Edinburgh Quartet: Death In Venice

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October 7: Edinburgh, Queen’s Hall
October 9: City Halls, Glasgow


The Edinburgh quartet are a tight & sophisticated unit, & to hear them project notes into the perfect pearly acoustic curves of the Queen’s Hall was an absolute delight. We were presented with three pieces; the 29-year-old Beethoven’s SQ (18-3), the late-in-life Britten’s SQ (3) & Dvorak’s SQ in E flat major.

Every nuance of every piece was played with passion, precision & sensuality, & cannt wait until the next time I get to bathe in the mind-bath that is the playing of the Edinburgh Quartet.

Damo

Let It Be

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Edinburgh Playhouse
08-10-18


In 2012 I saw the Stone Roses play at Heaton Park, Manchester. It was a wonderful experience, emotional really – finally, one of my favorite bands in the flesh. Somehow, I felt the exact same sensations yesterday at the Playhouse, when 4 talented young musicians replicated most meticulously what the Beatles would have sounded like. Here was had Ben Cullingworth as a bang-on Ringo, Michael Bramwell as John, Emanuelle Angeletti as a head-bobbing Paul & John Brosnan as George.

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This is the second incarnation of the Let It Be touring show, which includes a post-interval section set at John Lennons’ 40th mythical birthday get together in 1980, when the lads jam through some of their solo work. All in all dozens of classic songs were played immaculately , a key plus to all this was the hearing some of their later music live – the Beatles had initially quit touring after their momentous gig at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966, the height of Beatlemania. No-one could hear a note over all the screaming. They began recording some killer albums, & apart from a gig on a London rooftop in 1969, that was it for live concerts.

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To see some of Sergeant Peppers being played by the Let it Be company is worth the entrance fee alone. Meticulous costume work, sublime & visual treats & incredible musicianship create the perfect illusion. Despite George Martin’s profundity for overdubs & orchestras, the arrival of keyboard wizard (I didn’t catch his name) replicated everything perfectly. It wasn’t flawless – George Harrison’s accent, for example – but pretty damn close; all the instruments were played live, while the four tvs beamed love footage of the gig, or of concert crowds from the 60s & even adverts between set changes. I cannot praise Let It Be highly enough – what a cracker, & to see an entire auditorium on their feet singing Hey Jude was an even greater spectacle than the brilliant show I’d been completely immersed in for two & a half hours.

Damo

Gamelan and Piano : Wilson Chu and Gamelan Naga Mas

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Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Thursday 27th Sept 2018


This Gamelan and Piano concert was chock-a-block full of treats. Here are four for starters; the celebratory atmosphere of a student’s final event; the attraction of the gamelan instruments themselves, before a note was even played; the professionalism of Wilson Chu (he should run a masterclass on how to receive and respond to applause), and the variety the programme packed into one hour.

Gamelan music, with its ancient origins, comes from Indonesia and is played on an orchestra of metallophones and gongs. It has a characteristically shimmery sound, as the instruments are tuned in order that the harmonics produced should jostle and dance against each other, this effect being called ‘ombak’.  If that sounds quite exotic, it is, but what surprised me was what a welcoming sound world the gamelan proved to be, with several styles sounding perfectly at home beside it.  I was even reminded of some Scottish traditional music (e.g. ‘The Joy of It’ by Catriona MacDonald), and of Debussy (not surprising, he was one of the many classical composers to love and be influenced by the gamelan). The gamelan-inspired piano pieces worked extremely well, and were tuneful, lyrical and sometimes flamboyant. These pieces for solo piano i.e. Tembang Alit, by Jaya Suprana, Java Suite by Leopold Godowsky, and Chu’s own Paraphrase on a Javanese Theme should be widely played.

