Wyvern Lingo / The Louisiana, Bristol | 17th of May

Wyvern Lingo / The Louisiana, Bristol | 17th of May

Harmonies are but a part of Wyvern Lingo’s impressive repertoire.

Laying to bare their throes, woes and considerations, the young Irish trio glided through acoustic hymns and rhythmic indie pop on Thursday evening. We responded accordingly. There’s an Éire of great talent in each of them, and in each moment that Caoimhe Barry or Karen Cowley take the lead to emotively twist their tales. The latter plays synth-keys and bass too. The former is a super skilled drummer and percussionist; some of the crispest beats I’ve heard live combine effortlessly with her mature and rangey voice. She starts one track with an echoing gaelic incantation. The third member, rhythm guitarist Saoirse Duane, doesn’t settle for a back seat – she offers lower soulful support vocals and leads one song with lofty crowd involvement. Duane always offers smart, subtle hooks and occasionally controls the scene with her gifted playing. The gig was originally scheduled for April but was postponed re: a hand-in-van-door-injury to Cowley (the medics who assisted her were stood behind me). The lingering signs of summer lent the shows’ rearrangement an extra edge — Ballads driven by grief, confusion, anger and the rest worked alongside stripped back musical turns and neat beats. Though they practice tried combinations, there’s a fine craft and individual character which appears plentiful on their eponymous debut album. Released this year, Wyvern Lingo serves as a tidy tip-off to their collective identity. As they’ve said of the record: ‘This is us’. Some highlights:

Maybe It’s My Nature: Cowley’s voice (occasionally reminiscent of certain Florence tones and inflections) is suited to the slow, pained verses on show here. Calming clicks to an anthemic refrain. Choral backing throughout.

Dark Cloud: Barry steps to stagefront from behind the kit (where she’s been killing it for a few tracks), stands now by the drumboard, and proceeds to play pulsing electrical chords on a large, low rhythm guitar. Her voice meanders through the beautiful lament, a track about knowing someone in a tough place, about the concerns and the coping.

Tell Him starts off with subdued, weaving vocals and pushes to a punchy 4/4 hi-hat beat. Barry rises to a poignant crescendo, snare is accentuated by Duane’s reverbing strums and the song slows again, mimicking the mind’s ebbs and flows when cutting contact with a major part of your life.

Snow II: Barry introduces the song as one of ‘an old fashioned opinion of snow’ – an exciting event that quickly turns to trouble and inconvenience – and a metaphor for relationships. She and the other two speak with warmth, cheek and humour between tracks; their friendship is lucid. The song is slow, earnest. It benefits from some really nice work on the keys and guitar.

Passionfruit: A slick, customised cover. Cowley has the stage, bringing a real vulnerability to the verses while rim clicks and bassdrum grow in intensity during those well-known hooks. Duane sees us out with a bluesy skit.

Another cover: Bruno Mars’ Finesse: Again, Wyvern Lingo possess and display the seemingly effortless ability to turn their R&B stylistics around, from indie heights to somber cadences within tracks and across tracks. Barry is captivating and totally in control, mastering the kit and her vocals once more.

I Love You, Sadie: Back to the drumboard and floor-tom, Barry loops a beat and sways. Animated and raw, the lyrics are a strong indicator that the trio’s songwriting is akin to their musical prowess.

Used: Cawley’s balladic acapella demands only the finest harmony work, and it gets it. With a distinctively more Irish sound, folky rhymes escort us through an exposed story of a souring breakdown in love. The hardy guards come up (‘I’m not yours at all…for long’ – ‘I’ll never let you in’) and the three play off each other’s strengths, each other’s prominent tones. This display of vocal rapport, though perhaps most vivid during Used, is always there, and can only be marvelled at.

Indeed, ‘some highlights’ just happens to be most of what we heard over the course of an impressive set. It makes a lot of sense that artists like James Vincent McMorrow and Hozier have spotted their promise and subsequently toured with these three. The rhythm&blues of the nineties and noughties serve as a backdrop, a stimulus for their strong, experience driven debut.  Wyvern Lingo is receptive, astute and complex. More vital still – its musicality is great.

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