- David Pollock
- 17 September 2021
We look at some of the best performances from Edinburgh's beloved multi-arts festival as it makes a triumphant move to evocative new spaces
In the shadow of Granton's austere old Gasworks, Hidden Door made a spectacular return this week. Filling a derelict warehouse with art and performance, and two back-to-back live music stages on a bit of paved brownfield scrubland, the festival's first couple of days offered a wealth of great work. Sitting squarely in the 'acquired taste' category (but also utterly loveable) was dance collective Something Smashing in the warehouse on Wednesday evening. With musicians in homemade tinfoil costumes walking the marked-off square of floorspace playing discordant saxophone blasts or scratchy cello, while dancers stretch and jerk into shapes which ambitiously mirrored the music, it's exactly the kind of thing you want to see at a disused warehouse in the middle of nowhere.
The biggest draw on Wednesday night's opening party were Pictish Trail, both a band (now featuring Fife-based sometime Super Furry Animal Guto Pryce on bass) and the alter ego of Eigg's electro-troubadour Johnny Lynch who was making up for lost time with delayed performances of his fifth album: Thumb World was cruelly released into the wild just weeks before lockdown hit. With the main stage's shimmering, expensive-looking lighting rig creating a sharp contrast to the gently glowing skeleton of the Gasworks on a hill behind, Lynch's new music suits the times, with moody, DIY grooves such as 'Turning Back' and 'Fear Anchor' sounding like a weary sigh of relief as the party finally got started.
On Thursday, a beautifully subdued highlight of a packed bill was Glasgow-based trio and 2020 Scottish Album Of The Year nominees Cloth, whose bleary-eyed ambient shoegaze fitted perfectly under the silver-grey early evening sky. Against tentative, subtly-picked guitar lines and softly-hit drums, Rachael Swinton's aching, whispered vocals call to mind a less arch, more human-sounding version of The xx. Back in the warehouse came theatre group Tortoise In A Nutshell with their acclaimed show Feral, a technical triumph which achieved an evocative ambience as its live Foley sound effects and voice parts echoed amid the rafters of this industrial space. The piece is an incredible work of contemporary puppetry, with small video cameras cutting between the cardboard residents of a quiet town which descends into anarchy when an opulent new 'supercade' mall imposes gentrification upon it.
Finally, Thursday evening's live music headliners The Orielles arrived from Halifax with a dizzying blend of quirky psychedelia and jangling indie-pop straight out of a student union in 1986, including the anthemic 'Sunflower Seeds' and the indie-punk dance groove 'Sugar Tastes Like Salt'. Unexpected and wonderful, they were a genuine treat, much like this top-rate festival which returned with a flourish.
Hidden Door, Granton Gasworks and Warehouse, Edinburgh, until Sunday 19 September.