Friday, 26 August 2011

Edinburgh 2011 Music Round-Up - Luke Haines and Cathal Coughlin / Ulrich Schnauss / The Pineapple Chunks



Luke Haines and Cathal Coughlin – Cabaret Voltaire – 4 stars
Ulrich Schnauss – Electric Circus – 4 stars
The Pineapple Chunks – Electric Circus – 4 stars

Three middle-aged men walk onstage sporting colonial pith helmets and
medals. With one seated at a keyboard and another clutching an acoustic
guitar, the third stands behind a plinth and bangs a gavel before
declaiming an introduction to The North Sea Scrolls, a pop culture
referencing alternative history of England by left-field pop
curmudgeons Luke Haines and Cathal Coughlin, with music journalist
Andrew Mueller as MC.

Seemingly gifted to the trio by bit part TV actor Tony Allen, doyen of
uncredited roles in The Sweeney and Minder, here fascist leader Oswald
Mosley served two terms as Prime Minister of an England successfully
invaded by Ireland, singer/songwriter Tim Hardin was an MP and
electronic pioneer and producer of Telstar, Joe Meek, was Minister of
Culture, putting John Lennon under house arrest for the safety of the
nation. Throw in references to Jimmy Saville as a northern Lucifer,
Hawkwind delivering the scrolls in a hot-air balloon and Gomez singer
Ian Ball sharing the same name as the would-be kidnapper of Princess
Anne in 1974, the same year the abolition of the IRA leads to All
Tomorrow's Parties style festivals where assorted atrocities are
re-enacted by Australian tribute acts, and you have a caustically
absurd music-theatre song-cycle and parallel universe state of the
nation satire.

With Mueller introducing each of the fourteen songs with a po-faced
tract, the trio, accompanied by cellist Audrey Riley, play things
utterly deadpan. Accompanied by a retro slide show, the pop culture
references are stock in trade for Haines, though former Microdisney and
Fatima Mansions singer Coughlin is equally acerbic in a wildly lateral
narrative that could have been beamed down from late alternative
theatre pioneer Ken Campbell's overcrowded noggin. If The North Sea
Scrolls in any way resemble Haines' musical with playwright Simon Bent
commissioned, then rejected by Royal National Theatre artistic
director, Nicholas Hytner, then that organisation has made a serious
boo-boo, because The North Sea Scrolls is the cleverest and most
fascinatingly theatrical show in The Edge festival to date.

There's a sense of small-scale theatre too in German electronicist
Ulrich Schnauss' lap-top set of propulsive shoe-rave that takes
advantage of the Electric Circus' set-up by accompanying his hour-long
set with a multi-screen backdrop of blink-and-you'll-miss-em urban
cityscapes. With his bank account hacked and his train delayed, the
show nearly didn't happen at all, yet despite arriving a mere fifteen
minutes before showtime, Schnauss switches into gear from the off with
a less twinkly and more percussive take on classic Kosmiche sounds that
sees him rooted behind his lap-top to produce a continuous set of
old-school dance music for people who don't dance.

With the inner city sights of Berlin, Glasgow and a myriad of other
global hot-spots whizzing by onscreen, as an aural psychogeographic
travelogue, all this looks and sounds like a twenty-first century heir
to Godfrey Reggio's recently screened Qatsi trilogy of films scored by
Philip Glass.

The launch of The Pineapple Chunks debut album, A Dog Walked In, at the
same venue also contains performative elements in a set of skewed
stop-start art-rock that sounds like the missing link between DIY
pioneers Swell Maps and Pavement. With support by the equally urgent
duo of singer Dan Mutch and drummer Alun Thomas, both of Pineapple
Chunks fellow Edinburgh travellers The Leg, the Chunks live are like a
big bag of sugar exploding in the four different corners of a
joke-shop. More of the same can be had when the Pineapple Chunks play
the fourth edition of the Herald Angel winning Retreat! Festival at
Pilrig Church hall this weekend.

The Herald, August 26th 2011

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