TOM MOORE & ARCHIE MOSS are artists. They're magicians. They're conjurers. They might hold a viola (Moore) and an accordion (Moss) but they could just as easily use paints, film or the supernatural to create their world. This is folk music by way of black & white European cinema, by way of haunting, fragmented sketching.

Do you know that feeling just before a storm breaks? The prelude, the lull, the moment when the atmosphere changes, when the world holds its breath. That moment when you know something is about to happen but you're not sure when. The whole of this extraordinary set from these two incredible musicians feels like that. Giga is, almost certainly, a jig... but it's a jig that never allows you to dance. It builds and breaks and slows and builds again but it never permits you to relax into the tune. This gives it incredible power even as it constantly wrong foots you. It's dance music that's impossible to dance to.

Windmill Hill has an experimental sparse-ness and segues into Nina's Tune. It's almost unbearably tense as disjointed movements pile up next to one another, each one more ghostly than the last, each one threatening to spill out into something smooth and reassuring. It almost never does though. Instead, it feels as though a noir-ish Scandinavian dream is slipping through your fingers.

Moore's viola is echoed and looped - at times you'd swear that there are two, three or four of his instrument on stage - and on Universeum he helps a sweeping, star-gazing soundtrack unfold. The closest comparison is probably Lau and all of their odd, gauzy cine-scapes and, like Lau, these are tunes that, ideally, could use some films to help them coalesce.

Moss adds a droning base with his accordion, setting up a meniscus that the tunes skip across, like a dragonfly or a hummingbird. The viola hovers over things, threatening to break the surface but instead, landing, pausing and flying off again. On Omens, from the latest album Spectres, it's almost a relief when the thin base layer is, eventually, broken and the stompbox drives a tune but, even then, the threatened deluge fails to materialise. Safety is so close but never arrives.

Pigeon City/Trapdoors brings the evening to a close. It started life as a field recording on the late-night streets of Bristol but is now a disquieting, complex, hypnotic meditation on isolation, urban nature and darkness. It is startling, intricate and devastatingly beautiful. This is music for the head, not for the feet.

And then, after all of the experimentation, all of the pretty snatches, all of the tantalising moments, Moore and Moss play a simple, beautiful, acoustic folk tune - no electronics, no tension. The 7th of October almost says "yeah, so, we could do this stuff all day, do it better than anyone else, but we can do that other stuff too". The "other stuff" might be more difficult, might be disconcerting, might be uncomfortable but it's deeply rewarding.

MIKE WEAVER starts the evening in a much more comfortable way. His songs are soaked in nostalgia; he constantly reminds us of his age, his childhood, the people he used to know, the pubs he used to love and stories from before we were all born. His songs are lovely, his voice honest and his heart is, very much, in the right place. If he, unashamedly, looks back then Moore and Moss are resolutely looking forward.

Words: Gavin McNamara
Photos: Barry Savell

This month’s headliners at Downend Folk & Roots’ monthly concert are a duo widely regarded as two of the best players and innovators in traditional folk amongst a precociously gifted generation.

TOM MOORE & ARCHIE MOSS’ finely-crafted arrangements wield a rare potency. Now, having toured with with some of the biggest and brightest acts in the British folk scene, they reconvene to perform as duo. Their second record Spectres further unites the deep and resolute harmony of Archie Moss’s accordion with the texture and flow of Tom Moore’s viola; with droning, whirring, sparkling layers of electro-acoustic grit provoking a subtle complexity of palette.

Whilst intrinsically borrowing from English and other European traditional dance form, sonically Tom and Archie have their heads firmly in the present, understanding the values of contemporary music and art making. The distinct pulse and intuition of trad-music haunts their playing as they continue to quietly reconsider English instrumental music, listening and responding to the world around them as much as their musical ancestors.

Joining Tom and Archie on the bill will be a familiar face, long-time friend of Downend Folk & Roots, MIKE WEAVER. Mike is a singer-songwriter originally from Cheltenham, but now living in Worcestershire. He is a writer and illustrator by day and an acoustic performer by night, presenting his own melodic songs which draw upon both contemporary and traditional influences.

His 2019 release A Moment In Time is a collection of tunes and songs which reflect upon childhood, the ageing process and indelible memories of life and love. Numerous tracks from the CD have featured on UK, Irish, Amercian and Canadian digital channels, as well as BBC local radio stations in the Midlands and West of England.

Tickets for the concert, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 17 February 2023, are available online HERE and from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend (cash only). They are priced at £14 each in advance or £16 on the door. Doors open at 7.30pm and the entertainment starts around 7.45pm.

There will be a bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from locally-based HOP UNION BREWERY. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own glass/ mug/tankard, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the drive to be more environmentally aware. There is a 50p discount for those that do. There will also be sweet treats available at the bar courtesy of the Radstock-based GREAT CAKE COMPANY, as well as a prize draw, which helps to fund the support artists for each concert.

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We are beyond excited to reveal our programme for Summer 2023. We think we’ve hit the perfect balance with this one, and we hope you’ll agree!

We begin our season with a visit from JON WILKS, an acclaimed fingerpicking guitarist and singer of traditional folk songs and broadside ballads from the English repertoire. He has a great eye/ear for a story, and this shows in his live shows – an amusing mix of folk song performance and storytelling. The concert takes place on Friday 19 May, and JENNIE HIGGINS will get the music underway.

BELLA HARDY’s return to Downend is probably long overdue. Bella was one of our very first guests when we launched back in 2014 when she performed a solo set as the recently-crowned BBC Folk Singer of the Year. This time she’ll be joined by Sam Carter (guitar) and Daniel Wallington (keys) as they tour Bella’s latest album, Love Songs. We’ve pushed the boat out on this one because we KNOW you’ll love it, so we hope you’ll join us on Friday 16 June, when HANNAH SCOTT will be in support before Bella’s trio take to the stage.

Rounding off our Summer season will be OWEN SPAFFORD & LOUIS CAMPBELL, who will be our headline guests on Friday 21 July. Owen and Louis met as as part of the first cohort of the National Youth Folk Ensemble and they have been nominated for the BBC Young Folk Award and been played on BBC Radio 2 and 3, as well as RTE1. A shared musical ‘true north’ and lasting friendship enable the duo to make two instruments seemingly sound as one; creating subtle and emotive textures that re-calibrate the fiddle and guitar duo idiom. The opening set will come from singer-songwriter MINNIE BIRCH.

All four concerts will take place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND. Seating is unreserved. The concerts are individually priced, but you can also buy a season ticket for all three concerts for £38, a saving of almost £10. All tickets are non-refundable. They will also be available from MELANIE’S KITCHEN in Downend ahead of each individual gig. Please note that they can only take cash payments and season tickets are NOT available at the shop. There will be a full bar at all concerts, as well as a prize draw, all proceeds of which go towards booking our support artists. Doors open at 7.30pm for a 7.45pm start.

We’re absolutely buzzing about this season, and we hope you will be too. Keep supporting live music!

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