Muscles of Joy (4 stars)

Muscles of Joy

Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, Wed 14 Apr 2010

This is, let’s be perfectly clear, no ordinary girl band. An all-female collaboration from Glasgow-based artists Anne-Marie Copestake, Ariki Porteous, Charlotte Prodger, Jenny O’Boyle, Katy Dove, Leigh Ferguson, Sophie Macpherson and Victoria Morton, Muscles of Joy found their original sound in improvisation, yet the series of audio experiments performed here have benefited from obviously rigorous rehearsal.

Played on a variety of instruments, many of these songs build from simple, repeating notes and phrases, as on ‘Water Break-Its-Neck’, which shimmers like the Welsh waterfall it is named after, through a delicate collision of shakers, tambourines and percussive devices. Yet the pretty and distinctive noises being made seem to carry a certain feminist implication. The announcement of ‘Our Room of My Own’ leads a male audience member to ask if that’s a reference to Virginia Woolf (albeit paraphrased from A Room of One’s Own). ‘Yes,’ comes the reply, ‘it’s exactly like Virginia Woolf.’ It’s certainly hard to see a male musician composing and executing something in the register of, for example, the stunning a cappella of notes and words which later give this mesmerising show its high point.

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