HIPPY POP FOLK THE POLYPHONIC SPREE Queen's Hall, Edin
ALTAN Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Mon 28 Oct Altan joined Virgin Records in 1996 — the first Irish folk band to be signed to a major label — but the group's genesis goes way back to the early 805. when the duo of Belfast flute player Frankie Kennedy and Gweedore singer and fiddler Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh recorded an album. with the addition of acoustic guitarist Mark Kelly. and called it after a wee lough behind Errigal Mountain in DonegaI
Then came a second fiddle — initially the remarkable talent of Paul , _ 1' , a O‘Shaughnessey. now the fiery
j i. _ _ .3. I Donegal bowman Ciaran Tourish. and
' V '- another texture in the fluent. fluid
accordion of Dermot Byrne. Unusually. Altan have two alternating guitarists: Mark Kelly's family commitments means that he shares the guitar chair with US-resident Derry man Daithi Sproule. one of the first musicians to
, Fri 18 Oct
No, take it again I wasn’t smiling . . .
‘What did you say your name was again?’ drawls Tim DeLaughter down the line from Dallas, Texas.
“Sorry, man. I’ve been talking to people all day long and they’re starting to bleed into each other.’
I’m not offended. It’s a measure of DeLaughter’s fast-growing profile as front man of choral symphonic conglomerate the Polyphonic Spree that he’s currently so much in demand. While the 27- strong group - comprising band and full choir - are yet to break their native America, audiences across Europe have been dazzled by their turned-on anthems, experimental instrumentation and matching white robes, while the extraordinary multiform album The Beginning Stages of. . . is a
renegade classic in waiting.
The Spree were formed last year by DeLaughter (pronounced ‘DeLau-ter’) following the demise of four-piece indie-rock outfit Tripping Daisy. ‘By the time Tripping Daisy finished, I’d reached a point in my life where I was thinking: “If I’m going to do something musically, I’m going to go for that sound I’ve heard for a long time in my head.” A wish-list band if you like.’
Having put the word out and approached friends, the Texan and his new musical assembly embarked on their first ever gig. The original line-up comprised a paltry 13 members.
‘The gig went amazingly well,’ he says. ‘And musicians in the audience started coming up and saying “Hey! I can contribute to this!” so, weirdly, this group was much easier to put together than my last group of four members. I think that’s because I opened up the rock world to symphonic people. And they, in turn, allowed us to establish a texture that isn’t possible with just rock or pop.’
The group has now swelled to an impressive 27 members, which makes touring a logistical nightmare. ‘Sound checks are a complete downer,’ DeLaughter confirms. ‘We use every channel on the board and then some. I’m waiting for it to get easier.’
Surely it can only get worse if the group continues to expand like some mythical, self-replicating
‘I can safely say that at this point in time I am almost completely satisfied with our sound.’ He pauses, adding: ‘Mind you, I’d love to take on a tuba player . . .’ Catch them before they take over the world. (Allan Radcliffe)
CCA, Glasgow, Thu 24-Sun 27 Oct
The radiCCAl von Schlippenbach
The Scottish debut of the Globe Unity Orchestra will form the centrepiece of the freeradi'CCA/s mini-festival at the CCA. The celebrated group was formed by pianist Alex von Schlippenbach in the mid-603. and was one of the
46 THE LIST 17—31 Oct 2002
pioneering attempts to introduce free improvisation within the context of a large ensemble.
As well as this historic appearance by one of the best established improvising big bands in the world. the festival Will also feature the debut of the newest. the Glasgow lmprowsers Orchestra. Saxophonist Raymond MacDonald (of Burt-MacDonald and Hung Drawn Quartet fame) will direct the group. which aims to provide a platform for improvising musicians and composers from a variety of muSical backgrounds.
The new unit will debut in a day- long workshop and masterclass to be conducted by the Curator of freeradi'CCA/s. saxophonist Evan Parker. The final session only will be open to the public (see listings for details).
Bassist Barry Guy Will be involved in a new project with the BT Scottish Ensemble on the closmg night. while Parker's own Electro-Acoustic Ouartet WI” open the event. The saxophonist wn! also be involved in the Globe Unity
Orchestra. which features the likes of Peter Brotzmann, Paul Rutherford. Tristan Honsinger. Paul Lytton. Paul Lovens. and its founder. Alex von Schlippenbach.
‘The musicians involved here are all friends of mine'. says Parker. “but they also form a network of people who have been catalysts for others. They have all given a lot back to the musical community Over the years.
‘Think of the way in which Alex von Schlippenbach has acted as a focus for so many musicians in the German scene. for example. or Barry Guy in London. I am part of that network. and I hope people will take in the full spectrum of music on offer.‘
Spontaneous improvisation can be a forbidding prospect. but it is not an arbitrary one. In the right hands. the process of responses 'in the moment' which shape the evolving mUSIC in the light of those choices can be an exhilarating experience. There will be no shortage of Such creativity here. (Kenny Mathieson)
adapt the guitar to old Gaelic songs. and who takes on the longer foreign tours. ‘They give each other space.’ says Mhaonaigh. ‘Neither seems to have a big ego. The band's like a family. we get extra security. and it's always nice to have another set of ears in the studio.‘
.. 3:356" A stckler for tradition
The group‘s bigger scund remained rooted in authentic traditional music. at a time when a lot of the Irish bands were moving into various 'world' fusions. commercially-oriented folk/rock packages. or (especially the women) drifting into an emerging transatlantic Celtic/ocuntry cross. But a commitment to playing-it-Iike-it-is has seen Altan become the most consistently popular of Irish bands t0uring worldwide.
Mhaonaigh's Iimpid vocals and strong fiddle style hold true to the songs and rare melodies of her native Donegal. a place. in spite of all the travelling the band does from its Dublin base. that she always knows as home. ‘Especially'. she says. 'now that Dermot and myself have bought a pub there. Out west of Killybegs. It's called Cul a Duin.‘
You might think that she'd relish the escape — some time away from the music. the airs. reels and jigs — but no. she says. 'That's not the way of it. When we have nights off we end up playing through till morning. So we'll be doing that in the pub. So will a lot of people. You breathe air because you need to. We play because we need to.‘ (Norman Chalmers.