 

The prepared piano piece by John Cage introduced wit and humour, as the preparations acted like a costume for the piano, so that it could play a new role alongside the gamelan with the help of many unusual timbres. You can judge for yourself what the finished effect was, but I thought it was glorious. The addition of voices allowed for what was the highlight of the evening for me, as the voices were left solo chanting a rapid motif, one of the deeper gongs came in with the drama we associated with gongs, but a lot of playfulness as well. By the last two pieces it was as if the gamelan instruments had really woken up, there was rather a lack of volume of the shimmering sonorities previously mentioned prior to that, and rather a lot of drum. But the last two pieces, by Wilson Chu and the leader of Gamelan Naga Mas, J. Simon van der Walt were a fitting dramatic and musical climax to a wonderful evening of music. Now listen again to the wonderful music of Wilson Chu and the Gamelan Naga Mas, and wish him well in the future, as do I.

Catherine Eunson

Neu Reekie #2: With the Vaselines, The Pastels & Linton Kwesi Johnson

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Leith Theatre
August 17th


With Neu Reekie events, you know it’s going to be an eclectic mix of performances with a thread of connection running between them, with a challenge to trace the links and currents between one and the next. The loyal followers of these legendary mashups of animation, music and poetry veers towards an artsy, Scottish crowd with plenty of beards, craft beer and irony. They are a chilled bunch too; able to stand up through endless off-the-wall animations as the warm up entertainment. The renovated art-deco Leith Theatre is truly a beauty of a venue, with quality acoustics, a domed ceiling and a solid, spacious stage. Founders of Neu Reekie Kevin Williamson and Michael Pederson are almost like a hipper, sweary version of Ant n Dec, rightly thrilled with their continuously impressive lineups. Big respect to them for messing with the territorial hoarding that can come with the middle-class dominated arts scene in Edinburgh, as they have been at the forefront of the genre blending that is rapidly becoming commonplace.


The series of short films kept us mildly occupied for the first half an hour, kicking off with an iconic Canadian animation Ryan about the difficult life of Ryan Larkin by Chris Landreth that won an Oscar for Best Short Animation in 2005. Das Rad, a clever, short subtitled German short film featuring conversations between rocks, was also a winner of many awards. An episode of the original Batman was next, to appeal to the nostalgia of a mainly British middle-aged demographic who could fondly appreciate the kitschiness that was normal to us as children. Molly Nilsson is a Swedish singer based in Berlin. With a stereotypically serious Swedish stage presence, her slightly stilted dancing wasn’t without an underlying self-consciousness. Her clear, strong vocals matched her neat and defined appearance. Her most recent album Imaginations was released in 2017, and continues the poetic synth pop that she’s known for. Tracks like Mona Lisa’s Smile brought in a reggae soundtrack that would neatly create the vibe to welcome the following act.

Linton Kwesi Johnson influenced not just Black youth struggling under state oppression and everyday violence in the 70s, but developed a cult following across the country, particularly among the punks and reggae lovers in Scotland around that time. Author of seminal collections of dub poetry, Voices of the Living and the Dead, Dread Beat An’ Blood, Inglan is a Bitch, founder of record label LKJ Records The crowd was dutifully respectful as he outlined the life and death struggles of the Black community in London in the 70s and 80s, and made sure to emphasise that the struggle is ongoing The poems he chose touched on many of the significant moments in Black Caribbean British history in the past few decades, from the infamous Sus laws, the sickening arson attack of the New Cross Fire that inspired the Black People’s Day of Action, the resistance and uprisings that erupted across the country. Without the usual backing beat from a live band or backing track, the silence brought a solemnity to the occasion. LKJ, now in his sixties, has lost none of his gravity, power and presence. The griot of our times, he explained how the original Windrush generation heroically endured a great deal of the racism coming their way, as they had to provide for their family and make the best of their situation. However, the next generation, born in Britain had different expectations and became the rebels, fighting for many of the rights the new generation take for granted today. He finished by making the point that despite all the pressure and struggles, what a victory it has been for Caribbean people on the 70th anniversary of the Windrush to know they have successfully integrated into Britain, to huge applause and appreciation.

