Rory Weller fights his way through the swamp with The Grid.
When a hook from a track is used by a yoof programme to add speed to slick visuals. you can guess that the producers have had their reseachers working overtime down the clubs. When a song is heard blaring out from the squeaky-clean soap radio. it means this is the music the nation listens to. During the summer of ‘94. The Grid‘s infuriatineg catchy ‘Swamp Thing‘ had twanged its way into the deepest recesses of a dance-ignorant society. By way of Currie. Brno/tic. Chris Eubank fights and Bruce Willis interviews. the nation had been listening.
The two principal members of The Grid (ex-music journo Richard Norris and ex-moody-looking one from Soft Cell. Dave Ball) have been making quality trance-tinged dance music since they met six years ago. Their album 456. released in early ‘92, contained three of the best club tracks ofthe year: ‘Figure Of Eight‘. ‘Heartbeat‘ and ‘Crystal Clear‘. Their tnost recent album. Evolver, holds three of the better chart hits of this year: ‘Texas Cowboys‘. ‘Swamp Thing‘ and. now that the most recent single has entered the Top Ten. ‘Rollercoaster‘.
When Richard Norris looks at the so-called musical
talent that surrounds his work in the chart today. he is
saddened. He is certain that in Dave Ball‘s Soft Cell days. bands didn‘t dance to the record companies‘ tune to this degree. Today. all he sees is ‘young lads showing their pecs. Corporate nonsense.‘
No matter how strenuously they insist they are not part of this tendency. ‘Swamp Thing‘s commerciality was impossible to ignore. However. Norris reckons it wasjust pan of the evolution of their creativity. a development that has now seen them taking a diferent tangent with their latest single. He thinks this was a necessary move. ‘it‘s so easy when you get
into that position and there‘s people demanding you do poptastic things. You have to be quite careful.‘ in their stage set, they have a rank of 26 television
§ sets (as well as. rather strangely. a Corby trouser
press). The screens flicker crudely-generated words and phrases of such poor quality that it would be no surprise to see an antique Clive Sinclair ZX81 computer hidden amongst the ranks of expensive
synthesisers. This, though. is part of the Grid plan. ‘l‘ve got a thing about how other people are using the
new technology, making things look really expensive in terms of graphics and effects.‘ Norris remarks. ‘lt looks more like an animator‘s showreel than ideas to
5 do with the band.‘
The outrageous number of televisions is due in no small part to the importance of visual inspiration for Norris and Ball. On all the albums (although most obviously in lira/var) are references to films such as Midnight (fair/)0); Paris. Rams. 200/ and Blade Runner. When the band first thought of going on the road. they approached it with the idea of including cinematographics in the show. A quick sortie of suppliers showed the costs would be overwhelming. so they plumped for a more economic option. That stunning Grid stage set was assembled, at a
comparative snip, from trusty old Radio Rentals. The Grid play The Plaza. Glasgow ()Il 7246 II.
Swarm of keys
As the various music-promoting organisations launch their autumn seasons, it’s worth keeping a look out for those with something slightly more unusual on offer. One such is ECAT (Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust), whose first concert features the six- plano group, Piano Circus.
It may not be painted faces or even balancing umpteen pianos at the end of a stick, but Piano Circus has its own unique talents on visual and aural display. Established for five years now, Piano Circus is basically a six- piano/keyboard ensemble which sees itself at the forefront of the new
music scene. And that is no idle boast. Leading composers - including Michael llyman, Arvo Part, the Dutch cult figure Louis Andriessen and Steve Reich - are all regular names In the Piano Circus repertoire. The pianists themselves form a fascinating group of people. Ginny Strawson and Max Richter are already known to Scottish
audiences through their work in Edinburgh, both while as students at the city’s Faculty of Music and as resident professionals for a time. More of the ensemble’s talents have been exposed on ‘The Late Show’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’, where audiences have heard that Western classical music is not the only major influence on this
exciting group, which, incidentally, is run as a collective with no artistic director. Jan, African dnlnming, pop, improvisation and rock are all also important influences. The Edinburgh concert programme includes works by Part, Julia Wolfe and Andriessen’s ‘de Staat’.
It, for any reason, you can’t make this first ECAT concert, then there are a further two before Christmas which look intriguing in their own ways. (in 6 November, there’s a 60th Birthday Concert for Sir Peter Maxwell Davies with the llouvelles Images Ensemble, a reformation of the famous Fires of London, and later that month, a tribute - in Glasgow as well as Edinburgh - to the New Zealand-born but Scottish- based composer Lyell Cresswell. For further details, phone 031 539 8877. (Carol Main)
Plano Circus play The Queen's llall, Edinburgh on Mon 17.
The List 7—20 October 1994 31