Stars: ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The Chaplaincy Centre on the University of Dundee campus is an odd building. Out of some desire to be less like a traditional church and more accessible for other religions and faiths the main room is completely round, decorated in a sparse almost Celtic fashion – although a large crucifix dominates the room. It is under that crucifix that SHHE’s equipment has been set up.
Suddenly a grand piano starts to play and the crowd turns to find Kathryn Joseph singing, her hair haloed by a single strobe light. The rest of the room is in darkness as she plays, her fingers falling heavily onto the keys as if the despair in her voice is directed at the instrument in front of her.
The songs are urgent, her voice distinctive and raspy, as she sings lyrics like “And I fucked up, underlined, and you have loved me, most of the time/and all I do is write shit lullabies for babies I don’t make, and tell you lies,” from ‘The Crow’. It’s hard not to imagine her heart is breaking.
In contrast, SHHE introduces herself softly with the sound of waves. Lyrically her set suffers from the inevitable comparison to Joseph, but there’s no denying her talent. Watching her is a multi-sensory experience, with strobe lighting, smoke machines, and various pieces of complicated professional kit – making you feel as if you’re watching a sound art performance. Turns out her recent live project Dýrafjörður combined sound, moving image and visual art and was even funded by Creative Scotland.
Stand out tracks include ‘Emma’, which explores a satisfyingly ambiguous relationship between the singer and the titular Emma, and ‘Maps’ which has the strongest opener with the lines, “and your love is like an island on a map that I cannot find/although I know the coordinates like the back of my hand.” There’s something there… it will be interesting to see how SHHE’s work develops.
Overall, while it was clear that SHHE and Kathryn Joseph are personally close I’m not sure their sets really complimented each other. Joseph’s lyrical complexity and emotionally heart-wrenching delivery unfortunately made SHHE’s perfectly fine performance feel slightly… lacking. On the other hand, SHHE’s musical complexity and the aforementioned sound art feel created a lighter, even happier atmosphere to the room, like the crowd was breathing a sigh of relief after the intense first half.
So while there’s a lot to ruminate on and songs to re-listen to on Spotify, one things for sure – the Chaplaincy Centre at the University of Dundee might be the coolest new music venue in the city.
Words: Ana Hine
Image: Genevieve Bertagnolli
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