Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Metric @ The Edge - HMV Picturehouse Edinburgh 25 Aug 2009

Metric are a glitzy band of the electro-rock persuasion, hailing from Toronto, Canada. While Canada for most people, conjures thoughts of Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne and Nickelback, those familiar with the Broken Social Scene, of which singer Emily Haines and lead guitarist James Shaw are active members, will be less surprised to find Metric as a product the maple leaf nation.

The band are three smart/cas rockers with production leanings fronted by an arty blonde chick in a glittering blue 60s dress short enough that the photographers could see her pants. Their live show had moments of hurtling energy, when they played their hits with vigour and excitement, and moments of pointless noodling. I think the band believed they were creating epic soundscapes and working the audience's emotions with some all-consuming electro vide. The reality was a mediocre riff repeated beyond the point of boredom and irritation, with a totally banterless Emily failing to improv with statements like: "What day is it?" (pause) "What day of the week is it?" (pause) "Tuesday?" (pause) "Is it Tuesday?" (pause) "What happens on Tuesday?" (pause) "What are you guys doing here on a Tuesday?" (pause) "Tuesday." (pause) "What do you do on a Tuesday?" (long pause) "Watch House?"

And of course, the always-classic mood killer "Who has work in the morning?” Thanks for that reminder, Haines!!

Emily did pull some dance moves that were smooth enough to keep the audience's eye, and played some synth parts that were cool enough to keep the audiences ear. And the backing, although partly digitalised and therefore cheating, was pretty tight.

Some highlights of the set were 'Dead Disco', a song which can only unleash its true potential live, so you can hear that guitar punch, the bass buzz and the snare snap. 'Stadium Love', a celebration of noise where Emily lists a bizarre animal battles ("spider vs bat", "owl vs dove"), and 'Help I'm Alive', the lead single from their most recent album, which mixes a slow groove and a guitar pulse with an art-pop melody.
Myke Hall

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Andrew Bird and Emma Pollock @ The Edge - HMV Picturehouse Edinburgh 23 Aug 2009

Emma Pollock, former singer of The Delgados brought her particular brand of mellow indie rock to the HMV Picturehouse to a rather more adult, scattered crowd compared to the last night's performance from Amanda F***ing Palmer. Since her band's 2005 split she's only released one solo album. Nonetheless her set was fairly free of her ex-band's material. Backed by a full band and playing her guitar in a 60s dress, Emma Pollock's music is slightly plain and gets close to but never quite reaches the levels of her former band. The melodies just aren't strong enough and the backing just isn't interesting enough. Regardless, though, she has a strong following amongst the crowd and they were delighted to hear the music well executed with an element of grace.

On previous tours classically trained violinist Andrew Bird (pictured) has appeared on stage with a group of backing musicians to cover all the nuances of his rather complex string and guitar arrangements. On this occasion however, he appeared on his own, with an array of amps and, the arrangement-happy solo artist's best friend, a loop pedal. The tunes built up quite quickly. There are actually quite a lot of different sounds you can make on a violin: bowing, picking, strumming it like a guitar, using distortion, using an octave pedal. The large set of amps meant the little violin could cover a massive range of frequencies, but the coolest trick was when he hit a pedal that started two large gramophone speakers pointing opposite directions to start spinning at smoothie-blender speeds, twisting the sound they produced with the Doppler Effect. Actually, this was the only point in his set when he required another person on stage, as a wee roadie would come on after these songs to reset the spinning speakers.

The music tended to be middle-beat hipster tunes reminiscent of Belle and Sebastian or Simon and Garfunkel, and involved a lot of whistling. Andrew also had a dry sense of humour and a good rapport with the crowd. Watching him build his songs using nothing more than the littlest string instrument and some invisible device from some meaningless clicks to a tapestry of different sounds was entrancing and the audience stood perfectly still, mystified. They clapped loudly, then waited patiently for the next song: a performer’s dream crowd. Hard to say whether this was the effect of his performance, or merely the sort of people he attracts with his music. He did, however, take one request from the audience: to play a comedic song where he makes the violin sound like a mandolin, a lute, a guitar, etc. that he allegedly barely remembers.

Also, he had a glockenspiel on stage that he never played. What's that all about
Myke Hall

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Amanda F'king Palmer and The Indelicates @ The Edge - HMV Picturehouse Edinburgh 22 Aug 2009

The Indelicates are a band of contradictions. The delicate, shy, sweet voice and piano playing of co-lead singer Julia Indelicate and the hard rocking, guitar slamming, obnoxious egomania of co-lead singer Simon Indelicate. The stringy, weedy arms of drummer Ed van Beinum despite the aggressive way he beats the kit. The guy should be built! And hearing them scream out the lyric "Godless america" while Simon plays an American guitar while wearing the United States flag for a jacket in a London accent so thick you'd think they were the cast of Oliver Twist.

