Clementine Valentine – Constant Smiles – Coventry – Live Review

Clementine Valentine – Constant Smiles – The Tin Music and Arts – Coventry – 21st February 2024

So tonight Sink or Swim Promotions are presenting New Zealand’s Clementine Valentine and New York’s Constant Smiles together in a small Coventry venue, one of those nights where Fighting Boredom didn’t know exactly what to expect. Read about what we saw below.

The Photographer said he’d pick me up tonight but I had a computer to look at so ended up sitting in a nearby pub, sipping Bass and playing on my phone for an hour before the gig. I wandered over to the Canal Basin and into the Tin to chat with people before the Photographer came in moaning about parking apps. The Tin is set out with tables and chairs with tea lights dancing on the tables. People sit and wait as Constant Smiles take to the stage.

A high drone starts, the drummer slowly strokes her cymbals and there’s a gentle looped sound. The guitar gets stronger, phasing in and out and getting louder with the long drawn out notes. There are now multiple layers of sound overlapping and enveloping, the guitarist has his head down as he leans on the guitar not playing anything as the sound carries on, and then stops dead. 

He strums his guitar, deep  and powerful, the drummer plays hard clear beats and the vocal is low deep and soulful. When the drummer sings in harmony on the chorus she sounds strong, high and clear. It’s a simple song which has no room for frills. The two of them feed off each other and in the breaks between songs have a rapport built from friendship. The drummer tells us it’s their first time performing in England as she got food poisoning the night before so missed the gig. 

The guitar circles and the drums keep a simple beat, the vocal is warm and alive and the music feels like sunshine sparkling off windows and glasses. The drummer’s voice adds to it. It’s not quite folk and not quite indie, I can’t quite define it. They say that they have no setlist this tour and how the guitarist has a rental guitar that needs a fair bit of tuning, and, the drummer adds, makes him look like a proper rockstar. 

The next song is more upbeat with a high vocal, this one is more like what Eels would sound like if they smiled, Bright Eyes, that sort of thing. They play a sad song with a flamenco guitar then a little slow instrumental interlude. The guitar starts to loop again as the drums just keep a beat. It cuts off and the guitar strumming starts again, this time the change sounds clumsy. They have veered into a West Coast sunshine sound now, the drummer sings and it’s upbeat, but the sound mix is far too loud both for the delicacy of the music and the size of the room. A decent set to start the night. The photographer is not convinced though.

Clementine Valentine are giggling at each other on stage, a lot. They have a keyboard or synth or whatever it is, bass and guitar. The beats are electronic as the sound circles around high harmonies. The vocals sound distorted and discordant because it’s too loud, it should be delicate not harshly forced out into a glare of volume. Constant Smiles are watching from the back of the room as Clementine Valentine play a simple tune really well. There’s a delicate wave of synth with small guitar noises and the bass is playing but way back in the mix, it’s like a sunrise just peeping over the horizon. They go into a slow mellow beat and the vocals are lovely between the women. It gets faster and stronger and enters a kind of lost wild folkiness, there’s darkness underneath the words, strong and powerful. The next one has an almost mediaeval introduction before the beats start alongside the guitar and bass, it sounds like a wide open space in the sunshine, like the blue sky , like flowers surrounded by thorns, the music reverbs into the realm of shoegaze.

It’s slow, flowing and sinous as the two at the front of the stage chant together. Weird and odd sounds surround them and an ancient power flows through the music. 

They tell us that their Grandfather is from Birmingham so the next song is for him. It’s a low drone with weird wind noises, a slow bass line and beats join in and sheets of distorted guitar the vocal is slow and it grows ever stronger until it is all encompassing, it’s the sound of slow, powerful magic. It speaks of hardship, love and despair. There’s a slow organ sound and distorted guitar notes, the music feels like skimming over clouds in a brilliant sky, the beat starts and the vocal struggles to be heard but as the second vocal joins in it breaks through the music and turns into magical folk harmonies as the two hold hands at the front of the stage and sing.It sounds old, forgotten and beautiful. The synth sound turns unearthly and entwines itself around the beats and bells. Then the pair of vocals rise up again, it’s almost on the level of Gazelle Twin, it slides into chaos but in a good way. The volume rises although it really doesn’t need to.

The synth is now bright and rising up, the vocal sounds angry now, like a dark cloud coming, a storm rising over the purple heather on the moor. The long black dresses and white shirts make them look severe, magical and strong. There is power here in their voices.

They have an encore and clarify that they are, in fact, not actually in Birmingham just close to it. They start the music then stand opposite each other with their hands rising together as they sing the last song. It is lovely, powerful and their voices are dancing around each other, this is an old old sound, mystic and magical. They finish the song together with their hands up against each other. Wonderful.

Clementine Valentine

Constant Smiles

Clementine Valentine’s website is, they are on Facebook, Instagram and have a Bandcamp page.

Constant Smiles’ website is they are on Facebook, Instagram and Bandcamp.

All Words by Adrian Bloxham, All pictures by Martin Ward.

Adrian Bloxham

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