Twilight Sad – The Pleasance, Edinburgh, Thu 9 Oct
Spectacular opening gig of the Pleasance Sessions with support from the Hidden Orchestra
Most live bands, from arena-filling rock tourists to dive bar folk minnows, will gratify their audience by telling them how pleased they are to be sharing an evening with them. But on the opening night of the Pleasance Sessions, that sentiment didn’t feel at all synthetic. The pissing rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of lucid dreamweavers Hidden Orchestra or arch-miserablists the Twilight Sad, and it showed in this intimate, pared-back gig.
Hidden Orchestra – studio solo project of multi-instrumentalist Joe Acheson, augmented on stage by a panoply of musicians each working dual shifts – might just be a working definition of the phrase ‘sum of many parts’. Combining an array of classical and electronic instruments with a range of repeating loops, Hidden Orchestra build full-strength soundscapes from scratch. Heavy, atmospheric percussion is complemented by haunting brass and delicate strings, arranged and composed by Acheson, who sits perched at the centre of the stage like some hipster Wizard of Oz.
The contrast is sharp when set against a band infamous for their sheer volume. Adorned on the bucket-list of every gig-goer in Scotland, the Twilight Sad use their stripped-back set to roadtest songs from their forthcoming album Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave, as well as revisiting a few fan favourites from their recently re-issued debut.
Calling in at the tail-end of another long tour, frontman James Graham focused on practicing his patter, and despite the preaching, everybody here had long been converted. He might consider cuddles to be ‘a bit emo’, but he finds no trouble bearing his soul on stage. At points, he becomes so self-absorbed that he wanders away from the microphone, bellows lost in the hazy decibels of Andy MacFarlane’s guitar.
An odd, yet compelling pairing at the start of this small and vital festival in Edinburgh.
The Pleasance, Edinburgh, Thu 9 Oct.