WITH their warm pastoral sound, jazzy time signatures and fondness for comfy knitwear, modest quartet Syd Arthur seem to have sprung fully formed from the Vale of Avalon.
Actually, this charming band hail from Canterbury and come steeped in that town’s musical legacy, evoking the soft progressive rock sound of Caravan, Gong, The Soft Machine and early Yes (before the capes and ridiculous stagecraft).
There are further clues in their name which puns on Syd Barrett, the king of psychedelic whimsy, and The Kinks’ 1969 album Arthur, not to mention a nod to the Herman Hesse novel Siddartha. But, although clearly influenced by that late 1960s blend of psychedelia, prog and folk, there is nothing forced about Syd Arthur’s sound. They wear their virtuosity lightly. Drummer Fred Rother was tucked away in the shadows steering their scenic course, matched fluently by Liam Magill’s precise but lithe guitar work, while multi-instrumentalist Raven Bush (Kate Bush’s nephew – don’t you just love it?) delicately embellished proceedings with fiddle, mandolin and a smattering of keyboard.
Although their heritage is clear, there was a spring freshness to their set which was a balmy pleasure to behold. Best of all, Magill’s light, soulful voice sets the band apart on, to give just one example, the gentle jazz-folk of Dorothy. Devendra Banhart and Jim James have already provided an Americana spin on this seductive fusion but here in the UK Syd Arthur are off on their own trip – organic, of course.