Wishing LKJ could have still been speaking, rather than standing around watching more animations, I waited impatiently for the next two very different sets. There was huge anticipation for the doyennes of the Scottish ‘pop-punk’ scene, the Vaselines and the Pastels. The Glaswegian duo, Eugene Kelly and Frances McKelly form the heart of the Vaselines, an alternative rock band with an interesting history, a cult following in Scotland and a wee one across the water in the grunge scene of Seattle, mainly because their songs were covered by the legendary Nirvana. With a full band to back them, their lyrics are satisfyingly strong and clear, and the good humoured banter between them and the rest of the band likely a left-over from their former marriage. Crowd favourites like Son of A Gun and Molly’s Lips had everyone rocking and enjoying themselves. The band split in 1990 and reformed in 2008 to everyone’s delight. Think slightly jangly guitars, lovely harmonies, strong storylines and some cheeky banter.

The night closed with more Scottish indie pop legends, this time in the form of band The Pastels. Having added and shed various members over the decades, the present incarnation is formed of Katrina Mitchell, Tom Crossley, Alison Mitchell, John Hogarty, Suse Bear and Stephen McRobbie (who also founded the Monorail Music shop, a hub for Glaswegian music lovers). This performance brought a full ensemble of the 6 band members on guitars, drums, keyboard, flute and vocals. Kicking off in 1981, they became a staple of the British Indie scene in the 1980’s. Fading away for a while, they had a great come back with their 2013 album Slow Summits which was shortlisted for Scottish album of the year. For a band that’s been going for 35 years, with cult status among the Brit-pop loving Japanese, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a few more decades of quirky performance yet to deliver to their adoring Scottish fans, nodding blearily but joyously along right to soothing songs like Secret Music through to the end of the night. With DJ sets by Chris Geddes and Andrew Divine thrown into the mix, you can’t say this unique night isn’t great value for money.

Lisa Williams

Pussy Riot: Riot Days

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Summerhall

 Sunday 19th August, 2018


Seldom have I experienced Punk Rock with such potency and power. Possibly the most famous punk rock outfit in the world. Not famous for the music that they create, but famous for actually being Punk as Fuck. I mean these Girls really suffered for their art at the hands of the Russian Orthodox Church and Vladimir Putin. Imprisoned for two years for singing some of their songs in a church. Pussy Riot became world famous with freedom fighters the World over, campaigning for their release from prison, while also highlighting the Homophobic regime suffered by gay people in the Soviet Union.

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As you can guess, with it being the last of Pussy Riot’s performances at Summerhall, it was completely sold out. Luckily for Divine, He has friends in high places. Thankyou Will McC for making it possible for me. People were crying because they couldn’t get a ticket. The support band Swoon warmed the audience up brilliantly, they reminded me a lot of Modern day Gary Numan, only with a beautiful blond Italian on lead vocals. Indeed they rocked. Pussy Riot were then introduced By a gentleman, Explaining thus.

Alyokhina’s show is poignant, because she very nearly didn’t make it to Edinburgh. Last week it was reported that she had “smuggled herself” out of Russia. She had refused to undertake the community service given to her after she had participated in yet another “unauthorised” protest, and as a result the government had forbidden her to leave the country. In the end she ignored their orders, drove all the way to Lithuania via Belarus, and boarded a flight there instead”

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And thank god she did, because Riot Days is more than just a gig – it’s somewhere between a gripping piece of Putin-skewering musical theatre, an urgent jazz-punk book recital and a film screening that unfurls like a nerve-shredding thriller. With a cast of ever-changing actors. Turning their pain into an art form that vocalises the necessity for political change that is not too distant from the oppression of Tory austerity in the UK. These young people, all of which are under 30 years of age are such a massive inspiration for people to stand up and fight back. But fight back with Art as truth.

The performance is relentless; techno punk, with a story to tell. Projected onto a screen with film footage of Pussy Riots history and the English translation of the Russain Vocals being sung. The Dissection Room at Summerhall was packed to the rafters and every single person was immersed in the experience. Fuck the Spice Girlz. This was real Girl power.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert.

