Bristol group’s fresh take on older ways

A recent arrival and, according to many critics, a worthy addition to the Bristol circuit that produced some of the contemporary scene’s most innovative acts early last decade is Kosheen, who play their first ever Greek show this weekend. The group has proven to be adept at incorporating both older and newer influences over their brief two-album course to date. The trio that formed late last decade and took its name from the synthesis of two Japanese words, ko, meaning new, and sheen, meaning old, swiftly distinguished itself on the UK dance circuit with a hip-hop/soul-driven sound. The group’s debut single, «Hide U,» taken from Kosheen’s first album, «Resist,» became a hit on the UK club scene around mid-2001, and, later that year, earned the band Best Single honors at the Drum & Bass awards, a high-profile event in the dance circuit. Kosheen’s arrival was bolstered by strong praise from the BBC’s Radio 1 and frequent rotation from the influential dance-circuit DJ John Digweed in his club sets. Founded by a Bristol-based duo, Darren Decoder and Markee Substance, the act gelled as a trio when, in 1998, Decoder and Substance invited Welsh-born singer-songwriter Sian Evans to provide guest vocals on some of their material. She ended up staying. Long before Kosheen’s formation as a trio, Decoder, born Darren Beale, had spent his high school years playing with various punk outfits, but a meeting with Geoff Barrow – who later formed the highly acclaimed Bristol act Portishead – acquainted the developing artist with the electronic side of music-making. As a result, Beale put his guitars aside and began to explore samplers and other new-era music machines. Around this time, Decoder – who, besides writing his own material, was also active as a DJ in Bristol – joined forces with his future Kosheen partner, Substance, to organize various drum’n’bass parties on Bristol’s vibrant dance circuit. The two and Evans, the act’s singer, eventually crossed paths after she relocated from her native Wales in her late teens to find herself deeply immersed in the UK’s developing «rave» scene. Despite connecting with contemporary ways, the young singer continued to write material with an old-school feel that was deeply influenced by the artist’s songwriting heroine Joni Mitchell as well as Welsh folk music. It was around this time, with her artistic senses tuned into past and present, that Evans moved to Bristol in search of open-minded collaborators for fresh ideas and sounds. As a trio, Kosheen have managed to blend a disparate mix of rock, hip-hop, jazz, drum’n’bass, and folk for songs with a character of their own. The group’s second album, «Kokopelli,» released late late last summer and featuring songs inspired by the lives of native American Indians, places less emphasis on the folk-electronica mix of its predecessor for a rock-tinged sound that echoes older work by acts such as the Pretenders, Cure, and Kate Bush. Commenting on Kosheen’s material in a recent interview, Decoder said that the band was interested in avoiding rigid classification for its work. «I don’t want people to have set standards for our music,» he said. The act, which has built a reputation as an exciting band on stage, will be supported by a promising local band, Matisse, for its Athens show. The Athens-based pop-rock act, signed to multinational Sony’s local branch, emerged with its debut release, an EP, last summer and is now preparing to launch its first album. Saturday, Ark No. 6 (18 Themidos, Tavros), tel 210.338.8400.