Music critic Fiona Shepherd shares her pick of the artists performing at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival
Mogwai & Mark Cousins
The monolithic music of Mogwai is set to soundtrack this year’s opener, Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time, an audio-visual geological and historical spectacular set against the craggy backdrop of Edinburgh Castle Rock. But there will also be the opportunity to witness the acclaimed Glasgow band in live action, performing their soundtrack to Mark Cousins’ documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise, about the good, the bad and the ugly of atomic power. They have form in this department, having already supplied simmering, atmospheric soundtracks to Douglas Gordon’s film Zidane and eerie French TV drama The Returned.
Playhouse, 27 and 28 August
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Expect a son et lumière onslaught from this elusive Canadian collective of noisemongers who abide by the mantra “no singer no leader no interviews no press photos”. Despite their best efforts to be as obtuse as possible, they have still pummelled enough listeners into submission with their dynamic guitar drones to become a sizeable and respected cult force and now a hot ticket of the EIF, where they will be following their collaboration with Vancouver dance company The Holy Body Tattoo on Monumental with this show of their own.
Playhouse, 10 August
Lau accordionist Martin Green has drawn together musicians from various traditions for this collaborative meditation on migration – a topic he hopes to draw the heat out of through a cycle of original songs inspired by true life stories he collected, with lyrics by the likes of Karine Polwart, Anais Mitchell and Aidan Moffat, rendered by folk singers Becky Unthank and Adam Holmes, Mogwai bassist Dominic Aitchison and Portishead studio maestro Adrian Utley. Edinburgh animators whiterobot have also created a visual narrative with which the performers will interact in this thoughtful, immersive piece.
Edinburgh International Conference Centre, 10 and 11 August
Nae Regrets – Martyn Bennett’s Grit
Piper Martyn Bennett’s final album, Grit, released in 2003, was heralded for its fusion of traditional and electronic instrumentation with folk field samples. A decade after Bennett’s premature passing, violinist Greg Lawson’s vibrant orchestral arrangement of this influential album was the undisputed hit of last year’s Celtic Connections and was widely lauded for bringing together musicians from the folk, jazz and classical worlds in one big celebratory outpouring of spirit. Don’t miss this deserving reprise for one of the most joyfully received concerts of recent times.
Playhouse, 23 August
A couple of years ago, it would have seemed unthinkable that an underground hip-hop trio from the suburbs and schemes of Edinburgh would perform at the International Festival, yet the brilliant Young Fathers are exactly the sort of cutting-edge musicians and creative performers who should be loudly celebrated on an international stage in their home city for their intense, inventive, original blend of pop, soul and electronica, as showcased across their audacious albums Dead and White Men Are Black Men Too.
The Hub, 14 and 15 August