Tectonics festival 2016

City Halls and Fruitmarket, Glasgow

Claire Sawers

four stars

DAY two of Tectonics ended on a big scale, with loud bangs, a few whimpers and plenty memorable oddities. The largest, in ambition and scale, was Alvin Curran’s world premiere of Musique Sans Frontières, where bagpipers and saxophonists led the audience up the City Halls’ staircase, down to the cavernous Fruitmarket, then into the Grand Hall for a cacophonous riot of foghorns, the Kirkintilloch brass band, BBC SSO musicians and ambient crowd performances from the Glasgow Chamber Choir. In the Ben Frost vein of visceral, foreboding compositions to jolt and batter the senses, Curran’s free jazz-classical-promenade-epic was arresting and fresh, if not always cohesive. But then a blend of Scottish folk fiddle, dropped kitchen utensils, symphony strings and chairs scraped across the floor was never going to be.

Smaller scale thrills were available too, from extraordinary solo violinist John Rose, continuing to hone his radical, playful style, showing off a bottomless curiosity for sounds he can make from string, air, electricity and skin, and the incredible Ánde Somby, looking like a court jester in leather fetish gear, but actually a gatekeeper to the ancient world of Sami shamanistic music. His animal yoiks of salmon, mosquitoes and a wolf were an otherworldly wonder, and captured the attention of wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson a couple of years ago.

Labyrinthine was an evocative experiment in operatics meets aerobics, where former Conquering Animal Sound member Anneke Kampman explored breath, body and female identity with singer Lucy Duncombe, and Annea Lockwood’s Sound Map of the Housatonic River was a blissful bath of water noise. A satisfying weekend of cerebral fun came to a close with Nate Young of Wolf Eyes’ dread-drenched work for orchestra and DIY electronics, sounding like a VHS video nasty, soundtracked by Morricone at his most sinister. With it, the seismic plates between the underground and overground closed up again for another year.