Music review: Oliver Coates, Glasgow School of Art

Oliver Coates. Picture: Creative Commons
Oliver Coates. Picture: Creative Commons
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OLIVER Coates looks up from his cello and casts a shy smile at the audience – a necessary indicator that the piece he has been playing has finished, and it’s our turn to make some noise. Elecro-acoustic minimalist music being what it is, it’s not always obvious.

Oliver Coates

Glasgow School of Art


In demand on several continents, Coates has played with some of Britain’s finest orchestras (including our own BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra) – but that’s not what tonight is about. This is Coates flying solo, creating his own unique landscape of sound that proves beauty comes in many different hues.

Strictly speaking, he’s not alone. Coates’ cello playing is the centrepiece of a multimedia night curated by Glasgow-based Cryptic, and the creative pot is bubbling over with ingredients.

Eschewing chairs for cushions and beanbags, the seating arrangement alone gives the night a sense of “otherness”. Coates isn’t here to present obvious cello works, although he could clearly play them if desired, he’s here to build a wall of looped ambient noise – most of it delicate and evocative, some abrasive and harsh.

Six pieces owe their existence to other composers, but it’s the two written by Coates himself that stand out. Embellished by the haunting vocals of Chrysanthemum Bear (Coates’ Scots-born wife, and winner of the “best name ever” competition), his two Gaelic songs Cathal and I shall go abroad are mesmerising.

Equally magnetic is the video work of visual artist Laura Comenares Guerra, whose underwater imagery and magical floating rocks complement, rather than dominate, the mood.

Seen on 15.04.15