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Approximately Infinite Universe

CCA, Glasgow, September 19th 2008
The padded cell-like interior of the Centre of Contemporary Arts’ performance studio may be an accident of design, but it’s been an oddly appropriate setting of late for a spate of left-field sonic activity. Such one-off events have proved so intense that they’ve occasionally threatened to spill beyond its chi-chi walls, psychically if not physically. Most of this energy has stemmed from a template laid down by the missing-in-action Subcurrent festival, which programmed some of the most exciting purveyors of so-called free folk artists and electronic primitivists re-defining 1960s hippy idealism for a lo-fi DIY age.

In spirit, the opening night of this fancifully named eight date UK tour and self-styled ‘caravan of raw sound magic,’ in which Finnish and American free spirits join hands via a quartet of cross-country collaborations, takes on Subcurrent’s best attributes, albeit with a more formal, consciously curated modus operandi. This is most evident in the opening set by Es and Fursaxa. Es is Sami Sänpäkkilä, who heads up Finland’s premier cottage industry record label, Fonal, whose beautifully packaged releases have provided a focal point for much of the Finnish scene’s energy. Fursaxa is nouveau psych high priestess Tara Burke. Together, their fusion of wordless vocals, 1960s organ, guitar and FX creates a hauntingly spectral gush.

It’s a beautifully sunny-side-up opener, although, as with what follows, you sense many artists are still tip-toeing around each other, not quite ready yet to get too touchy-feely before they find common ground in this all too rare foray into Scotland by the Arts Council England run Contemporary Music Network is itself a three-way split in association with the Newcastle-based No-Fi organisation and kindred spirits (No.Signal) from London. So it is with Tampere based Jan Anderzen, whose Kemialliset Ystavet band project is paired with Axolotl’s Karl Bauer on electronic percussion. Led by insistently repetitive bass and wigged-out guitars, the combination leans towards the extended rhythmic mantras of German Kosmische music. The insistent Neu! homage that ensues is a delight nevertheless.

More surprising is Helsinki diva Islaja, aka Merja Kokkonen, who, aided by Blevin Blectum & Samara Lubelski, take a beat-heavy foray into Teutonic gay disco. Finally, the lights are dimmed for Dream Triangle, for which Anderzen returns in his Tomutonttu guise to join Spencer Clark and James Ferraro’s Skaters duo for a blissed-out finale of insular chilled-out beauty. It would be fascinating to hitch a ride with this particular caravan and see how its journey goes. By the time it reaches its final destination, one suspects all involved will be feeling some serious love.

MAP issue 16, September 2008

ends

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