Monocles sighted on Kings Heath High Street

Martin Longley appreciated an early chance to catch alternative rock-jazz supergroup Monocled Man.

Monocled Man
The Hare & Hounds

The uprising of innovatively charged UK bands has become so established that we’re now experiencing the dawn of the ‘supergroup’, even if the players involved are only familiar to followers of this particular scene.

So, the Monocled Man trio brings together members of Fringe Magnetic, Troyka and the Kairos 4tet, meaning trumpeter Rory Simmons, guitarist Chris Montague and drummer Jon Scott. All three deploy various types of electronic augmentation. The precise combination of these artists creates a music that’s not so similar to that of their usual host combos, but it will still appeal to most of their existing followers.

The bad news was that the audience at the Hare & Hounds was extremely sparse, but the good news was that the performance was unaffected, the tunes delivered with a committed energy and precision. The venue’s upper room is also blessed with an excellent sound system, mixed with crystal attack, so the Monocled ones were comfortably angular in their ideal habitat.

Lacking a bass player, the onus is on Montague to inhabit the lower regions, coating his strings with effects that often make him sound like an organist’s footpedals, padding around mysteriously. Simmons mostly finds himself as the vanguard instrument, high-wiring above the involved contortions of guitar and drums.

The internal lockings are ever-metamorphosing, but every unstable combination always connects with razor-skimming accuracy. Keyboard-impersonating textures were frequently injected to thicken the atmosphere, sometimes as drones, at others providing more of an active melody.

Simmons moved between trumpet and flügelhorn, revealing different levels of friction around the edges of his solos, individual expressions that could also be classified as ongoing melodic structures, though filled with constant detail and embellishment. One number found him building a line on his small keyboard, leaving Montague free to rip out a more abstract guitar solo. The one lack might be that the guitarist’s riff-and-bassline-building duties prevent him from using his own voice as a soloing balance.

Meanwhile, Scott’s drumming was always in motion, balancing the needs of structure with the urge to make constant asymmetrical accents. Meeting in Leeds and London, the threesome have gigged together frequently, though not in this particular configuration. They already have a debut album available on the increasingly prolific Whirlwind label, operated by the US bassist Michael Janisch, now a long-term London resident.

Photo – Mary Wakelam

One thought on “Monocles sighted on Kings Heath High Street

  1. I like Martin Longley’s jazz pieces, could he write a what’s on thing for The Press so we can come to some of the night’s he comments about

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