Posted in SHOFT on Friday 11th February 2011 at 11:02pm

The promise of sunshine yesterday had given way to a damp evening, so I elected to take the bus instead of walking. Lazy perhaps, but I'm on holiday after all! I couldn't see out of the fogged up and grime-covered windows of the bus, and given that I'm no native here that meant I spent most of it trying to puzzle out when to hit the bell via my iPhone's sat nav. I recall a drunken previous visit to The Captain's Rest - a tiny hole in the ground beneath an almost painfully cool pub, where I naturally feel entirely out of place, deeply ancient and worryingly conspicuous. However, it was worth the pain and self-sacrifice tonight to see a couple of acts who I've raved about here and elsewhere. So, after a much delayed start and a clumsy stumble through the snug and down the stairs, Edinburgh based Debutant swiftly took to the stage. It would be easy to pin one man and a guitar in the singer-songwriter category and have done with it, but that would be missing the point where this one-man avalanche of sounds is concerned. With a guitar and a loop pedal, Debutant builds washes of atmospheric noise and melody, the tiniest touch of the instrument appearing to conjure impossible complexities of sound. Throughout his short set he was self-conscious, indeed self-deprecating at times - the sheet weight of anticipation of Conquering Animal Sound's set bearing heavily on his connection with the audience. However, he needn't have worried. Over the course of three compositions, culminating in the sublime and epic "King of Doublespeak" he convinced more than a few of those present of his talent for constructing a moving, emotional atmosphere and then turning it on it's head in the space of a few flicks of his guitar. This is remarkable music which is beautifully unaware of it's power. An album is promised, and hereabouts certainly much anticipated.

Hot on the heels of Debutant's short set, the live line up of Field Mouse arrived. As I understand it, Field Mouse is essentially the recorded output of Jai Kural. I first, stumbled across this on the 45 A-side Glad Cafe fundraising album and was curious to discover how what seemed like a studio-bound project would translate to the stage. It's testament to the skill of Jai and his band of multi-instrumentalists that this works so amazingly well. Throughout the technically complex set, the warm fuzz of analogue clicks, buzzes and bleeps grounds the music and provides an essential human element to the machine-generated noises. Live bass adds a depth to the mix, and somehow it all spirals together to form far more than the sum of it's parts. I always struggle to connect wholly with instrumental electronic music somehow, but the sheer delight in making interesting sounds which Field Mouse displayed tonight was enough to keep me listening.

I've offered my thought's on Conquering Animal Sound's recent album "Kammerspiel" elsewhere - and after repeated listening it's grown more and more essential to me. So, like much of the audience I was anticipating something special from this evening. The annoyingly noisy crowded hushed completely as James and Anneke began to play, the sudden strange silence creating the same tense backdrop which is evident in many of their recordings. The mechanics of reproducing their work live were remarkably complicated - James' flitting around the stage manipulating an array of instruments and machines, a one-man sound generation industry. Meanwhile Anneke stood before three microphones, connected to a bewildering array of loop pedals and clever tools which enabled her to generate live the multi layered vocal performances which the record showcases. Her voice is as much an instrument as James' various contraptions - manipulated and echoed around the tiny venue, an unassuming chanteuse. It was especially good to hear the remarkable "Bear" reproduced, with it's dynamic and soaring vocal even more powerful at first hand. The short set drew heavily on the new record, and its clear that this short tour is going to create interest around what has evidently been a well-received debut. Again, the warm human elements of their songs shone through the wash of electronica - the lyrics particularly leaping forward in the live environment and surprisingly revealed more as poems than songs as such. A rapturous response from the hometown crowd called James and Anneke back for an encore, and they chose to end with their own take on Robyn's hit "Dancing On My Own". Like lots of things this incredible duo attempt - it probably shouldn't work, but it does - and in doing so it redefines things entirely.

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I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.

I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.

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