Amanda had so many great stage antics that I wanna discuss I'm gonna keep the "critique" part of this review down to just three words to save space: gothic, cabaret, brilliant.

Amanda F***ing Palmer (as she prefers to be known) (Photo by Richard Dyson) came from behind the audience, descending the staircase in her baroque dress, following her horn section - Edinburgh's own Horndogs, and dancing like a burlesque rag doll, as they played the riff from Missed Me. The crowd parted as the convoy went in the side entrance and reappeared on stage, Amanda taking her place at the piano.

The Horndogs joined her for a few key songs, but she played a lot of the set on her own, including The Dresden Dolls classic Coin Operated Boy. Three quarters of the way through she starts jerking and repeating half a line like a stuck robot. She manages to replicate an identical movement a good twenty times before she's "fixed" and continues with the rest of the song.

Amanda also performed a reading of one of the stories from her photo and literature collaboration with dark fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer?', and then invited Neil himself on stage to read one of the poems from the book, as she stared up from her piano at him, with the same wonder and excitement in her eyes as a child hearing a bedtime story, the same expression that was pasted all over the audience’s faces too.

Other memorable moments included the performance of Gaiman-penned song about Googling an ex, an unrehearsed duet with her sister, a furious cover of Relax and inviting The Indelicates (and then the Horndogs) back on stage to help perform recent hits Oasis and Leeds United (Amanda is clearly an anglophile) and an encore-closing show-stopping cover of Let The Sunshine In from 'Hair'.
Myke Hall

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

News: Meursault Vs The Foundling Wheel Vs Dead Boy Robotics

Versus is a now bi-monthly gig where bands go head to head at Voodoo Rooms. Their second event takes place this Thursday 10th Sept. Three bands will play on the same stage at the same time; reformatting their songs, jamming together, making stuff up as they go along. The idea is that they will either all get along and start making beautiful music together, or it will become some crazy sonic conflict.

Versus is the baby of The Founding Wheel (AKA Ted Koterwas), but is now being co-presented by Limbo man David Cummings.

The performing acts thia time around are metal-dance kids Dead Boy Robotics, attention-grabbing folk-whiners Meursault and the inventor himself, electro banshee The Founding Wheel.

10 September 2009
The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
Doors: 8pm. Price: £5

For more details see their website.
Myke Hall

Friday, 4 September 2009

Frightened Rabbit and Meursault @ The Edge - Queens Hall Edinburgh 18 Aug 2009

The support act for the second Edge Fest Queens Hall show in as many days were Edinburgh rising stars Meursault; heralded by the scene as our current champions. Their sound was banjo and accordion type ├╝ber-acoustic sounds mixed with electronic warmth and noise and backing tracks, as is the current Fence-collective inspired fashion in Scottish indie-folk. The large band, heralded though they are, failed to live up to their hype, not to mention to the status expected of a Queens Hall support act. With no banter, no personality, and a flavour of music that, in the pre-Arcade Fire landscape, may have been original and interesting, is just one voice in a crowd of similar bands. The vocals squawked somewhat irritatingly, and the well-placed (and well-played) cello was underused in favour of electronic bass sounds.

Frightened Rabbit have been off touring the States, and you really did feel their genuine joy from being back in the Capitol. It was like they were at a party with old friends they haven't seen in a long time. In some ways, this was true, Edinburgh was really glad to have them back. Opening with 'The Modern Leper', a tale of drunken fights on (presumably) Glaswegian streets, the band performed with an excitement through their epic indie ballads and Selkirk voiced knees up folk rock. Although the majority of their set was drawn from breakthough album 'Midnight Organ Fight', lead singer Scott Hutchison asked nicely if they could play some new tunes. It’s clear these songs are no longer being written with the intent of being played by Scott and his acoustic in a crowded pub, but to be performed by a full electric band rocking out on a large stage. Many of the songs went entirely without bass, with up to three delayed guitars chiming in sync. Others used modestly electronic keyboards.

The band also welcomed to the stage their guest accompaning guitarist; Ross Clark, of Ross Clark and The Scarves Go Missing. Who, incidently, are now going with the name Three Blind Wolves. Presumably to make it less of a solo act and more of a band. Perhaps Ross is getting shy of all the attention.

A highlight of the show was 'Backwards Walk', where the digital drums of the recorded version were replaced with the standard kit, splashing and snaring contently, which echoed noisily around the concert hall spelling out the words “live version” in capital letters.

For the encore Scott came onto stage with an unamplified acoustic, ignored the microphone, and yelled to the audience he wanted to try something he hadn’t done in a while. The entire audience joined in for a campfire-style rendition of ‘Poke’. Most of the audience, especially down the front, seemed to know all the words so he just let them sing most of it. It was hauntingly magic hearing thousands of Scots whisper the high-pitched “ooohs” in the chorus.
Myke Hall