Archives for category: Live

“SCOTLAND’S MOST HAUNTED PUB! NOW WITH A POOL TABLE!” proudly proclaims the website of The Banshee Labyrinth, venue for tonight’s show. After the recent closure of the Roxy Art House, just one in a series of venue closures in recent years, Edinburgh seems to be struggling for places to put on a cheap gig, which leaves the city’s underground music scene struggling somewhat. There is a shining light among all this gloom though – or perhaps more appropriately, considering their penchant for all things drone – a fine mahogany gloom among the sickly, sparkling veneer of student nights. Braw Gigs, Edinburgh-based DIY concerts focused on the noisy and experimental side of things, have put on some crackers in the past 12 months; Demons, Sick Llama, Islaja, Pekko Kappi & James Ferraro to name a few highlights.

They now seem to have found a home in The Banshee, a touristy rock pub with a vaulted stone basement so typical of Edinburgh’s bars and clubs. And tonight in this dark, little sandstone wrinkle something rather reassuring occurred.

First up, was new Reekie resident Matthew Collings, recently decamped from Iceland where he had recorded with the likes Ben Frost and Valgeir Sigurdsson. Multiple electric guitars and synth were fed through his laptop which duly churned out a series of wonderful organic-sounding tones and growls that Frost would have been proud of. Three guitarists strummed purposefully on stage, an odd sight, only for fleeting moments did their action produce any equal reaction. In quieter moments only the empty twanging of the electric guitar strings could be heard as Collings sucked all of the noise into his machines ready to release them at his pleasure. It may not have been a totally polished performance, but it suggested that he is certainly one to watch out for in the future.

We were then treated to a series of unashamedly traditional songs from Wounded Knee and Wee Rogue. It happened to be Burn’s Night and we got a healthy helping of The Bard’s finest. It was nice to hear some shruti box being played as a kind of proxy-bagpipe, but if I’m brutally honest it all seemed a wee bit out of place and over-long.

Cameron Deas’ performance was split into two pieces of music, the first one drawn from material on volume one of his self-released Quadtych LP, part of a mammoth 70-minute composition. I’m fairly sure he didn’t play for 70-minutes here, but to be honest I kinda lost all track of time. He is a man who has an innate understanding of his instrument. He caresses every note from his guitar, cradling it like he is nursing a sickly sparrow back to health. The opening reminded of Bill Orcutt’s expressive style, but this was just him warming his fingers, his strings seemed to suddenly tighten despite the humid atmosphere. There were sections reminiscent of Robbie Basho, certainly the notable influence of Derek Bailey. However, this was something entirely of his own. He covered a lot of ground; minute twinges of barely-noise, patiently sustained periods of silence and vicious single-note jabs; all interspersed seamlessly with vigorous sections of 12-string melody. Meticulous precision was balanced with a musical flair, and an obvious love of manipulating curious, wonderful sounds from his instrument. To finish he played one of his better known tracks, As Spring Fell From The Leaves, versions of which have featured on a couple of his LPs. A more traditionally composed track than the previous offering, it is a veritable steel-string anthem, full of furiously intricate finger-picking and fluid melody.

Each piece, as is his approach to his various LP’s and CDr’s, showed a completely different facet of his musical personality. Cam Deas is little short of a phenomenon and is adding his own chapter to the lineage of guitar masters.


I have a pretty irrational hatred of saxophones. I worked in a jazz cellar for far too long and the thought of hearing yet another version of My Favourite Things makes me sad to the core. However, Mats Gustafsson has gone and destroyed that blanket of comforting sax smugness with an inspirational performance of incredible intensity at the first night of the Le Weekend festival in Stirling.

