Edinburgh: La Belle Angele, Thu 2 Mar.
Breakbeat Era are something of an oddity on the drum 8: bass scene, managing to straddle the fine line between credibility and popular acclaim without being landed with the dread 'coffee table’ epithet that has scuppered many an underground career. This crossover- friendly combination of innovation and accessibility is in part thanks to vocalist Lennie Laws who, after years of intercontinental ligging, hooked up with Roni Size and DJ Die to form a group equally committed to technical beats and good old-fashioned songwriting. ‘We didn't intend for the music to be more accessible,’ explains Laws, ‘but we knew from the first single - anything song-based is bound to appeal to more people. But I think we’re still perceived as making underground dance music because the tunes are, well, weird.‘ Fortunately for the record-buying public, the group have none of the pretensions prevalent among dance music producers that brand unit- shifting as the antithesis of creative ability: 'I have a five-year-old daughter who brings home S Club 7,’ Laws reveals, 'and it's good that people like myself with an underground attitude can get out
into the mainstream alongside that kind of stuff. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, it means that there's something more out there for the kids to listen to.’
If this rejection of po-faced dance convention marks out Breakbeat Era from the crowd, their live performances confirm that the group are something special. 'As the music started coming together,’ says Laws, tripping over her sentences in an effort to explain. ’it became the thing I was most certain about. There was this gut feeling that going out live was the way to go. How we were going to do it was the problem, because Roni and Die knew they couldn't tour
Look lively: Breakbeat Era
with their commitments to Reprazent and DJing, so the success of the live show has a lot to do with the musicians I'm working with, who are just amazing.’
This two-pronged attack, with vinyl outings ensuring devotion from drum & bass aficionados and electrifying gigs garnering praise across the board, is perhaps the secret of the group's wide-ranging appeal. In the end, with Toby Pascoe's uncanny ability to reproduce lightening fast, chopped-up drum breaks and Lennie's off-kilter vocals coming into their own in a live setting, Breakbeat Era are essential listening, for committed clubbers and chart followers alike. (Jack Mottram)
King Kurt: HK Gruber
40 "IE U81 17 Feb—2 Mar 2000
Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Kurt Weill Centenary
Glasgow: City Hall, Fri 18 Feb; Edin urgh: Queen's Hall, Sat 19 Feb.
In celebrating the centenary of the German born composer Kurt Weill, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra could not have engaged anyone better than HK Gruber to take charge of matters. Passionate about the music of Weill, he is both conductor and chansonnier in the orchestra's forthcoming all-Weill programme, which will undoubtedly be infected by Gruber’s expert knowledge and charismatic enthusiasm. 'From my point of view, Weill is an underestimated composer,’ Gruber says, speaking from his home in Vienna. ’During his lifetime, he and Hindemith were ranked as the two most important avant garde composers in Germany. Step by step, with David Drew of Boosey & Hawkes, I got to know more of his music and rediscovered him as a major composer.’ The SCO’s programme is one which reveals the wide variety of Weill’s music, from the Symphony No 2 to the much more popular songs such as ’Berlin lm
Licht.’ ‘This was composed a few days before the premiere of Threepenny Opera,’ explains Gruber. ’lt's a very good example of a very nice song. Every bird could sing this tune. The arrangement
country dancrng. At Sixteen, the gift of
FOLK Kevm MacLeod Edinburgh: Folk Club, Wed 23 Feb.
Kevin MacLeod started playing vrolin at four, progressed to being part of the school pipe band, and then learned
an earl, Planxty album opened his ears to the sparkling sound of the mandolin. Then he heard string-driven
: Irish band De Dannan on the John Peel show, and his future was sealed. He
had a mission; to realise the mandolin's potential for Scottish dance mUSlC.
A journey to Ireland led to a friendship wrth De Dannan's fret picker Alec Finn and fiddler Frankie Gavm. An imitation to join the band StateSide as a roadie with Mary Black, Maura O'Connell and Jackie Daly among others meant he was constantly picking up styles and instruments.
His current top mandolin, the rare Gibson F4, was acquired from none other than broadcaster and old folkie Jimmy l.lacGregor, and over the years he’s added others from the fretted family tuned in fifths: the Greek botigoaki, the English neo-Cittern, even an Hawaiian guitar — and he’s especially proud of his two very rare American National Steel resonator
; guitars. They’re tenor guitars — four-
string jobs that MacLeod adapts to a new role as a mellow banjo. Not that a banjo can’t be subtle — in the US with De Dannan, Keyin hung around a bit With banjo luminan/ Bella Fleck, but it was back home in Scotland, now playing in the Occasionals Dance Band, that he discovered the instrument's true potential. 'It was the banjo that cut louder,’ MacLeod says. ’With so much going on — accordion, drums, guitar and so on — it was the obvious instrument to use.’ He’s a sensitive soul though, and does admit to having 'an awkward relationship with the banjo.’ He claims, however, to be immune to the jibes pitched against his kind. Banjo players along with accordionists are a much maligned bunch in musical circles. Well, listen to MacLeod’s recent
Spri'ngwe/l album — with Finn, Gavin,
and other guests — and have your mind
opened. (Norman Chalmers)
we are playing is a rare one for jazz
orchestra.’ The tunes in Weill’s music are of especial importance to Gruber, even in the more serious Symphony No 2. ’For me, one of the biggest losses in the latter half of the 20th century has been the tune element in symphonic music,' he says. 'Weill is one of the last composers who wrote clever, convmcrng,
intelligent tunes.’ Structurally, Gruber
compares Weill to Stravrnsky, but, reckons, ’Although there can be a very, very complex structure, the musrc is easily understood by any audience.’ Condemned by the Nazis as a Jew and a composer of ’decadent’ musrc, Weill settled in America from 1935. The style of his music changed as he wrote, for instance, Johnny Johnson, his first foray
onto Broadway. 'When I make his
American music,' says Gruber, 'my dream is to work out more and more the German accent of his music.’ But Gruber has no favourites. ’I cannot stop listening to his music and discovering new things.’ (Carol Main)
Pleasant plucker: Kevin MacLeod