The Space Lady, Ai Aso & Ela Orleans with Maja Borg - Garnethill Centre, Glasgow, Fri 4 April 2014
A characteristically diverse line-up as part of the experimental Counterflows Festival
The feast of contemporary music that was Counterflows 2014, a weekend festival in Glasgow, kicked off in characteristically diverse fashion with an early-evening showcase of experimental music from around the globe. That includes a cult San Francisco street musician who wears a flashing space helmet, followed by angelic Japanese guitar ruminations and then a collaboration between a Swedish visual artist and a Glasgow based psych-pop alchemist. While they all have different styles, a common spirit of exploration aligns them and makes for a perfect festival opening bill.
The Space Lady begins proceedings with a set of enchanting cosmic Casio adventures; her quirky synth-pop oddities are a delight to witness. While her galactic costume and generally light-hearted demeanour might easily be dismissed as gimmickry, the subtlety, humour and humanity which imbue her songs stave off such cynicism. The set peaks with a psychedelic cowboy romp through an alternative Western universe and a gorgeous ethereal take on Steppenwolf's 'Born to be Wild'.
The stage is vacant so briefly that Ai Aso's hushed tapestry of minimal guitar and fragile voice barely registers at first, but it soon captures the crowd's full attention and you could hear the proverbial pin drop. Even in the modest community centre context Aso's songs sound every bit as pristine as they do on record; her gentle voice and serene guitar strokes hold the ability to slow the world down just a little bit. Her work with Japanese noiseniks Boris is only apparent in one white noise plundering experiment, but the feedback is a touch too overwhelming in this space. For the most part her slight lullabies are captivating – not only of another language but also seemingly of another world.
Another world, the work of filmmaker Maja Borg, is then projected on two mirror imaged screens while Ela Orleans fiddles with an array of electronics to provide a live soundtrack. The combination of Borg's drowsily morphing images and Orleans' jumping between bluesy ambience, psych-pop and countless other styles is actually quite jarring, with none finding a perfect fit for the images. Not until their set piece, Borg's latest proper work 'We The Others', does the combination really work – an eerie but affecting short about physical difference which is perfectly complemented by Orleans' twisted ambient noises, tonight with added scrapes of violin to really dial up the atmosphere. It is a visceral and haunting piece of work which acts as a suitable end to a similarly bewitching show.