Laura Moody
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Laura Moody

London, England, United Kingdom | SELF

London, England, United Kingdom | SELF
Band Alternative Avant-garde

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"Irish Times - Gigs of the Year (2012)"

Gigs of the Year:
Laura Moody
The Grand Social , May - The Irish Times - The Ticket Magazine


"A night with ex-York student Laura Moody: Ridiculous? Possibly. Sublime? Definitely."

Ex-York-Music-Student Laura Moody, already a hugely successful cellist, is beginning to make a name for herself in singer-songwriter spheres, influenced by the beat-boxing, electronica, world music and the likes of Bjork and Tom Waits, York got the first bite of her musically maverick apple at her unforgettable debut concert at Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall a couple of Wednesdays ago and it left me buzzing.

Cries, laughs, screams, whispers, gasps, snaps, scratches, ricochets, taps, clicks and slaps: These are just a few sounds from the diverse spectrum Laura Moody weaves into her songs. Labelled as ‘contemporary, experimental and avant-pop’, the best way to describe Laura is a singer-songwriter who does a kind of cello and voice remix of her own song live.

It all came about when Laura’s attempt to teach herself the guitar well enough to sing her own songs never really took off, or at least what she could do with a guitar didn’t satisfy her. Instead she decided to build on her already established talent and love for the cello. She describes locking herself away for hours in her flat (much to the amusement, bewilderment, and probably aggravation of her neighbours) teaching herself not just to sing and play at the same time, but to building on her fascination with all the pseudo-electronic and beat-box effects she can get out of her cello and her voice. She then uses these recreate the effect of a pop track by simultaneously using more parts of her voice and cello that you might have thought humanly possible, let alone sounding good.So her songs eventually become a kind of live remix born out of the fully fledged song she has in her head. What was so striking was that the concept seems a bit too abstract to work, but in reality, while being mesmerizingly impressive, it seemed strangely natural.

Laura’s collaboration with all kinds of artists - Physical Theatre String Ensemble on ‘Lost Music of the Gaels Ensemble’ and Killa-Kella elsewhere - are what flavours her music. She seems to have soaked up fragments of these diverse influences, binding them together with her own fascination with her cello, and putting it all across with swagger, passion and wit. ‘Oh Mother’ (check it out at her MySpace) is a good example of her use of these influences, mimicking electronic sounds using techniques like bounding the wooden part of her bow on the string (ricochet bowing for those of you in the know!), pizzicato, and even hitting her throat with her bow whilst singing. I kid you not!

The results of her hours and hours of practice were both entertaining and incredibly expressive both to watch and listen to. An officially 'untrained' singer, she has a beautiful voice: often warm and gravely – like a richer version of Eva Cassidy – but capable of reaching vibrating pingy soprano heights with ease. The physicality of what she does with her cello and her style of expression means it becomes as theatrical or dancelike as it is musical.
As a soloist performer, Laura works with all kinds of exciting people, including Judith Ring, another of York’s rising stars . Laura performed a piece called ‘Up to My F-holes’ which they collaborated on, a witty little piece written especially for her for live cello and tape that builds on her fascination with all the less conventional ways of playing. Following this contemporary number was the haunting ‘Jangelma’ (‘Teach me’) by Senegalese Mola Sylla, a song which deals with the imposing of French identity upon African children in the French colonies. Adam de la Cour’s ‘Tic’ was perhaps a little harder to digest unless, like me, you’re secretly attracted to all things eccentric. While her winning charisma made the piece far less alien than they might have been, it just was the kind of piece that makes alot more sense when you have the programme notes in front of you, whereas the beauty of Laura’s own stuff is it stands alone completely.

There were moments (like the bow-hitting-throat thing I mentioned above) when the bizarreness beat me (and everyone else in the room); on at least one occasion the urge to laugh out loud was just too great and most of us gave in to giggles. I felt guilty at the time – I know how terrifying being on stage alone can be – but in hindsight, it was precisely the fact that it managed to provoke this kind of involuntary response that made Laura Moody’s set so thrilling. It’s so rare to find people who are able to be creative without inhibition. Even in the privacy of my own room I’ll admit I probably wouldn’t have the freedom of spirit to let myself go enough to come up with some of the things I saw that night. Much as we like to think of ourselves as liberated and open minded, in truth a lot of us still cringe at anything that isn’t expressed with what we consider to be a basic level of decorum.

