Arts On The Move Festival 2015
by Matt Hacke
Arts on the Move returned for a second year, serving as a menagerie of entertainments, eccentricities, and beauties on a hot summer day in June. I took an early lift with one of the performers so we arrived in the vibrant yet tranquil setting early, before many of the punters had arrived. Immediately, I almost stumbled into a performance piece in one of the siderooms in the aged Poltimore House. I scarpered quickly however, as I was there to see the music. Instead, I watched Holly Morwenna who opened in the Garden with a 45 minute set of which most were covers, some simple interpretations, others more complex re-edits – exemplified in her closing piece, an acoustic version of Living On A Prayer. Overall, I enjoyed her set, especially the soulful quality to her singing, which was augmented perfectly by a subtley amplified guitar sound, both of which breezed through the garden extremely pleasantly. I would have liked to hear some more of her original work, as I liked what I heard, but I’m sure the weighting of her sets will shift towards this as time goes on.
To digress briefly, Arts On The Move seems to function on the synergetic relationships established between the multiplicitous genres and modes on display, and between the art itself and the ersatz setting of the partially restored Poltimore House. The setting itself it something to behold, with a great constructed shell looming over the mansion, giving the courtyard at the locus of this interior the feel of John Ruskin’s reinterpretation of The Truman Show. Tasteful photography, origami, and as I alluded to, performance pieces, became Easter eggs in the husk-like corridors and alcoves. Of course sonically this made for decent acoustics and when I watched the Exeter Singers in the foyer in the mid-afternoon, I was impressed by how well the limited number of male singers morphed the room into an amplifier. The choir’s rendition of a round mid-repertoire proved this best – creating a pleasing uncertainty between natural and synthetic echoing.
That is an extremely roundabout way of saying that artists best succeeded when they formed unities with the unique and haunting setting that Arts On The Move provided to them. Tom Elliott, who played around lunchtime, was afforded the meteorological convenience of sudden cloud cover during his cover of Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone, which not only enacted the song’s lyrics but also dimly lit the backdrop of the house, giving sombre and poignant natural lighting to his well-executed cover. Musically, Elliott continues to progress extremely excitingly, and, having seen him play on several occasions over the last three years, this development has always been encouraging. As he rolled out two new songs, one of which, Tell Me, being my highlight of the set. Both also supplemented by a greatly extended vocal range, Elliott justified why he has been one of the go-to singer songwriters in Exeter for a long while. We’ll miss him at our sporadic events when he moves to London in a few months.
One of those aforementioned Easter-eggs proved to be, I felt, one of the best sets I’ve seen from a local act in a long time. We were encouraged into a sparse room, lit like an operating theatre, by one of the organisers to watch one-half of Delmer Darion, who used samples and recordings alongside live guitar and keys to recite the entirety of the duo’s first album, All over again, All over again, plus two - as of then - unperformed remixes to close. Having not heard the album prior to this, I was absolutely blown away by the diversity of the sound, which I could best describe as a more techno and industrial influenced Bonobo or instrumental Alt-J. Again the setting and music synthesised, with the lighting constantly splitting the performer into 4 separate shadows on the back wall, an echo of the business and polyphony of the tracks being played. My highlight of the day came at the denouement of the set, a spectral and stark remix of Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which I am extremely excited to see released in the near future.
Overall, Arts on the Move puts on an enjoyable event through which one could take many roots through, and the only regret I could take from it was that there was not enough time to see more. Having carved out a niche for itself with its unique setting and selection of a diverse bill, I’m looking forward to following its motion next year – as the house is slowly restored, and the artwork created in Exeter and in Devon similarly progresses and changes with time.