Date: May 6, 2016
Venue: Summerhall, Edinburgh, Scotland
Concert Review by Fiona Mactaggart
The choice of venue for the gig seems curious. Summerhall, the ostentatiously stark and dilapidated former Edinburgh University Veterinary Medicine campus, more used to hosting white be-coated students and lecturers, and Hidden Orchestra (HO), a very of-the-moment and pleasingly hard to pigeon-hole quartet, the mixed age audience swaying in group meditation to the dense harmonies, complex rhythms and deep grooves, and the ever changing audio-visual backdrop. In fact, this venue in its current incarnation as probably the hippest arts venue in Edinburgh, and HO, have much in common. Both invite thoughtfulness about the relationship between old and new, past and present, through the medium of intelligent Art.
The evening kicks off with a 40 minute set from Ben Chatwin, best known for his 2015 release of atmospheric soundscapes, ‘The Sleeper Awakes. Today gravelly music-concrete style textures add interest to his dubby deep grooves and amassing layers.
But the old dissection room is clearly full of HO fans whose excitement is palpable as the band takes to the stage for an energetic 70 minute set, taking in highlights from the 2010 Night Walks, 2012 Archipelago, and the 2015 Reorchestrations albums.
HO is the solo studio project of Joe Acheson, who explains his music arose from a desire to produce the sound of electronic music, but using acoustic instruments. And yet the music is more than this, evidencing multiple influences of which western classical, drum n bass, intelligent dance music, and field recordings are but a few. The felicitous end product is hard to define simply, however could be characterized as atmospheric, beat –heavy, multi-textured jazz.
So tonight behind his bass guitar, laptop and electronics, Acheson calmly directs proceedings, whilst Poppy Ackroyd offers sensitive, minimalist and often sinuous melody on violin and keyboard. Meanwhile Acheson’s slow burning but ultimately highly elaborate harmonizations are matched in complexity by perhaps the most compelling element of the soundscape: two drummers, each on full kit. Tim Lane (also on trombone) and Jamie Graham complement each other: Lane’s speed and attack astonishes whilst Grahams’ loucher, funkier style raises smiles, and together repeatedly provoke noisy audience appreciation, notably following crowd favorite, ‘Antiphon’.
Joining the quartet tonight are regular guests Phil Cardwell, go-to young Scottish trumpeter, and Tom Lumen with his mesmerizing audio-visuals, the scratched old cinema reel quality beautifully synchronizing with and complementing the new and yet old feel of the music.