The Great Song Cycle Song Cycle

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August 20-25 (20:35) 

Triplex Studio, The Space UK


I have just witnessed one of the most startlingly enigmatic pieces I have ever beheld at the Fringe. An enchantress of astounding ability & a music-maker of kaleidoscopic proportions, Joanna Wallfisch wants to tell us a story. Caught with the restless spirit of adventure, she cycled the Pacific coast of the United States. ‘Your eyesight tangibly improves,’ she tells us, ‘from looking outward every day.’ We are totally at one with her, & can almost visibly see the mountain passes & eternal beaches she describes.

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A journey through the meditation of the road, adventure, beauties, strange things and people and more.
Read the full interview…

The tale is constantly accompanied by her deft ukulele work & her complete mastery of loop-pedals, which swathe her poetical words with a mesmerizing soundscape. Sometimes she speaks her simile-laden soliloquies, sometimes she sings her self-crafted songs exquisitely, all times she wears an expression of sheer sweetness. Joanna Wallfisch is a 21st century troubadour par excellence, a siren on the shores of sublime thought, & to see her perform is something of a necessity for those seeking beauty at the Fringe.

Damo 

The Melomaniacs: Dust

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The Assembly Rooms Ballroom

16th till 26th August


The Film.
The Assembly Rooms Ballroom was a fitting environment for this musical project to be presented. Performed against a cinematic backdrop on which the film “Dust” was projected, a collaboration with the New York based photographer Jean Luc and film maker Lee Archer. We are taken on a two week journey through America, skillfully edited into a 55 minute production. The presentation of the film is enough to give this highbrow multimedia experience a 5 Star rating.

Dust was conceived by Paul Silver, Kim Murray and myself. It emerged from a series of free wheeling Monday night jam sessions in late 2016. We found that good things happened when we made things up as we went along. Before we knew it, we had an album.
Read the full interview…

The Performance.
In the sparsely populated ballroom, complete with chandeliers, The Melomaniacs took to the stage to perform the album “Dust” in its entirety. A recorded work that has already gained rave reviews in the music press. The band walked on stage in silence. The film began and for the next 55 minutes, we the audience were taken on a musical journey of delicate ambience, full of chemistry and rich in ear-candy and eye-candy. I relished Mike Marlin and Kim Murray’s expert guitar playing, weaving sonic pleasure and making every note count. There was also Paul Silvers’ Keyboards and electronic effects, complimenting the sparse musical arrangements that fully engaged the audience. Mike Marlin’s beautiful poetry sung with true soul and spiritual clarity. Just before the end of the performance an Angel arrived from the Spiritual Realms (Divines a Clairvoyant and is able to see that which most are unable to). At first I thought the Angel had arrived to compliment the experience, which of course it did. But then just before the last number, Mike told us while fighting back tears, that his Father had ascended to the Heavens two weeks ago. It was then that I knew, that the Angel was Mike’s Guardian. Musicians of this caliber are always mediums of the muse and spiritual grace. As the last echoes of Paul Silvers’ expert saxophone faded into the silence of The Melomaniacs’ fully engaged audience. The performance was over. The silence was as musical as the performance and film that we had just experienced.

After the performance we had the opportunity to congratulate and thank the band at the Merchandise stall, where I was presented with a beautiful coffee table style hardbacked book of the photography Jean Luc Fievet had taken on the adventure, A copy of the LP and tucked in the lapel of the beautiful book a copy of the compact disc. All bound together with Melomaniac ribbon. Being a DJ of ambient and chill out, The Melomaniacs beautiful sonic fidelity will be part of my DJ sets for years to come. Delicate, Moving And Powerful Art.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert


Mike Marlin. The Visionary, Guitar And Vocals
Paul Silver Keyboards, Electronic Effects And Saxophone.
Kim Murray.Guitar.
Danny Monk. The Sound Engineer.
Jean Luc Fievet. The Photographer.
Film Maker. Lee Archer.