As surrogate for the long absent in live form Boards of Canada, the orchestral interpretation of their Hi Scores EP by German collective Stargaze was never going to be straightforward. The band’s straddling of time and memories holds a profound place in my personal history and like many in the Leith Theatre I have come with guarded expectations. In keeping with the hauntological nature of their music the presence real or imagined of the brothers Sandison at this local gig adds an extra layer, and there is a palpable sense of seeping unknown.
Creation of this musical palimpsest was clearly no mean feat with two years in development evident in the skill used to if not replicate, then allude with authenticity to the distorted synths and aural layers of the original. That said in their playing of the six EP tracks & encore of three, there is no commitment to either fully match or bravely differentiate consistently.
The issue for me ironically is visual as well as aural given the straddled aesthetics of the Boards of Canada sound. Although Stargaze have clearly worked to find the sounds using a range of instruments, they seem less sure of emotional direction, and the disparity of outfits, dancing styles and facial expressions on stage distracts me from what I want to be pure yet corrupted emotion. During Nlogax it looks like De Ridder is conducting with deliberately exaggerated ‘rave hands’ and I struggle to take it all seriously. Yet when it gets really fun and full on funky I want them to go with it and make the beats bigger, discombobulate us fully in a sweat pit somewhere small and non- orchestral rather than just hinting at it in the elegance of Leith Theatre. I want them to lose the pantomime of ripping paper and brushing the stage whilst delivering spectral vocals. I want them to strip it back or take it somewhere completely new.
The only time I am lost in the fathoms of time and unarticulated yearning is during a genuinely moving Everything You Do Is A Balloon – because they commit and there are no disconcertingly evangelical handclaps and cheesy grins. There are some other beautiful moments, such as when the woodwind section lapses into each other with perfect fractured timing but as a whole the interpretation doesn’t flow. Hearing the prompted hall hum along to Olson is something I will sadly never unhear but given the standing ovation afterwards that is probably my problem. The light show is perfect however, and If I’d been able to look into the lights and only see the sounds then perhaps my experience of the future past would have been very different.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Buchanan.
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