Lost in Music

North Edinburgh Arts, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper

Four stars

The underworld has long been the most fertile place for artistic expression inspired by things lost on higher ground. Just ask Orpheus, the nearest thing Greek mythology has to a rock star. Ask Eurydice too, whose untimely demise prompts Orpheus to attempt the grandest of gestures. Things might not end well, but at least they can say thank you for the music, even if it does become the death of them, immortality guaranteed.

This is certainly the case in Nicholas Bone’s Magnetic North company’s album-length rendition of this classic yarn, which pitches the story through a suite of songs written and performed by an ad hoc quartet of some of Scotland’s most adventurous musicians overseen by musical director Kim Moore.

Things begin with the voices of the future, as young people’s recorded responses to the importance of music form a kind of spoken-word collage set to a chamber-pop instrumental overture. This is played with exquisite panache by guitarist Jill O’Sullivan, clarinettist Emily Phillips, saxophonist Claire Willoughby and drummer Alex Neilson, all of whom come with an impeccable musical pedigree.

Swathed in psychedelic apparel and draped around Karen Tennent’s leafy Eden-like set, once the band burst into song, it is with a nouveau-bardic sense of storytelling driven by O’Sullivan on lead vocal accompanied by harmonies and monologues by Phillips and Willoughby. This is illuminated by Gavin Glover’s micro-cinematic images projected onto the looming moon above and bathed in Simon Wilkinson’s equally foreboding lighting. Such a display recognises how music doesn’t just go beyond words in its evocation of life’s deepest and often darkest moments. Sometimes it goes beyond dear life itself.

This fully breaks on through to the other side when the ensemble is joined by young musicians from local schools. In Edinburgh, students from from Craigroyston Community High School, Amie Huckstep, Ashton Allan, Ella Ferguson, Eve Allan, Sarah Newman and Xenia Garden found their muse. In Glasgow this week, musicians from Glasgow Kelvin College look set to do likewise. The sound of the underground, it seems, lives on.