“I HOPE I will ruin my tag as a singer-songwriter without ruining your enjoyment,” came Ela Orleans’ achingly modest introduction to this album launch show.
Star rating: ***
A prolific Glasgow-based Polish multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer whose output has spanned genres and mediums from experimental music to the pop fringes and from sound art installations to theatre and film scores, she defies easy categorisation (hence the tagging grumble).
Orleans’ latest set Upper Hell is inspired by Dante’s Inferno and sees her partner with a relatively unlikely figure in trip-hop and electronica producer Howie B – best known for working on U2’s 1997 album Pop – to add dance-y beats to her stark, crepuscular, collage-like compositions (“movies for ears” as she calls them).
Performing solo, manipulating an array of electronic equipment from a MacBook to synthesizers with a very serious, studious demeanor, Orleans didn’t exactly come across as the most extrovert entertainer. But projections beamed atmospherically onto a big screen behind her, melding playfully diametrical footage of dancing children and dark biblical imagery, compensated somewhat for the deficit of visual spectacle.
Danceable as some of Upper Hell might be, Orleans’ haunted house and doomy disco pieces were surely nobody’s idea of a party. Opener Dark Floor revolved around the harmonically-layered looped vocal “no tears, no pain, no dark, no light”. The Sky and the Ghost’s outwardly breezy melody was contrasted by a lyric about madness and watching “lighting tear the sky apart”. Through Me dreamily cribbed Dante’s most memorable and cheerful line “abandon all hope ye who enter here”. “The End” read wording on the big screen with filmic finality, negating prospect of an encore, much as there were cheers for one.