Anything that’s too physical or visceral or uninhibited reminds us of the childlike or primitive and tends to make us cringe: panting, gasping, doing frankly bizarre things like singing a high pitched note while hitting your throat with a bow or making unrefined ‘noises’ with your instrument are things that most of us would never dream of doing in public, but it was precisely this childlike free spirit that made Laura’s performance magic. The unashamed quirkiness captures the hyperactive child she was (and probably still is) which, combined with her formidable talent, makes for an exhilarating, immensely expressive experience. Laura remained completely un-phased (or at least seemed to) reacting to peoples giggles with a smile.

Having had time to digest my reaction I realised that this shows that experimental doesn’t have to mean pretentious. At the end of the day people go to the theatre, concerts and galleries to because they enjoy it, not because they think they ought to, to broaden their aesthetic thinking. So Laura Moody’s playful and mischievous approach to her unusual style was charming putting you at ease to soak up the true depth of her music and her performance..

Tuesday, 11th March 2008
Anna Goldbeck-Wood - The Yorker


"Irish Times Review"

...for enjoyable astonishment, nothing quite beat the singer-cellist Laura Moody. She plays lyrically; then as if it was a box for sound effects. She sings her own almost-pop songs, gurgles, hoots, wails, taps her throat with the bow. Yet it's all seamless, as if she, the cello and the music are a single organism. - The Irish Times


"Laura Moody at Charlie Wright's"

... witty and imaginative songs, drawing on a multitude of vocal/cello timbres that match her scattergun lyrical turns and eccentric vocalising. Having toured with the Elysian Quartet and theatrical troupe The Gogmagogs, Moody presents a unique interface between her OTT energised delivery and classical/jazz/folk fare. - Time Out London


"Laura voted Best New Discovery of the 2009 UK festivals"

"She combined the demented howl of PJ Harvey and the idiosyncrasies of Joanna Newsom." - The Observer


"Laura Moody at York Spring Festival of New Music"

One highlight of the festival was Laura Moody’s performance at the City Screen Basement Bar, supported by Ben Crawley...His set was very enjoyable and a wonderful way to lead in to Laura Moody’s performance, as she too used her voice in a creative and unexpected way. Laura is a London-based singer-cellist, an alumnus of the University of York, and also a member of the Elysian Quartet, who played earlier in the Festival. Not only was her cello playing and singing extraordinarily accomplished, but Laura’s songs display her extraordinary creativity by utilizing her cello and her voice in new and innovative ways. Her cello was as much a percussive instrument, as stringed, and at one point she even used her bow to tap her own vocal chords, bending the pitch of her voice. Her music had elements of many genres, and each time something recognizable emerged, Laura quickly swept the audience back off its feet with something unexpected. Through this she managed to create an explosion of emotion and, with fascinating and sometimes humorous lyrics, incredibly entertaining story-telling. Rarely have I seen an audience engage with a performer so warmly. The performance was truly mesmerising, and a visual delight as much as an auditory one.
Words by Jessica Sweeney. - loveyork.org


"The avant-popper demonstrates developing songwriting skills ahead of her debut album, thinks Russ Coffey"

Laura Moody says she was given a cello as a child to curb hyperactivity, but listening to her tonight you might well have wondered if she’d had Tourettes too. The singer-cellist’s sound includes clicks, shrieks, howls, and a lot of things that probably shouldn’t happen to a cello. In fact, tonight it seemed almost as if she had taken every musical influence that had come her way in her 28 years and put them in a blender. And the result? It was certainly extraordinary and sometimes disturbing. But what surprised me most as I sweated it out in a muggy hall was just how often it became mesmerising.

She's eccentric alright, but her eccentricity seems uncontrived; more a natural inclination towards the unusual. Most of her recording career so far has been with the Elysian Quartet, best known for their work with Gabriel Prokofiev, the DJ who wrote the “Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra”. Other offbeat projects include working with “human beat-box” Killa Kela, and with the physical theatre group the Gogmagogs.

