LAUNCHING School of Velocity, his second album on Glasgow’s Chemikal Underground label, Julian Currie is in a celebratory mood, shyly smiling beneath the shiny, helium-filled silver balloons spelling out his uplifting, indie dance pop moniker Miaoux Miaoux.
Or at least half his name, with a degree of expense spared. “Oh my God, it really is beautiful to me as well” he cries in a searching alto-tenor on Luxury Discovery, an emotive swoon across the track’s cool, disco sheen, characteristic of the melodrama he splashes across his layered synth soundscapes.
In Stereo’s close, post-industrial basement, the versatile producer and multi-instrumentalist augmented his sound with drummer Liam Chapman and bassist Liam Graham, as well as inviting the Cairn String Quartet to swell some of the new numbers.
The title track of the new record is a steady escalator, recalling turn of the millennium Daft Punk, while a standout was the marvellous, swirling Autopilot, its wobbly bass throbbing ominously through the venue.
Hey Sound! signalled the moment the band really settled into a dance groove, their extended jam shifting from insistent, spacey keys to a fuller, floating melody that just kept expanding and expanding. Recent single It’s The Quick sustained this momentum, its robust electro-pop cranking up to a surging keyboard riff, retained by the pounding drums, crunching synth and sly bass of closer Stop The Clocks, which, notwithstanding the fact that it veritably thrums with triumphant dance credentials, nevertheless betrays a manifestly human soul. Electronica with heart and infectious danceability, what’s not to enjoy?
At this time of the year the SCO gets out and about, taking its players into further flung communities where they present a mixture of educational and concert activity. They weren’t so far-flung on Saturday, the concert venue being Paisley Abbey, but Paisley is not a town used to regular classical concerts on its own doorstep, and the meagre audience seemed to reflect that.
But those who did come were treated to a programme that was easily digestible and warmly presented. What’s more, it had elements of curiosity. For besides the familiarity of Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances and Schubert’s Symphony No 3, the concert, directed by former RSNO associate conductor James Lowe, introduced us to the rarely-heard hybrid pairing of “Konzertstucken” for two clarinets by Mendelssohn, and to the wistful Czech Suite by Dvorak.
All that, and the ultimate addition of a Brahms Hungarian Dance, sat comfortably in the Abbey acoustics. That was largely down to Lowe’s clear-cut style: an arresting combination of calm authority and infectious energy.
His reading of the opening Dvorak Suite was warm, with an inbuilt flexibility that shaped and enlivened its rounded contours. In the two Mendelssohn concert pieces, with the SCO’s own Maximiliano Martin and William Stafford as brilliantly duelling soloists, he allowed the dazzling virtuosity of the music to speak for itself.
Bartok’s dances sizzled but never burned, while the early Schubert symphony, with its youthful lustre, was neat and thrilling. The unexpected Brahms was a perfect send-off.
Babes in Toyland
Glasgow Oran Mor
With their Disneyland name and frontwoman Kat Bjelland’s former fondness for baby doll dresses, it is easy to forget just how hardcore Babes in Toyland were in their early/mid-90s heyday when they were contemporaries/rivals to Courtney Love’s Hole – and clearly still are on the basis of this righteous and refreshing comeback after more than fifteen years apart.
Age has not withered their appetite for uncompromising noise rock and, frankly, it was an invigorating tonic to witness three utterly self-possessed middle-aged women whip up such a wild sonic storm.
Theirs is a ferocious but controlled explosion of a sound rooted in US punk and metal with fuzzed-up grungey guitars and Bjelland’s hooting and hollering to the fore.
But her cavewoman catharsis was matched every step of the way by force of nature drummer Lori Barbero’s tribal tub-thumping and Maureen Herman’s practically subsonic bass rumble. Barbero’s booming alto contrasted with Bjelland’s keening screams and witchy invocations over some heavy stoner rock.
This tight unit would switch direction on a dime, interrupting a sludgy, doomy riff with a rat-a-tat rhythm. Their dynamic, shifting song structures presaged the onset of so-called math-rock in the late 90s but these Babes are all about the blood and guts of the delivery, supplying a thrilling dynamism that made up for the relentlessly tuneless onslaught of their set.