Live Review: A Triptych Weekend
by anna battista
Traditionally, all over the world the first days of May means political rallies, trade unions marches, concerts or simply holidays and fun. In Scotland the end of April and beginning of May also means Triptych Music Festival, a week of gigs and films taking place in three towns, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. To respect these two traditions, I prepare myself to spend the weekend at Glasgow's Tron Theatre for two days of music, the first organised by the record label Geographic, the second dedicated to the 10th anniversary of another record label, Creeping Bent. So, let the music play!
Day One: 1st May 2004
For tonight (or rather for this afternoon, since the music starts at 4.30 pm) the Tron Theatre has been divided into three spaces: the theatre room, the bar room and the foyer. In each of these spaces, there are different musicians and bands playing. The day starts with The Pastels DJ-ing in the bar/restaurant, together with director David Mackenzie. Their set is a mish-mash of classic Ennio Morricone, bossa nova, jazz, Vic Godard & the Subway Sect and French chanteuses. In the meantime, in the foyer the Miso DJs are introducing their audience to some fine and ethereal electronica with ambient nuances. When their first performance finishes it is time for Cecile Schott aka Colleen, who can be described as a marvellous multi-instrumentist, to go on stage. She indeed plays everything she can find, from the guitar, cello and melodica to music boxes, while operating with her bare feet two pedals, using them as samplers. Her music is limitedly defined "folkatronica", but her set, mostly songs from her debut album Everyone Alive Wants Answers, is at times sweet and lulling, at times scary and unsettling, reminding The Third Eye Foundation's music.
With the notes of Colleen's music boxes still tingling in my ears, I redirect myself to the bar where International Airport have just started playing. Their usual pastoralism seems to have been left behind for tonight since they play us some almost pop tracks, all taken from the new album, which will be out, singer Tom Crossley announces, some time in August. At the end of their performance people move to the theatre room where Camera Obscura are due to play. I personally have a fuzzy memory of Camera Obscura, having seen them for the first time something like six years ago when they were doing a lo-fi gig together with random Belle & Sebastian members to raise money to build a fence for a local church in the West End. At that time there were only two people on stage and they were fairly unknown, but nowadays they seemed to have multiplied (there are at least seven members on stage) and they also seem to have risen to indie fame. Unfortunately though, they seem to have caught the Belle & Sebastian bug, as they manage to bore the audience with some attempts to imitate Stuart Murdoch and Isobel Campbell, only ending up in oozing a majestic amount of tweeness.
To get some fresh air I escape to the bar room where director David Mackenzie (yes, the guy who directed Young Adam) is DJing following the Pastels' example, while more Miso DJs are rocking the foyer. Directorsound arrive after Mackenzie's set and they reward us with a beautiful surprise. Their cinematic music mixes the art of composer Nino Rota, who penned the soundtracks for Federico Fellini's films, to the soundtracks of Ennio Morricone. I fall so much in love with their music that it is painful to leave the room and start queuing to see tonight's star, composer Craig Armstrong, playing in the theatre room.
Born in Glasgow, Armstrong wrote the soundtracks for successful films such as Peter Mullan's The Magdalene Sisters and Orphans and Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, but also collaborated with hundreds of artists from Madonna and Massive Attack to Photek and Mogwai. People enthusiastically clap revealing their adoration for Armstrong, as soon as he enters the stage to sit at his piano. Tonight though he's got a surprise with us, he's brought with him AGF, a Berlin based electronica artist, vocalist and e-poet who collaborated with him on his 2002 album. The set is basically a breathtaking improvised piano and electronic performance with AGF singing Madonna's hit "Frozen" (Armstrong did the arrangements for this track) and presenting us one of her weird composition which could be a poem or a song, but it's anyway in html format.
