New Counterflows festival is more than a revival of Triptych ambitions

THIS weekend’s inaugural Counterflows marginal music festival calls to mind Scotland’s sorely-missed Triptych weekender, although the new event is far more bold in its pan-continental ambitions.

Many of the artists appearing at various venues around Glasgow including the Arches, Stereo and the CCA from tomorrow to Sunday will play complimentary dates at London’s Café OTO over the weekend, and will then travel to Berlin for events at alternative venue Ausland the weekend after.

“Triptych was one of my favourite festivals,” agrees Alasdair Campbell, co-producer of Counterflows alongside OTO Projects’ Hamish Dunbar. “It was ambitious and it brought together a wide range of music. I’m not aiming for something of that size yet (Triptych presented a multi-venue line-up in three cities, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen), but in the future who knows?” Despite Campbell’s former role as the programmer of now-defunct experimental music festival Le Weekend at Stirling’s Tolbooth, he says this event will feature a more widely accessible bill.

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Among the artists assembled are folk singer Michael Hurley, Japanese poet and singer Kazuki Tomokawa, singer-songwriter Josephine Foster and free jazz auteur Sven-Ake Johansson. “Michael Gira is the big name here,” points out Campbell, “because he used to be in [New York post-punk outfit] Swans. Of course that doesn’t mean he’s a big name in most people’s book, but he is for this type of music.”

Campbell’s dream scenario for Counterflows in future years is to expand it to more cities around Europe, and for there to be greater transference of musicians from one country to another in order to bring their music to a wider audience. “I’d like to see Scottish musicians playing in Berlin or Lisbon and for their culture to transfer over here,” he says. “We wanted to do that this year, but we don’t have the financial clout yet. But we’ll hopefully get that when people like the British Council and Creative Scotland see that it’s working.”

This year’s Counterflows has benefitted from a little public money, including some start-up funds from Creative Scotland, and international travel costs are one expense Campbell says he needs assistance with in order to realise his vision. Yet he’s determined to expand in future with as little public funding as possible. “I’ve been working with subsidised venues for a long time, and I know that subsidies can disappear very fast when you come to rely on them. It’s not easy to put such wide networks of musicians in place, but with marginal music it’s perhaps easier. There’s more of a will to succeed, in some ways.”

Counterflows 2012 is at various venues around Glasgow from tomorrow until 8 April

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