The word “supergroup” might come up frequently as Dylan Matthews visits Summerhall to watch two intriguing combos, each assembled from bits and pieces of other acts, go head-to-head as both bands promote new releases.
Kid Canaveral fans will soon recognise that distinctive, disarming cadence David MacGregor incorporates into his songwriting, and can expect to be just as captivated by its new setting here amongst his freshly-assembled supergroup, Broken Chanter, as when they hear it at work for the Canaverals. The full Broken Chanter four-piece band features members of Hector Bizerk and Over the Wall, but sadly those two players are absent tonight, leaving MacGregor to be accompanied only by Jill O’Sullivan who for – goodness me – a full decade now, first as a member of Sparrow & The Workshop and then of BDY_PRTS, has asserted her position as one of Scotland’s most arresting vocalists.
I’ve closely followed both MacGregor and O’Sullivan chart their separate musical courses for a number of years, and when I first heard about talk of their collaboration it caught me by surprise, but also piqued a certain curious intrigue; so I was pleased to see just how charmingly these two performers, with whose work I’m so familiar, compliment each other. Tonight’s tantalising performance leaves me excited to catch up with the full-band proposal as soon as I can.
Modern Studies must surely be due to shake off all the lazy variations on the “chamber-folk” tag they’ve long been subjected to, because, frankly, this is a band who really know how to groove. Pete Harvey casts his familiar cello aside for most of tonight’s set, favouring instead a big Fender Precision electric bass; a tool he puts to work in close formation with Joe Smillie’s meticulous drumming to assemble watertight backlines that mightily heave and groan with deliciously syncopated funk.
This solid yet limber bedrock provides Emily Scott with a firm foundation upon which to set out the enchanting melodies she weaves from her synths, which she in turn then sings along to with her celebrated polish and poise. She is complemented by lead guitar provided tonight by friend-of-the-band Alex Livingstone, who proceeds to knit a series of elaborate riffs from his handsome SG after being called off the subs’ bench to fill in for regular guitarist Rob St. John, who’s been unable to make the trip North from his native Lancashire. St. John’s absence means the band are missing his distinctive sonorous baritone, which is the only regret I can detect in an otherwise irreproachably accomplished set from this most cultivated and stylish of bands.
A “supergroup” indeed.
Photos courtesy of Andy Catlin