexington
Kane Howie (pics) and Stuart Gadd (words) headed down to The Lexington to check out two continents grow into each other
Oxfords Dreaming Spires have a candidness to match their clean white shirts. With their opening song not only name checking the Byrds and Teenage Fanclub but matching their stellar harmonies and jangle they're more than open about their influences - this is no wedding covers band however. There's an inspiring grittiness about 'Look at the stars' subject matter, about high aiming low achievers finding redemption as well as a true grits n beans American sound that blazes with Hammond and Muscle Shoals rhythm. Elsewhere they've intelligently rethought their Big Star influence to resemble Alex Chilton's previous 60's group, the Stax indebted Boxtops while 'Brothers in Brooklyn' could be the Band stepping from a grainy lp sleeve with its honky tonk pianos and rhythms. The great, beefy bass intro meanwhile could have just waddled off from Booker T and the MG's Donald 'Duck' Dunn.
From Saskatchewan, Canada, The Wilderness of Manitoba then bring enough ‘perfect’ harmonies to start a transatlantic bidding war. Fleet Foxes comparisons are bound to be made but they’re wide of the mark. With Wilderness the harmonies are less CSNY worshipping than having ghostly traces of the immemorial English folk immanent in Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Strawberry Fayre’. In a bewitched and bewitching set this is the sort of folk where devils sit in trees, with enough atonalism to bring a modern edge. Experiments with ambience also suggest not only Bon Iver but some of Kid A’s harrowed England airs.
A night where music from separate continents has come strangely full circle.