IT WAS a nice idea to tour this double bill of two well-received Celtic Connections ‘New Voices’ commissions, performing them back to back with a nine-strong line-up of leading musicians.
Angus Lyon & Duncan Lyall: New Voices Tour
Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
It was a pity, though, that both compositions were consistently marred by over-amplification, which did no justice to the musicianship deployed or the sometimes intricate and thoughtful nature of the two pieces – 3G, by keyboard player and accordionist Angus Lyon and Infinite Reflections by bassist Duncan Lyall.
Both musicians are members of the folk fusion band Treacherous Orchestra, whose piper-guitarist Ali Hutton and fiddler Innes Watson were also on stage, and the eclectic nature of their compositions reflected this. Lyon’s 3G, intended to evoke the interplay of tradition and modernity across three generations, was an often boisterous amalgam of folk, jazz and funk, opening with cascades of continental accordion from the composer before developing into a reel.
Notable moments included some lyrical saxophone soloing from Fraser Fifield, against vibraphone chimes from Iain Sandilands and beefy drum work from Alyn Cosker. The closing movement involved jazzy ripples of electric piano, and vibes and fiddles sounding Indian-style glissandi, while Sandilands bowed harmonics from his vibraphone before a dramatically funky climax. At one point, fiddlers Watson and Patsy Reid tossed a coin to decide who played a particular solo but, in truth, there were times when it has hard to distinguish their sound from that of Fifield’s sax or Chas MacKenzie’s electric guitar, as tone went by the board.
Lyall’s Infinite Reflections is a thoughtful sequence of pulses and hypnotically repetitive, minimalist-style themes which I’ve enjoyed greatly, both at its 2012 Glasgow premiere, and on CD. Here, however, once again it was all just too in your face.
As the piece progressed, Lyall switching deftly between acoustic and electric bass. There were times, particularly when Hutton brought in his Border pipes for what should have been a racy flicker of reeds and strings, when the mix became a high-end yell, spitting overtones – OK perhaps, if you just wanted to leap about and wave your hands in the air, but hardly serving music which is eminently worth hearing.
The tour continues tonight at Lyth Art Centre, Wick, and tomorrow at the Gardyne Theatre, Dundee. Sound desk operators take note.
Seen on 04.09.14