Prize for the best audience member at last night’s Celtic Connections gig goes to the fellow with the not-so-surreptitious flask who couldn’t help but give out with a thoroughly supportive ‘fuck off, mate!’ at the end of Tissø Lake’s set. When the praise is so violent it sounds like a threat, at least you know it’s genuine.
The band had provided a gentle lead-in to the evening, with Ian Humberstone crafting a (not entirely tongue-outside-of-cheek) narrative through the songs, beginning with a day’s timber farming in Norway with retro waltz When Work Is Done, then dropping everything and heading downriver on a picnic, getting close to a waterfall, settling in a rock pool, cutting his foot on a rock. But it’s fine, and then he goes home. If that’s your idea of a pleasant day out, then Tissø Lake are the guys for you.
Sometimes the real show is at the back, though, and one of the best things going was just watching their drummer, all mallets and angular concentration for the opening number, transported by Humberstone’s synth solo later on. The music on the whole was solidly serviceable dreampop, although I found myself wishing for more moody breakouts like the one held out halfway through. But perhaps I’m just not as attuned to the nuances of Norwegian farmwork as I should be.
If Tissø Lake are a day spent in Scandinavian sunlight, then Modern Studies are a free ride on an empty monorail, whatever that means. Emily Scott supplied her hometown crowd with an excellent set, which grew in substance and expertise as the evening went on. And by expertise, I mean the audience’s as well. Taped to the stage backdrop were two rhythm patterns that looked as if they’d been left behind by a visiting first year music class. These, it turned out, were for the audience to clap along to.
Accompanying opening number Supercool didn’t turn out so well, although for a moment there were some gloriously enthusiastic attempts in the front row. But by the time it got to Ten White Horses – the penultimate stomper which proved the evening’s standout tune – some were pushing their way forward to have a clear go at the charts. And well, even if it didn’t turn out perfectly, my money’s for enthusiasm over accuracy any day.
Clapping aside, debut album Swell to Great was shown off to wondrous effect, played almost in its ambitious entirety, complete with delirious chorales on Today’s Regrets and Bottle Green, and instrumentation including harmonium, synth, chime bells and baby toms – and that’s just what Scott herself played. For attention to detail alone, it was an standout show, singers frequently covering one ear to ensure their delicate harmonies were pitch perfect. ‘The Bee Gees thing’, Scott called it, dismissively; well worth it, all the same.
Photo by Jannica Honey