RM Hubbert eased us into proceedings with a some impressive, intricate six-string guitar playing in the bar before being ushered into the hall for Critical Mass, a duo of Mats Gustafsson with Agusti Fernandez on keys. Gustafsson played the saxophone like no one I’ve ever seen before, with incredible energy and expressivity. The first ten minutes of intense effort produced barely any actual noise whatsoever, sweat pouring off him, his lungs filling with air but allowing only short controlled jabs of sound to escape between Agusti Fernandez’s piano string plucking; immense tension building within the room. When he did let loose I could scarcely comprehend how the noises were being created from the instrument, some more familiar with amp feedback as his body contorted desperately controlling each escaping sound. The interplay between the two leapt from tension that bordered on painful, with Fernandez barely touching his keys as he played, to shattering moments of euphoric release; waves of tone lasted forever with almighty shows of circular breathing, Fernandez crashing his elbows down on his keys to match the powerful saxophone intonation. The spectacle proved divisive between my companions, varying from bemusement to downright anger, but it was one of the most exhilarating pieces of live music I’d ever witnessed and I left the theatre totally buzzing, weakened by the all-consuming concentration.

A weakened state is far from ideal going into a Ben Frost set. Frost’s music defies easy categorisation, he gives the impression of living a hermits life in cave somewhere in a frozen wilderness, performing his crazed sonic experiments unconcerned with the trends of the music community. Following an instrumental set of such virtuosity is a difficult task, certainly for a predominantly laptop-based artist. But, without really giving you a chance to assess anything he began an assault on your ears, pulses of rich sound ripping through the audience at the absolute threshold of aural meltdown. Using electric guitar, piano and synthesizer he built evocative, dramatic soundscapes; which he consequently annihilated with heavy sonic shelling, each massive sound ricocheting through your body as the room and air vibrated with noise. It was a visceral and exciting performance, and although I didn’t find it as an immersive set as its predecessor, this fact was heavily debated between the rest my group (I was outnumber four to one).

The final act saw Mats Gustafsson return to the stage with the Sten Standell Hammond Organ Trio, which confusingly featured four musicians and barely any Hammond. There was plenty of deft playing, but if I’m honest, by this point I was a beaten man, completely destroyed by the intensity of the previous two acts. The ability to concentrate on the interplay between all four players was beyond me and I sat as the music washed over me; a bit numb but immensely satisfied.

I wanted to put something amazing where you wouldn’t expect to find it. To take the first moments of the morning and fill them with something silly and sad and wonderful. Something audacious in its scope and scale. Something to make you laugh and cry and wonder before the world even knows you’re awake. Something to stuff your hearts full and send you out, into the day and into the world, wet eyed and open mouthed. Daniel Kitson Read the rest of this entry »

Apparently there is some sort of arts festival in Edinburgh at the minute. If that’s the case, can someone please explain to me why I have to travel through to Glasgow to see some decent music through the month of August? For ten quid the line up at the Volcanic Tongue curated Subcurrent festival totally urinated over the middle-aged mediocrity of the entire Jazz and Blues Festival (Curtis Stigers anyone?). Fine, there is a market for it but surely we have to be mixing it with something a little more progressive??

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A weekend full of art openings just past (the Edinburgh festival season is upon us), the highlight certainly being getting to see the latest installment of Alastair Cook‘s MALIN film and soundtrack project on Thursday night. After encountering him supporting Christ. and Christian Kleine last year, I’ve been following his work keenly. If February’s MALIN II show (alongside Erstlaub) suggested something special, this third installment delivered it.
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James Ferraro and Spencer Clark (under his Monopoly Child Star Searchers guise), formerly the influential cosmic-noise duo The Skaters, made a welcome appearance in the capital this week.

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Grizzly Bear’s recent album was a bit of a disappointment for me; they moved away from their exercises in tone and multi-layered harmony on the excellent Yellow House into tighter, ‘song’ structures. Despite this, Veckatimest certainly had its moments and a chance to hear some live versions was more than enough of an excuse to head down to the Queen’s Hall. Read the rest of this entry »

This was intended to be a review of the entire extensive programme at the Hidden Door Art Festival this weekend in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, due to a comical projectile vomiting bug (it wasn’t comical at the time, but it was of the variety that is generally used to comical effect) I only made it down for a few hours on Sunday afternoon. However, I did still manage to catch one of the main reasons for my interest in the event, an Edinburgh debut from Erstlaub, who was showing a new live set. Read the rest of this entry »