ELECTRONIC POP AIR
Carling Academy, Glasgow, Sat 14 Feb
There are some people who have a real problem with the French. The English, for example. One of the more active, perhaps semi-ironic, anti-Gallic pioneers of the current age is Ricky Gervais. The full fat ironic milk can be splashed on when you consider that the boy behind Brent is half French himself. Then there’s Jeremy Clarkson. And the Tory party. The Scots, however, have more of an afﬁnity with our cousins across the channel, even forming the Auld Alliance, the benefits of which remain patently unclear.
For my own part, I have never taken the French nation or their culture in vain. One of my all-time favourite tunes comes from a French duo, namely Baccara, with ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’; devious rumours that they were, in fact, painters and decorators from Basildon was not enough to douse that particular passionelle. But a man from another ﬂoaty French couple has made me very sad.
For two weeks, I put off transcribing a tape of the telephone interview which I conducted with Jean- Benoit Dunckel, one half of the mesmeric Air. At the time it seemed clear to me that J-B was talking on a faulty mobile phone, possibly on the streets of a French town during the windiest day that this place had seen in over a century. The fact that his accent was accompanied by more broken English than you could cut with a smashed French window didn’t help my increasingly desperate cause. The ﬁnal irony: their publicity shots show them manhandling over-sized weapons of mass communication. Their new album, after all, is Talkie Walkie and so at least
one thing makes perfect sense.
There are other things I know for sure. Air’s new album is a slight return to their early pop-happy days of monster hits such as ‘Sexy Boy’ and ‘Kelly Watch the Stars’ after the experimentalist mayhem of 10,000Hz Legend, dubbed by critics as ‘The Dark Side of the Moon Safari’. As for J-B, I know little more about him than I did that day. Except, he
believes that ‘the more you speak about sex, the less you do it’. And he also reckons that ‘If you had to explain the world to an alien, it would be in mathematical terms: energy transfers, chemical reactions . . .’ J-B is a mathematician, his colleague Nicolas Godin an architect. Together, they make beautiful music. And on Talkie Walkie, yes sir, they can boogie. (Brian Donaldson)
Dude, where’s my sad triumphant instrumental rock band?
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY
G2, Glasgow, Sat 14 Feb
Some band names tell you sack- all ab0ut the music. but With Explosrons in the Sky you get exactly what it says on the tin. The Texan foursome's recent album. The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place is the aural eatiivalent of the most awesome fireworks display ever in the middle of the aurora borealis — panoramic. dramatic and breathtaking.
The band formed in 1999 when drummer Chris Hrasky advertised for a 'sad. triumphant rock band' and five years on that's exactly what Explosions have become. Often compared to the likes of Sigur Ros. Godspeed You Black Emperor and Mogwai. the instrumental fare of Explosions is somehow more human. more emotional than that of their peers. It is also. very definitely. both sad and triumphant.
‘We want to show so much hope and beauty in musc.‘ says softly spoken guitarist Munaf Rayani. ‘It does sometimes
SOund sad but we're not walking around in black robes and crying. EspeCIally right now in our lives. truly. what do we have to Cry about? We walk thrOugh the days with smiles on our faces.’
Listening to The Earth is Not . .
. it's hard to believe that such expanswe. inventive music was created usmg only the traditional rock'n'roll line-up of drums. bass and guitars.
‘That's something we very much pride ourselves on.' says Rayani. ‘The idea was Just to take these rock instruments and see what we could do With them. I think we're as loud as we want to be. and as soft as we want to be.‘
The band started their career by sOundtracking a friend's indie mowe. something their sound is well surted to and that they'd like to get back to.
"ObViously we w0uldn't write the musIc to Dude. Where's My Car?.' says Bayani. laughing. 'But if the right mowe came along. I think that would be a whole lot of fun for us.‘
BBC SCOTTISH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Thu 12 Feb; Tramway, Glasgow, Sun 7 Mar; St Andrews in the Square, Glasgow, Suns 15, 22, 29 Feb & 7 Mar
Bartok's darkly syn‘bclc one act psychologicaI opera. Diike Bluehear‘d's Cast/e. provides a bold and poxaerful opening for the BBC SSO's mini-fest of his music and that of his country As Hungary prepares to ]()ll‘i the European Union. this focus on one of the 20th century '53 greatest composers is part of a UK—wide celebration gathered together under the umbrella of the Hungarian Cultural Centre. It is not. however. Bartok's first outing to Glasgow. as the man himself gave at least one piano recital in the City in the early 1930s.
With their remarkable chief conductor llan Volkoy. who had already expressed a keen desire to conduct Bartok's only opera. the BBC SSO's concert performance features two well respected Hungarian-based singers. Bass Peter Fried is Bluebeard and me/xo Andrea Melath suigs Judith. the latest in his line of wives to meet an unexpected end.
'The sound of the language is so much part of the music.' says Hugh Macdonald. director of the BBC 880. ‘So we made a very conscious decision to have Hungarian veices.' Although the piece will not be staged. there will be sui'titles and. says Macdonald. 'special lighting to give some atmosphere. It's often done as a concert piece and works very well as it is rather static and the ll‘tlSlC itself is so powerful and pictorial. For instance. you really hear the lake of tears in the scoring."
Aside from Bluehear‘d's Castle. which is paired with Schoenberg's harrowing one-act opera. Envartung. Bartok in Glasgow also features a collaboration between the BBC BBC and the well known Hungarian folk group. Mu/sikas. with singer Marta Sebestyen heard to great effect on the soundtrack for The English Patient. ‘This also fits with a BBC Radio 3 initiative to combine with other cultures] explains Macdonald. "And Mu/sikas are absolutely steeped in village culture and have traced many of the original versions of folk songs Bartok was later to use in his music.' In turn. this aspect provides the baths for a compositiOn [)T()](3(Zl with Shawlands Academys third year pupils. Finally. four Sunday chamber music and song recitals at St Andrews in the Square complete the Bartok programme. iCaroI Mainl
The dark art of Bartok
5) l2) f et) JAM-1 THE LIST 47