Skip to main content

Tim Hecker / Wounded Knee / Matthew Collings


Pilrig St Paul's Church, Edinburgh
Saturday May 19th 2012

Anyone au fait with Sacred Music, BBC 4's two-series trawl through the history of choral worship, from plainchant to polyphony and beyond, will be as versed in the integral relationship between music and church architecture as they are with presenter Simon Russell-Beale's penchant for gazing earnestly into the middle distance while sporting regulation arts mandarin baggy black suits or else peering longingly at Harry Christophers' media-friendly choir, The Sixteen, perform especially for him.

Leith Walk on an all-Edinburgh Scottish Cup Final Day a couple of hours after Hibs are unceremoniously gubbed by Hearts might seem a somewhat apposite locale for such ruminations to be put into spectacular practice. As a curtain-raiser to what is Quebecois electronicist Tim Hecker's second ever Scots date, however, witnessing such radically different brethrens gathered on either side of the street looks like a form of cultural ecumenicism in action that later makes itself manifest at the gig itself.

Promoted by the bespoke from a stolen sea operation, the show takes place not in the civic confines of the venue hall a la previous incumbants Retreat!, LeithLate etc, but in the dramatic confines of the church itself, pews, organ, pulpit and all. There's the extra-added bonus of the event being amplified via the sort of all-encompassing Surround Sound the phrase 'sonic cathedral' was invented for.

Opener Matthew Collings is becoming an increasingly prolific figure on Edinburgh's avant-music scene, and tonight there's an urgency to his laptop and guitar-led soundscapes. This may have something to do with the delay to door and show times caused by Hecker's protracted and understandably precise soundcheck, but, forced to fine-tune his own noodlings on the hoof and in plain sight of a near capacity crowd, Collings' hit the ground running approach lends weight, purpose and propulsion to his still controlled display of mood-led widescreen sound-shards

At times the electronic stabs gallop along like a po-mo spaghetti western, at others, synthesised zithers and horns come on like a deconstructed noir as played by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Which, whether a conscious nod to Hecker's fellow countrymen and women (or indeed the Icelandic church where Hecker recorded his sublime 'Ravedeath, 1972' album) or not, isn't bad for a one-man band.

Drew Wright's version of a one-man man is similarly ever-changing, with his ongoing Wounded Knee project a discursive melting-pot exploration of multi-cultural arcana. After a period reinventing Scots folk ballads with a two-string electric guitar that makes them sound like the Velvet Underground, tonight Wright gets back to his own roots with an extended voice-loop piece that ends up very much on home turf.

Remaining in light if not always in view, Wright layers his already rich voice into a wordless chorale that starts off like the Hopi incantation from Philip Glass' soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi before mutating into a series of harmonies that take full advantage of St Pauls' high-ceilinged acoustics. Disappearing occasionally to presumably adjust the pedals facilitating such a display, Wright bobs back up into view to shuffle and shimmy out a little tribal jig. Eventually, the chant that is formed, - “Glory-Glory-To-The-Hibees” - both low-key and euphoric - “While-The-Chief / Sunshine-On-Leith” - is both a purging and an all too necessary affirmation of faith.

Where Collings and Wright prefer to keep the lights on, Hecker's people plunge the room into darkness prior to his set, with candle-light the only illumination once a seemingly unending procession of pilgrims finally make their way from the presumably ark-like propensities of the bar. Bar. As the headlight beams of passing buses and ambulances pass across the stained-glass windows from the main road outside, the sepulchral swathes that burst forth from Hecker's kit build from ice-cracked chimes to a swirling fuzz-based pulse seemingly bathed in celestial permafrost conjured up by some long-buried ghosts in the machine.

Whether the ritual is one of possession or exorcism, as the volume increases, it sounds increasingly like choirs of lysergically enhanced angels storming the gates of Heaven. As the final piano patterns peter out, the raging calm that follows casts light at every level onto one of the most beautifully immersive events of the year thus far.

The List, May 2012

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Art School Dance Goes On Forever – Snapshots Of Masters Of The Multiverse

Intro – Snapshots – Deaf School

1

In 1980, the same year as the Manchester band, Magazine, released a 7
inch single called A Song From Under The Floorboards – a three verse
and chorus distillation of Dostoyevsky's novel, Notes From Underground
– an art school scandal occurred.

This scandal took place in Liverpool, and was based around a project
called the Furbelows, although it became better known in the Liverpool
Echo and other organs that reported it as the Woolly Nudes.

The Furbelows, or Woolly Nudes, were a group of artists who had come
out of Liverpool College of Art, who, dressed in grotesque woolly
costumes which featured knitted approximations of male and female
genitalia, made assorted public interventions around the city centre as
kind of living sculptures acting out assorted narratives.

The Furbelows project had been funded by what was then Merseyside Arts
Association, and, after the participants were arrested and taken to
court on obscenity charges after what…

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare's Globe Comes to Glasgow

Open-air Shakepeares are a summer-time perennial of the theatre calendar, attracting picnicking audiences as much as midges. More often than not, such romps through the grass are frothy, heritage industry affairs designed to be accompanied by strawberries and cream and not to be taken too seriously. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company look set to change such perceptions when they open their outdoor tour of Romeo And Juliet in Glasgow next week as part of the West End festival.

For the two young actors taking the title roles of the doomed lovers, it will also be something of a homecoming. Richard Madden and Ellie Piercy both studied in Glasgow prior to turning professional. Indeed, Madden has yet to graduate from the acting course at RSAMD, and, as well as facing the pressures of playing such a meaty role in close proximity to the audience, will have the added anxiety of being assessed and graded by his tutors.

“This is the end of my third year,” says Madden following a Saturday mornin…