Im— Dapper Snappers
They’re a slippery beast but Toby Manning gets a grasp on the rainbow of sounds we call Red Snapper
Just when you think you've got a handle on Snapper‘s music. it slithers out of your hands and swims off somewhere unfamiliar. Not that you’ll ever be out of your depth. there‘s always their compulsive. propulsive groove to anchor you. and anyway their mix and match of different styles is something that the 90s' octopus' garden of cross-pollination encourages. in the current musical climate we're all a lot happier to ignore the maps and just dn'ft wherever the music takes us.
So you could describe Red 'Snapper’s music as a ‘real instrument' slant on dance and electronica. although the band call it 'fucked up jazz.’ Anchored
by the funky double bass of Ali Friend and the dubby.
hip-hop drums of Richard Thair. the band overlay these grooves with David Ayer‘s guitar atrnospherics and Pigbag veteran Ollie Moore‘s abrasiver throaty sax. After a series of acclaimed. but inconsistent EPs. their distinctive sound comes together brilliantly on their first album proper. the excellent I’rine Blimey.
For many the word ‘jazz‘ sums up a coldness and clinicalily that Red Snapper steer well clear of. Why even invoke the demon? 'To me. jazz is anything that's experimental and innovative.’ says Friend. although he has no time for jazzers' muso obsession with technique. ‘lt‘s feel that‘s important. lfyou feel something strong enough. you‘ll always be able to get it. Ultimately. technique can be destructive to the music.
The jazz influences are certainly there. but at times — as on Space Sickness — the music sounds like slowed down drum 'n‘ bass. LTJ liukem gone moonwalking. and it‘s often the dub and hip hop influences that are most apparent. especially on the eerie I’ur Boy's Dust through which the ghost of Augustus Pablo stumbles stoned. But labels like ‘trip hop' — more than deserved of formula outfits like Moloko -- just don't do Red Snapper's music justice. ‘Trip hop' is the stamp of death.‘ says Friend.
What makes Red Snappcr‘s music particularly distinctive is the use ofthe double bass. an instrument whose potential has barely been explored outside jar; (although G-Love and Special Sauce and Soul Coughing pursue a similarly funky vibe across the Atlantic). Ali Friend manages to combine the subtle but driving nuances of ajazzer like Charlie Mingus with the grooves of funkmeister Bootsy Collins. but also equal the juddering intensity of techno at its most thunderous. ‘Fat with a P.H.' as Friend puts it.
But it‘s not all down to Friend. David Ayers. native
fled Snapper: leap into the deep
of Richmond Virginia. can make his guitar pound like a keyboard riff. twang like Duane Eddy on downers. shimmer menacineg like Ennio Morricone. thrash like the Cramps orjust drift around in an ambient haze. So effects-laden is the guitar in places that it is hard to believe that the sounds are really produced from the instrument. ‘No. it‘s all guitar effects.‘ says Ayers. ‘I build it up in the studio. but I can do it live too. I‘ve got a gadget that means that I can sample lines as I play.‘
While they‘ve worked with techno-folkie Beth Orton. remixed Ruby and Garbage. and even jammed backstage with Bjork in Israel. in contrast to the dance scene’s increasing emphasis on vocals. Red Snapper are keen to remain predominantly instrumental. ‘It doesn't need vocals.‘ says Ayers. ‘I get really bored of vocal tracks that seem to be saying the same thing over and over. I‘d rather get deep inside the music.‘ And listening to Red Snapper. deep is where you end up.
Red Snapper play K ing Til/3'. Glasgow on Sun [5.
ramm— Quickado Mikado
Opera, you might rightly suppose, with its complex fusion of chorus, orchestra, soloists, staging, lighting, conductor, director and all the rest of it, can take months and months of hard - and expensive - work of preparation and rehearsal. From time to time, things can be lust a bit rushed, but an opera production from start to finish in 24 hours? Sounds impossible, but that is preciser what will happen when the aptly named Bravado Mikado hits the
Edinburgh Festival Theatre stage.
‘lt’s a sort of cross between an Anneka itice challenge, like you’ve got 24 hours to build a hospital, and a scratch performance, such as let’s sing the Messiah all the way through,’ says musical director Christopher Bell. Four years ago, he and his bravado partner, director Michael Richardson, undertook something similar with Pirates of Penzance. ‘It worked rather well,’ says Christopher Bell, ‘and when Waverley Care approached me about doing a fundraiser, I thought, why not something different?’
The idea is that whoever wants to do so arrives at seven o’clock on the Friday evening, puts on a costume and some make-up and starts learning, fast. Everything has to be
sung from memory. ‘The crazy thing is,’ says Christopher Bell, ‘that there’s a chorus of 230, so even getting them on stage will take some time.’ Soloists have been approached in advance and those giving their services in aid of Waverley Care include Donald Maxwell as the Mikado, Linda Ormiston and Kate Copstick. The orchestra too needs a little nudging to recruit the right numbers to balance the huge vocal forces, but there’s no rehearsing for them either. ‘lt’s remarkable what can be. achieved in lust 24 hours,’ says Christopher Bell, ‘and I just hope the pressure of it won’t detract from the fun.’ (Carol Main)
Bravado Mikado, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Sat 7.
The List 6- I9 Sept I996 33