On her website Moody cites individualists like Joanna Newsom and Bjork as influences. But there’s really no point of reference for her. It’s true that like her heroes she shares a disregard for convention in favour of a woman’s intuition. But doing her own thing for Moody is a much more boundary-shifting experience. Tonight she came on in a prim Fifties-style red dress muttering something about "gender identity", started plucking out some bass figures on her cello and then began singing an Indian poem about eunuchs in a soulful jazz style. But it was actually after this that things started to get a little strange. “There Could be no Doubt of his Sex”, again on the subject of gender variety contained an unusual amount of cries and yelps. The cello abuse on “They’re Saying it’s Over” sounded at first like the creaking of a conjugal bed but Moody then extended this “ technique” to the point where it sounded as if she were trying to attack the instrument, whilst interspersing the accompaniment with a plaintive, expressive vocal.

It may sound like kookiness for kookiness’s sake, but it probably isn't; even when Moody slapped a cello bow against her throat on "Oh Mother" and half the room looked like they had their doubts. Songwriter Robert Wyatt, on hearing Moody’s music recently, described it as “solo, but not at all bedsit”. Apparently, he liked the way that she was not trying to be one of the fashionable, naval-gazing oddballs singing whimsical songs to gently plucked guitars. And she exudes an air of integrity that leaves you in no doubt that whatever it is she's doing, she really means it.

But as fun as Moody’s stranger songs are, there’s only so far emotionally that they can go. Still, the four brand new songs from the forthcoming album, much straighter pieces of music, gave Moody a real chance to show what a rich instrument she has in her alto voice. “Like Water” is apparently inspired by African music, but it sounded more as if it were inspired by Southern spirituals. “Call This Time Love” with delicate arpeggios being hammered on with one hand and a gentle rhythm tapped out with the other, was simply lovely and got the biggest clap of the night. However, my favourite was “We are Waiting”, a folky love song that reminded me of Tim Buckley even though it didn’t really sound anything like him.

All these new songs demonstrated emotional development as a writer with experiences worth sharing and the artistry to communicate them. However, she chose to end the evening with a cover. And her version of Nick Drake’s “Cello Song” was simply stunning. Her bow made a sound like a dawn chorus whilst her voice poured out such melancholy it was hard to believe it was the same girl who, minutes earlier, had been singing a cheeky song about her teenage affair with a middle-aged man.

All in all, tonight’s performance augers very well for Moody’s debut LP. That won’t, however, be ready until the autumn. Meanwhile there’s the EP which Moody gave away free after the show. When I got home I was surprised iTunes recognised mine. Album: EP, Artist: Laura Moody, Genre: Unclassifiable. It’s certainly true she's hard to classify, but there's no denying she’s pretty easy to like. - The Artsdesk


Discography

EP (Moody Music 2008)

Photos

Bio

Laura Moody is a wildly alternative cellist, vocalist and theatre performer from London, UK. Fascinated not only with words and song writing but also with sounds, noises and textures, she eschews laptops and loop pedals to explore what is possible performing simultaneously with only cello and voice to create unique avant pop music. For some years Laura has been part of a vibrant underground scene in London that marries the classical avant garde with other adventurous genres of popular music, notably as cellist in pioneering alt-classical string quartet Elysian Quartet. Drawing in equal measure on the worlds of leftfield pop and singer-songwriter tradition it was recently noted by Time Out London that Laura Moody “presents a unique interface” between these genres while The Arts Desk observed of a recent performance, “it seemed almost as if she had taken every musical influence that had come her way and put them in a blender...certainly extraordinary and sometimes disturbing. But what surprised me most ...was just how often it became mesmerising.”

In a career that has embraced everything from hip-hop to Irish folk music Laura has also found time to tour world-wide as a theatre performer in physical theatre and contemporary dance productions. Harnessing such physical theatricality to create dynamic and intimate solo performances, Laura has brought her music to venues, radio and TV all around Europe including London’s Southbank Centre, Germany’s Munsterland Festival and Dublin’s The Grand Social where Laura’s 2012 performance was voted one of the Irish Times’ “Gigs of the Year”. Laura’s performances have been acclaimed equally at both contemporary classical festivals, such as The Crash Ensemble Marathon in Dublin and the Tampere Vocal Festival in Finland, and at indie festivals such as United Underground, SXSW, and The Truck festival where The Observer voted Laura “best new discovery” of the UK’s busiest 2009 Festival weekend. Having released an EP on her own label in 2008, Laura has been collaborating with sound artists Edward Jessen and Dominic Murcott of The High Llamas on her debut album which is to to be released later this year. Laura has enjoyed support from such luminaries as Meredith Monk and Robert Wyatt who on recommending her music on BBC Radio Three recently summed part of it's appeal quite nicely, “it’s solo... but not at all bedsit!”