Glasgow Film Festival review: Sacred Paws, Tramway, Glasgow

Sacred Paws  PIC: Brian Sweeney
Sacred Paws PIC: Brian Sweeney
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An honest-to-goodness art happening presented in conjunction with the Glasgow Film Festival, this multimedia feast fused a live performance from sunny-delightful Glasgow indie duo Sacred Paws with the work of artist and filmmaker Margaret Salmon. Her latest documentary is Mm, a 30-minute Cinema Verite essay on the all-male motorcycle team The Berwick Bandits. It captures the meandering minutiae of life in a Scottish speedway before, during and after a race. Sacred Paws provide the musical soundtrack.

Sacred Paws, Tramway, Glasgow ****

The first half of this virtually wordless film was sporadically accompanied by alliterative, impressionistic poetry delivered live by singer-guitarist Rachel Aggs. Normally when confronted with wantonly pretentious, borderline Nathan Barley-esque events such as this, my natural impulse is to run screaming from the room.

However, when Aggs and drummer Eilidh Rodgers launched into a specially commissioned surf rock-flecked instrumental piece accompanied by footage of the bikers in full-throttle flow, it suddenly made sense. It was a powerful fusion of music and the moving image.

Sacred Paws are highly adept, simpatico musicians. Their music is a fluid blend of post-punk jangle and Afrobeat. Aggs’ springy arpeggios are crystalline and melodic. Her voice is pure and unaffected. Rodgers’ tight, loose-limbed rhythms are dexterous but never overly fussy.

Together they create a kind of ecstatic art school dance groove; Paul Simon’s Graceland by way of The B-52s, The Go-Go’s, C86 and early REM.

As for Salmon’s film, it appears to be an opaque comment on masculinity and/or the harmless pleasures of being part of a dedicated subculture. What, really, is the point of riding round and round on motorcycles in front of a sparse audience consisting of friends and family members? Well, it’s fun for those involved. What more point do you need?

Following a 20-minute interval, during which the chairs and – yes – beanbags were removed from the room, Sacred Paws returned to play material from their debut EP Six Songs (released on Mogwai’s Rock Action label) and their Scottish Album of the Year Award-winner Strike a Match.

Accompanied by a bassist, second guitarist and a background montage of new 16mm visuals from Salmon, they grinned and grooved their way through this joyous celebration of everything they stand for, sonically speaking.

Sacred Paws are only getting started but already they deserve every ounce of acclaim they’ve received. For once, do believe the hype.