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The Blackheart Orchestra

Saturday 23rd March 2024

The Sound Lounge, Sutton

British singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist duo The Blackheart Orchestra’s twenty-seven date ‘Winterspring 24’ UK and European tour, kicked off in Stratford-Upon-Avon on the 1st March, stopping off at The Sound Lounge in Sutton, South London on 23rd March.

The Blackheart Orchestra was formed in 2008 by Chrissy Mostyn and Richard Pilkington. To date the duo have released seven studio albums including ‘Indigo’ (2008), ‘Invisible’ (2009), ‘Songs from A Satellite’ (2013), ‘Diving for Roses’ (2017), ‘Mesmeranto’ (2019), ‘Mute’ (the instrumental variations) (2021) and ‘Hotel Utopia’ (2022). The band’s sound is an eclectic blend of musical styles from pastoral Folk, classical minimalism, symphonic, to full on Prog Rock. The band has drawn comparisons to Kate Bush, London Grammar, Pink Floyd, Steve Reich and Ludovico Einaudi. They have received several industry accolades including nomination for the Progressive Music Limelight Award, Best British Duo, fourth Best New British Band, and tenth Most Important Rock Event of 2020 to two years later winning Best British Album, Best Song and Best Female Vocalist in the USA Progressive Rock Awards. I first became aware of them when they supported Hawkwind at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London on 26th November 2019. Being suitably impressed with their sound and presentation seeing them live again was a must.

The Sound Lounge is a cosily intimate grassroots music venue and community hub located at the bottom end of the High Street in Sutton. It is run by singer-songwriter Hannah White and her musician husband Keiron Marshall. In the daytime, the Sound Lounge trades as a café, bar, and plant-based kitchen, then in the evening the venue hosts an eclectic mix of Americana, Blues, Folk and Roots live performances.

The seating layout in the Sound Lounge was all very civilized, with tables and chairs and dimly lit lamps. Indeed, an exquisitely atmospheric location to witness The Blackheart Orchestra live The duo are out on tour promoting their newest aforementioned studio album 'Hotel Utopia'. The first track of the evening’s musical feast was the delectably upbeat 'Raise Your Heart' from said album. Chrissy has one of the most angelically, Elysian voices, that is soothingly hypnotic. Complementing her, Richard adds multi layers of earthly textures to the musical arrangement creating a legion of majestically interweaving soundscapes. Both swap between stacks of keyboards and numerous guitars throughout the set creating what does sound like an orchestra at times. Keeping with the elevated tempo came the pensively somber 'Drown Me Out' from the 2019 'Mesmeranto' album before returning to 'Hotel Utopia' for three more tracks in the form of the enthrallingly ethereal 'The Tide', the beguilingly chanting 'Dangerous Thing' and the lusciously driving 'Under the Headlights'.

A couple of new tracks destined for the next studio album came in the form of 'Night Circus' and ‘Stars’, before being eloquently followed by the spine tingling 'Astronaut' from the 'Hotel Utopia' album. 'Better Than Me' was another intriguingly absorbing newly written song. The blissfully rapturous ‘Keep the Light In’ from the 2017 'Diving for Roses' album was transfixingly bewitching. It was then back to 'Hotel Utopia' for another two tracks starting with the cherubically dreamy ‘Dust', which sees the duo sharing one piano and harmonising beautifully. 'The Warning' turned the mood darker, where delicately plucked guitars set the tone before dramatically building in magnitude as it reached its conclusion.

From what I hear, the next track 'Sebastian', from the 2017 'Diving for Roses' album, is a fan favourite, and I can see why. Chrissy gracefully picked out the arpeggios on electric guitar while Richard tinkled the ivories creating a seductive bedrock for irresistibly divine vocals from Chrissy to float mellifluously over the top. The penultimate track 'The Flood', which features on the 'Hotel Utopia' album, is a profusion of compellingly hypnotic passages and invigorating melancholic moods rising in earnestness to an almighty crescendo. Superb stuff indeed! The final track was the otherworldly 'Hey Pluto' from the 2013 'Songs from A Satellite' album. With intertwining tranquil vocal chanting, the set drew to its conclusion. A euphorically captivating finale to an exquisite evening of beautiful music.

Steven C. Gilbert

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