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Counterflows - Day 3


Kinning Park Complex/CCA, Glasgow
4 stars
Theatrics were to the fore on the third and final day of the inaugural
Counterflows festival, which proved to be an intense and largely
song-based affair featuring an array of left-field divas
and show-people. With Sunday afternoon’s events at Kinning Park’s
artist-led space curated by the small but perfectly-formed
Tracer Trails organisation, none were
showier than Iain Campbell F W, whose live art display involving
assorted amplifiers, recording devices, record players and laptop
footage of himself seemed to question the nature of performance itself.

Following Saturday’s trio set, veteran Swedish drummer Sven-Ake 
Johansson’s solo routine began with him utilising two copies of the Yellow Pages to
skitter out a series of clip-clopping percussive patterns which
occasionally broke into a gallop. While the extended rolls on a snare
drum that followed were just as much fun, once Johansson picked up the
brushes to vamp it up on “three love songs”, the scat vocals and
Swedish-accented shoo-be-doos became something else again.

Opening the evening programme at the CCA, German singer Margareth
Kammerer combined a strident blues rasp and minimal electric guitar to
interpret poetic works by e.e. cummings, William Blake and un-named
Portuguese lyricists to startlingly dramatic effect. Looping her vocals
to heighten her stark incantations, there were moments that recalled 
the post Lloyd-Webber rock folly Julie Covington’s version of Alice
Cooper’s Only Women Bleed if she’d been put through an avant drone
blender.

With Bill Wells clearly en route to national treasure status,
it should be noted that his National Jazz Trio of Scotland do not
play conventional jazz, and indeed aren’t a trio. None of which matters
in a sublime set of school assembly style melancholy, in which Wells’
exquisitely understated piano patterns underscored a collection of
equally lovely vocal performances. When not soloing, Aby Vulliamy, Kate 
Sugden and Lorna Gilfedder provided harmonies for each other in a
beguilingly charming display unmatched since Weekend’s Alison Statton 
was backed by pianist Keith Tippett at Ronnie Scott’s thirty years ago.

The extent to which Japanese polymath maverick Kazuki Tomokawa is
regarded became clear when the entire contents of his merchandise stall
was snapped up before the gig even started. Once a trilbyed-up Tomokawa
picked up his acoustic guitar to belt out an hour’s worth of urgent
little litanies, it was easy to see the appeal. His cracked whispers,
manic laughter and wracked version of highly-strung troubadourism are
as raw as anything by Jacques Brel, and his delivery just as startling.
At one point early in his set he attacks his guitar with such ferocity
that the string he breaks is shoved aside while he retunes as he goes.
It’s a fitting climax to what looks set to be a major addition to
Scotland’s increasingly fertile contemporary music scene.

A shorter version of this appeared in The Herald, April 10th 2012

ends

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