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Review: Music

The Old Dance School

The Old Dance School

Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh

Rob Adams

The Old Dance School arrived on this latest visit to Scotland with quite a reputation, including an album of the year accolade from one of Scotland's leading newspapers for their Chasing the Light release.

It, in turn, was overseen by Calum Malcolm, whose own reputation for impeccable sound and production goes before him through outstanding work with such diverse acts as The Blue Nile, Gaelic singer Fiona Mackenzie and jazz guitarist Martin Taylor.

ODS might have wished that Malcolm had been on hand here as, for a seven-piece band, they made rather a slight presentation, and if the intention is to project a relaxed feeling somewhere between laid-back jazz rhythms and a pub folk session, it doesn't really come off, resulting in a lack of focus at times.

The musicians met at Birmingham Conservatory and there are clear benefits of classical training in their two violinists, Helen Lancaster and Samantha Norman, bringing section players' discipline to their unison parts and producing nice touches such as very precise pizzicato phrasing and effective twin tremolos.

Lancaster also plays viola very well, although her minimalistic viola air, Silver Tide, which introduced, one by one, guitar, accordion, whistle, violin and bass, might have benefited from development that owed more to composition and arrangement than to simple addition.

Their songs suffered somewhat from unclear diction. Their front man, Robin Beatty, has a pleasant voice and contributes some well-judged guitar riffs.

But he had trouble projecting over Aaron Diaz' trumpet lines and some over-exuberant drumming before a fine, tightly energetic take on Andy Cutting's Spaghetti Panic eventually hinted at the band's true potential.

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