Counterflows has earned a reputation as the most consistently unpredictable and innovative Scottish music festival, constantly challenging notions of what constitutes experimental music and uncovering new music and musicians from well off the beaten track.
While the festival’s based in Glasgow, they held a series of three events to spread the word in Edinburgh. Indeed, while the festival has very strong links to Glasgow’s thriving underground scene, they have an avowedly internationalist outlook, which took on added relevance the evening of this event, as the UK celebrated its departure from the EU, a factor commented on by festival codirector Alasdair Campbell, as well as the importance of grassroots communities in resistance.
First on the bill was Elaine Mitchener, a London-based classically trained vocalist who I’d seen before performing work by the likes of Frederick Rzweski and Julius Eastman with orchestral backing, but who performed here solo and unaccompanied. Except by herself, singing in counterpoint to
looped samples of herself, to hypnotic effect. Initially that is, as she moved on to improvisations in vocalese and guttural sounds that came close to almost Beckettian performance, with her face, her entire body, as alert to the possibilities of the music as her voice.
Nowhere was her vocal and physical range explored more than in her spellbinding rendition of Amazing Grace, where she set her voice against itself in polyphony, and ended up bowed down by the pressure of all that transcendence, prostate on the floor.
As compelling a performer as Mitchener was, the 300 strong crowd who chosen to come to the beautiful Regency church setting of the Queens Hall had come to see Joe McPhee and Decoy, McPhee being one of the most revered saxophonists on the planet, and Decoy a powerhouse trio composed of three of Britain’s finest – Steve Noble on drums, John Edwards on double bass and Alexander Hawkins on keyboards – in this case, a pair of Hammond organs.
McPhee, at 80, is something of a living legend... read the rest of the article here.