The Pleasance, 16/10/14
With the recent closure of the HMV Picture House marking yet another setback in developing the capital’s music scene, The Pleasance Sessions come as a welcome relief to music fans keen on staying in the one city and not paying the train fare to venture westwards. A collaborative project between EUSA, Dusty Moose and various curators from across Scotland, the events, that are now in their sophomore year and already nominated for an accolade by Scottish Events Awards, have been taking place from October 9 to October 18. The Pleasance Sessions have dutifully exposed some acts brimming with talent and are yet are another example of the potential of building a proper musical base for Edinburgh, as well as encouraging people to visit the city for the occasion, in a similar fashion to the current, and very popular, electronic Nightvision offerings.
There’s a folkier twist to this chilly Thursday evening at the Pleasance, however. The bar proves a welcome starting point as it offers a brew specially made for the occasion. Pleasance’s Theatre, our host for this evening, has had a cosy revamp; entering amidst a slight haze of smoke, the orange fairy lights, vintage chairs and what appears to be Gran’s old lamp, transform the stage into an intimate living room set. The audience basks in the laid back atmosphere, anticipating the first act of this penultimate night of the proceedings organised by The List magazine.
Two Wings take up the gauntlet, humbly shuffling onto the stage, guitarist Ben Reynolds remarking on how “you could hear a pin drop”. In fact, it is quite unusual, and refreshing, to be in a setting where the audience is paying such rabid attention to the goings on onstage.
As soon as the Glasgow five-piece begin their set, there’s a bizarre feeling of travelling back across various decades simultaneously. The glittery black top worn by the swaying lead singer echoes a 90s party vibe, the knitted cardigan sported by the second female vocalist is 60s Dusty Springfield, and the high-strapped guitar is reminiscent of 70s era David Byrne of Talking Heads. These are different flitting images that match the wealth of influences on show in Two Wings’ catalogue. However, by far the most distinctive element of the performance is the extraordinary vocal range of lead singer Hanna Tuulikki. Mostly harbouring a high-pitched vocal, she drops several octaves in places, a bit like Future Island’s Samuel T. Herring, minus the growling. It’s this spectacular voice that makes the band, and it sometimes feels like her band mates are struggling to keep up with her twists and turns. Elsewhere, ‘A Wake’ builds up into a Fleetwood Mac-esque affair, with the female vocalists harmonising beautifully. On yet other songs, the delayed and compressed guitar effects echo Adam Granduciel’s efforts in The War on Drugs.
The set closer descends into a satisfying, blood-rushing jam session, with the notably enthusiastic drummer being worth the mention. It’s a fantastic display.
Followers Ubre Blanca bring another genre to the fore altogether. With the absence of vocals, there is a focus on the central, mechanical feel to their electronic music. It’s very krautrock in places, but packs the punches with the guitarist treacherously treading over numerous wires as he bangs his head along to his textured undertones. Despite the simplistic tempo, there’s a grand feel to the music of the two-man act, as it channels the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis in places. What’s more the graphic art projected in the background only adds to the experimentalist feel: the square and symmetric shapes echo the clear-cut, right-angled beats that seem to transcend in their simplicity. It’s easy to find yourself drifting off into various types thoughts as you paint your own picture onto this relatively blank canvas.
Prehistoric Friends are headliners of the evening but prove to be somewhat underwhelming when compared to their predecessors’ sheer musicianship and excellent vocals. There’s a distinct amateurish feel and you can sense the audience’s attention slightly wander. Instrumentally, Friends are good, the viola player most notably, but the lead singer’s voice is not up to scratch and falters a bit in places. However, the light-hearted chatting between songs helps retain that community feel which ends the evening on a good note. And there’s time for another drink as there’s no train to catch as well.