Half Cousin is a remarkably good name for this band. The five piece, headed by Kevin Cormack, specialise in blending barely-related riffs and styles together, but when it all comes together on stage the results are never less than intriguing.
Cormack arrives in a solo capacity, an Orcadian with an accordion if you like, and presses a few buttons on a big keyboard before joggling with a smaller instrument, such as you might find in a Christmas stocking. Loops are started, the guitar is strapped, and we’re off – and as strains of early house music combine with a pastoral strumming it’s immediately clear we’re in for something rather different.
Cormack’s music doesn’t depend on electronic loops, but in the absence of the band, who arrive two songs in, they work well and get the crowd grooving. When the accomplices do arrive the sound steps back in time a few more years, and we bow to funky bass riffs, or clear the musical space for a fractious clarinet solo from Michael Slattery, whose contribution to is worth the price of admission alone.
Cormack communicates both visually and through his music, rather then engage the audience in banal stage banter. This works well, though the spectre of talking at gigs raises its ugly head in the keenly felt, intimate encore. Why do people go to gigs when all they want to do is inform ten people around them about their recent travelling exploits?! No, I don’t know the answer either.
Cormack seems far too polite to admonish such behaviour, and besides, he’s clearly feeling the biographical songwriting. In London he may be, but a large part of his head stands in chip shops, roams the crofts or sits in his dad’s car – all in Orkney. For a first time listener some of the words are difficult to pick out, but when this proves the case, there’s so much going on in the music that the shortfall is barely noticeable.
Take Country Cassette, where Cormack beats the living daylights out of a metal sheet, or The Absentee, where he gracefully changes chords on his guitar. Even more impressive are keenly felt contributions on the accordion, used sparingly but contributing a great deal of colour when employed.
A fascinating gig then, alighting in unexpected musical fields before suddenly taking flight for others. Kevin Cormack has a highly individual approach to making music, and it’s one that urges you to witness it live.