The performance goes down very well though it is quite short, so to console myself I return to the foyer where, various DJs are still mixing stuff and later on to the bar room where Movietone are performing their acoustic folksy and melancholic pieces (they are the first band I've ever seen to have a banjo on stage) taken from the latest album The Sand and the Stars. While they are finishing their set I go back to the theatre room to witness the second part of To Rococo Rot (they played the first part of their gig while International Airport were on). Brothers Ronald and Robert Luddock and Stefan Schneider (who played last year at the Tron Theatre during the Triptych Festival as Mapstation) close this long day of music by playing fuzzy electronica pieces from their latest album Hotel Morgan and by improvising the odd track. Their electronic vibes pulsate in the room creating the invisible texture of their soundscape. They might not be Kraftwerk, but they are quite enjoyable. Can't wait to hear more music tomorrow.
Day Two: 2nd May 2004.
Excited at the prospect of a new night of music, I arrive even earlier than yesterday at the Tron Theatre and direct myself towards the bar room, re-christened "The Fence Room" because the Fence Collective will be playing here throughout the day. Indeed one of them, Onthefly, is DJing while in the foyer a showcase by Gdansk, a local electronica/dance record label (which Douglas MacIntyre of Creeping Bent fame is helping flourishing), is introducing their young and hip artists. Colditz are actually already playing in the foyer, building through trumpet, double bass and piano, an intricate texture of sounds which also features, in the background, a few electronic samples or samples of noises (one of them is a till opening and closing creating an incredibly haunting rhythm).
When I go back to the Fence room I find out that Johnny Lynch aka The Pictish Trail has just started his set. He plays for us "Chinese Whispers" and "The Best Thing To Do" taken from his debut album, but also new tracks, two of them with the Fence Collective that is King Creosote, James Yorkston, Onthefly, Super Shitbox and Uncle Beesly (one of the tracks is the by-now classic "Going Down to The Water"). Jenny Casino of H.M.S. Ginafore follows singing "The Kennedys", an old and funny track on the Australian soap Neighbours, the beautiful "Gregory's Girl" inspired by the eponymous film and the amusing "That Stain On My Skirt" featuring Johnny Lynch for the occasion.
While Jenny is playing, The Leopards are rocking the theatre room. I haven't seem them playing live for ages, but it is good to know that Mick Slaven, Campbell Owens and Skip Reid still retain their original punk energy and to prove it they play a 30-minute set characterised by their aggressive guitars which includes the classic "Forget It" among the other tracks. Gareth Sager is on after them and he deafens us with more fuzzy guitars. He mostly plays an instrumental set and the highlight of his gig is a surprise: Scottish actor Tam Dean Burn joins him to read a short story while Gareth Sager and his band build a live music soundscape behind him.
In the Fence Room in the meantime King Creosote is singing, rewarding the audience with a flawless cover of Hamish Imlach's "Cod Liver Oil and Orange Juice", while in the theatre room Future Pilot AKA is on. Highlights of their set is the catchy "Mein Nahi Jana" and the Ivor Cutler cover "Women of the World", though they also play "Pehli Chaand", "Dear Lord" and "Love of the Land", the former dedicated to John Coltrane, the latter to Vic Godard, all from the latest album.
James Yorkston follows King Creosote in the Fence room, mesmerising the audience with his gentle music while Nectarine No.9 are playing in the theatre room. Their set is a barrage of frantic and angry guitars and distorted vocals. The only track they play from their greatest hits is a furious version of "My Trapped Lightning" (even though I'm secretly wishing they are going to play "South of an Imaginary Line") from the album Saint Jack, while most of the rest of the set is dedicated to play stuff from the latest I Love Total Destruction, among the other tracks, "The End of Definition", epic track involving the Subway Sect, "Fat Mafia" and "Hanging Around (Oct.1903)". The fact that they love total destruction is clear because when they finish playing, most of us have lost part of their hearing, destroyed by the Nectarines' powerful guitar riffs, in fact I'm pretty sure I heard some vital artery or vein in my chest, and exactly around my heart, snapping because I'm too near the PA system. Overwhelmed with excitement at the end of the gig, I think it's OK if I die here and now, after all I've witnessed one of the most important things in my life, seeing NN9 & Creeping Bent friends using their music as a weapon to hypnotise, confound and bewilder us. Bless them.