Edinburgh International Festival music review: Niteworks – Comann

Gaelic techno adventurers Niteworks’ lively Sunday night set was a fittingly upbeat farewell to 2022’s Edinburgh International Festival series of concerts at Leith Theatre, writes David Pollock.

A celebratory performance to close the Edinburgh International Festival Leith Theatre series from Niteworks. PIC: Andrew Perry.
A celebratory performance to close the Edinburgh International Festival Leith Theatre series from Niteworks. PIC: Andrew Perry.

Niteworks: Comann ****

Leith Theatre, Edinburgh

It’s become an Edinburgh International Festival tradition for the final show of their live gig series at Leith Theatre to have an end-of-festival party feel to it – and if it has a Scottish flavour, so much the better. This year Alan Cumming didn’t appear to be available for a DJ set, but Gaelic techno adventurers Niteworks came up with their own lively Sunday night set to say goodbye to 2022’s Festival.

‘Comann’ is the Scots Gaelic word for a society or a club, but it also means ‘community’, and this special show curated by the young quartet from the Isle of Skye drew together a number of their young contemporaries from the Scottish Celtic music scene. Where Celtic rock and Gaelic song might be more usually associated with big names like Runrig or Capercaillie, or mannered balladeers like Julie Fowlis, Niteworks play the kind of murky but energetic techno you might hear at the Sub Club on Saturday night.

Against a backdrop of strobing lights, Innes Strachan and Allan MacDonald’s electronic programming was blended with the live sound of Ruairidh Graham’s drums. On certain songs Christopher Nicolson’s bass guitar was turned up loud as the lead instrument, adding an analogue, LCD Soundsystem-like edge, especially to their cover of Simple Minds’ Theme for Great Cities. MacDonald’s sporadic bagpipes were also integral, providing the most unexpected rave tone to Guns of Ajaccio and Sub Disco.

Three string players from the Kinnaris Quintet were onstage throughout, adding folk textures which at one point transmuted into slicing, upbeat disco strings, and there were vocal appearances by singer Beth Malcolm and all-female trio Sian. The latter added bouncy pop textures to songs including their past Niteworks collaboration Air Fàir an Là, while Malcolm’s voice bore more of a ballad texture against the trance groove of John Riley. Their show was the perfect way to come together and say goodbye to the Festival for now.