Music Language Redux with Cry Parrot and Dundee Contemporary Arts
New Music Plus… producer Fielding Hope curates a showcase of extreme juxtapositions for “open-minded” audiences
Before the start of the inaugural Music Language Redux at Dundee Contemporary Arts, early-bird audience members are sipping cappuccinos to the clang and grind of a band filtering down from upstairs. Others are gathered inside the sparse gallery, solemnly taking in the source of that noise: an Edinburgh-based sound-art quartet called Muscletusk. It’s the first set of the afternoon and makes for an uncompromisingly rowdy opener, all glitches and cranks and gutsy electronic clatter.
Music Language Redux is the first Dundee incarnation of Glasgow’s Music Language festival. It’s a platform for underground, alternative and experimental music from Scotland – the kind of terms generally applied to uncategorisable artists who strike out in directions that are tricky to pin down. It’s the brain-child of Fielding Hope, who goes under the producer name Cry Parrot. He’s a laid-back, softly-spoken guy who spends the afternoon at the back of the crowd listening with his head inquisitively tilted. Between acts he tells me about his commitment to “music that exists outside of commercial context”, and explains why he goes out of his way to programme acts that aren’t all cut from the same cloth. “My faith is that audiences are open-minded enough to go straight from noise to folk to hip-hop to indie-rock,” he says, and the afternoon’s line-up reflects that faith.
Hope describes the Dundee event as a ‘ripple’ from Glasgow’s weekend-long, multi-venue festivals. It’s a best-of, a showcase, and it’s deliberately all under one roof so that the various genres can be juxtaposed at their most extreme. After Muscletusk comes Erstlaub: a Dundee-based laptopist whose set consists of a single unhurried expansion of soft white noise. Erstlaub is the kind of DJ who bobs his head to an imperceptible pulse, as if rocking out to his own heartbeat. Behind him there’s a projection of a huge moon floating in a lava-red sea.
The input of the gallery team at Dundee Contemporary Arts is less obvious. The space is essentially empty because it’s between official installations: only a video montage from an earlier Sister Mary Corita Kent exhibit is left over one wall, looping images of hazy sepia. The gallery’s shell makes a great space for listening. If Redux returns, a few more visuals could really add to the mix.
Two stages are set up at either end of the gallery so that when one act finishes the audience simply swivels 180 degrees and segues straight into the next. The crowd instinctively sits down when Erstlaub starts to play; next, for Gareth Dixon‘s sweet, intimate melancholia, they stand and sway. Dixon has a plaintive, grainy voice and spacious finger-plucking guitar lines. He plays his own songs and Joy Division covers; the afternoon is taking a mellow turn.
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And so it roams on. A knot of dancers bounces by the stage for the Dundee indie band Man Without Machine. The knot gains forces when the energetic Pumajaw comes on, with Pinkie Maclure’s swoopy, earthy vocals wrapping around Twin Peaks covers and bluesy self-penned numbers. Another highlight is the crackle and pop of Raydale Dower: a solo rhythmatician whose dry spattering beats ricochet around the space in surround sound like rapid-fire Reichean flamenco.
The billing culminates in zany shifts between sets from improvisers Richard Youngs and Asparagus Piss Raindrop (pictured above) to the tunefully ambient Ela Orleans and ballsy Scots hip-hopper Hector Bizerk. Each plays for half an hour, long enough to feel immersive and short enough not to drag. Hope says that part of his ambition with the festival is to encourage cross-fertilisation between the various artists he programmes. Whether that will come to fruition remains to be seen, but for the audience the brazen cross-fertilisation is inescapable.