Psalmistry: Rebels in the student bar

Tuesday 1st June 1999

Their superlative 'Armchair Rebellion' album takes break beat techno hip-hop experimentalists PSALMISTRY to a new level. Mike Rimmer reports.

Psalmistry: Rebels in the student bar

In a student bar in the depths of Birmingham University, the small frame of Cathy Burton is almost overshadowed by her guitar as she strums and sings, looking more vulnerable in the spotlight than she actually feels. Opening up for Psalmistry her songs set the scene and her pure voice enchants, demanding attention from the noisy crowd. Later a DJ spins discs and the atmosphere is perfect for one of Britain's brightest dance outfits to once again take their message and music into mainstream student culture. Psalmistry are about to take no prisoners!

In case you missed it, the buzz about the band has been building over the last couple of years and their album 'Armchair Rebellion' has finally been released. Psalmistry is a five piece break beat techno hip hop crew from Bristol and in their short history they've already made some waves. Main music man Tony Silcock, AKA The Psalmist, works as a producer in Redland Studios in Bristol, a facility owned by Christians, whilst wildman rapper Edi Johnson teaches in a school! He confesses, "Some of the kids cannot believe that I'm in a Christian band, especially when I tell them we're playing break beat techno. They haven't got a clue and they say. 'Yeah yeah sir, so you like drum'n'bass,' and I tell them we play drum'n'bass tracks and they're just completely gob smacked. It's brilliant!"

Before the gig at Birmingham Uni it quickly becomes clear that it's going to be impossible to find a quiet place to chat to the guys and singer Lucy Britten who, following a brief stay with the now disbanded Storm managed a track (much played on UCB Cross Rhythms) on the superb 'Jumping In The House Of God 3' compilation, before rejoining Psalmistry. In a slightly surreal manner, eventually, mixmaster, rapper, singer, drummer (Matt Wiltshire) and journalist opt to record the interview in a slightly smelly cleaner's cupboard! Rock'n'roll eh? Still, one thing is guaranteed, there's no stopping the motor-mouth Edi! He's in full flow describing the song "Bullet" when a rather bemused cleaner interrupts us. "The version on the album has a live vocal on it, taken from one of our gigs. It sums up who we are. It's about the truth of God which is gonna hit you as hard as it possibly can. Whether it happens now, whether it happens later in your life or whether it happens after that, the truth of God is going to hit you like a bullet in your soul and there's no running from it. There's no hiding from it, you can't escape it, you've got to turn around and face up to it some time."

If Edi is the gob of the band, Tony is the studio whiz and Lucy Britten one of the group's two divas! She describes Psalmistry as her "best mates" and it's clear from observing the band together that there's a family vibe about Psalmistry. Lucy's vocals contribute a significant role to the amazing 'Jesus Armchair'. Tony describes the song "If you listen to Keith Green's 'Asleep In The Light', it's basically that kind of idea. I think 'Jesus Armchair' is a kick up the backside for those people who really aren't doing anything. We've been given a commission and unless we're doing it, we're in sin because it's a commission. He didn't say it for fun! The song is basically a call for the Church to get out there and do it!"

The desire of the band to shake up the Church and see a more radical expression of faith is also reflected in the song "Hectic". Edi explains, "It came about from me just getting really really annoyed with people who just go to church and sit back and say, 'Yes thank you very much God for what you're doing for me' and then they go back to their day jobs. It's the kind of mentality about being a Sunday Christian. It goes back to the 'Jesus Armchair' principle of people sitting back and not getting out. Around the time we wrote it, we were meeting up and praying and at one of the prayer sessions, God gave me a picture. I saw me with the other guys beside me looking down from the top of a mountain and I could see all the rivers and all the valleys around me and I could see all the little houses down there. We were all at the top of this mountain just shouting about God and his love for the people down there."

There's impressive versatility demonstrated by Psalmistry on 'Armchair Rebellion', from big beats and techno tunes through to the frankly thrashy (and mysteriously titled) "Paul Daniels". The band are positive, now that the album is in the shops, that musically and spiritually it's Psalmistry's time to make a big impact. Edi, with typical enthusiasm, describes the band's game-plan, "We're trying to conquer the world, basically!" He expands, "We're trying to take over the world with the beats that we make and the words that we're saying. We're trying to get the message across of the reality of God, the truth of God and how it applies to us all in our lives today. But we're putting that across with relevant music, music that we actually enjoy listening to, music which we love. Stuff that has got a really phat beat, something that's got really hectic rhythms, something that will really blow up a joint when you throw it down."

In the heart of Birmingham University, Psalmistry have hit the stage for an event called Vision. Invading the heart of Studentland, the band create a bit of a vibe in one of the bars, Berlin's. Pumping out loud beats, the dance floor soon fills, although there are some students some distance from the stage who still sit round tables trying to be aloof. But it's hard to ignore Psalmistry, especially when frontman Edi is standing on your table, ever the exhibitionist! But then Christian bands don't come much more in yer face than PsalmistryCR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Mike Rimmer
Mike RimmerMike Rimmer is a broadcaster and journalist based in Birmingham.


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