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Issho Taiko Drummers, Alasdair Roberts & Peter Nicholson @ Stills Gallery

Posted: April 28th, 2009, by Stan Tontas

Very pleased I made the effort to go to this, one of Edinburgh’s few experimental music events. The music was varied, all non-amplified, and high quality and it sparked off loads of ideas in my head. The range of sounds attainable from fully-unplugged instruments reminds me that there’s no need for a lack of electricity to mean a lack of adventure.

First was a cellist (Peter Nicholson?), with 2 songs separated by some strong free playing. I can listen to stringed instruments being taken to extremes forever. This was human enough to be engaging and alien enough to be interesting too.

Next was Alasdair Roberts with solo guitar and beautifully performed folksongs and a rare joy in hearing lyrics that aren’t shit (though he mischaracterises the politics of the Luddites as wanting “barbarism” – at the time they were around this was synonymous with “North African” – I don’t think this is going to bother anybody other than me).

Best of all were the Issho Taiko drummers, though. Having no amplification meant that they had to rein in their thunderous impulses to allow space for the accompanying guitar and drone. The playing was accomplished and the players were listening to each other, producing a surprisingly rich & varied experience. Drones and pounding rhythms that you thought could only be produced using electricity are coaxed out of acoustic instruments. This got me thinking of post- (and pre-)electric raves, thousands of years of sound placed into a secular warehouse party era. Dubstep on Aeolian harps, acid on kazoos, jungle on an air-conditioning duct.

My imaginings aside, this was excellent stuff. These constraints might have stifled the group but instead proved them to be a talented and coherent bunch, reworking (presumably) raucous pieces into an absorbing alternate direction.

Stan Tontas

Stan lives in Glasgow.

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