Leith Walk is set to lose it’s unique buildings to a handful of developers, which has spurred on campaigners to fight and fundraise to avoid the change, and this gig at Summerhall was a prime example of this, as four bands scheduled to play to raise awareness and funds to keep it as it is. Maranta, Rituals, Future Get Down and Meursault all took to the stage for the cause.

Maranta

Anchored by a brace of gorgeous Korg synths, Gloria Black and Callum Govan of Maranta allow trancey phrases of electronica to evolve naturally into irresistibly danceable accompaniments that appealingly underpin Gloria Black’s powerful and stirring voice.

Exploratory instrumental passages are given an equal footing to the moments when more conventional song structures emerge, providing an engaging and rewarding experience for the audience.

As the crowd begin to applaud at the end of a thoroughly accomplished opening set, the duo onstage share a tender hug, which garners a second round of applause all of its own, possibly hinting at a sense of solidarity and compassion amongst tonight’s audience for the evening’s fundraising cause.

Rituals

Rituals provide a distinct contrast in sound to the opening act, but not so in quality. Driven by pounding piano chords and polished yet strident guitar figures, the band conjure a palpable sense of tension that’s both menacing and seductive, and provides a substantial foundation for Ryan Sandison’s dramatic vocals, that evoke moments of David Vanian and even Scott Walker.

Rituals’ combination of accomplished musicianship and striking stage presence are sure to attract them further attention.

Future Get Down

The five members of Future Get Down take to the stage each dressed head-to-toe in full beekeepers’ outfits and hoods, because, obviously. They go on to concoct a heady Talking Heads flavoured cocktail of synth groove underpinned by skin-tight bass guitar and drums, which occasionally encroaches unexpectedly and most enjoyably onto Public Image Ltd. territory.

It would be mistake to confuse the band’s whimsical stage costumes with a lack of serious purpose about their craft. There’s a sense of fun for sure, but also considerable skill and dexterity in their quite captivating music.

Meursault

Few acts would be up to the task of drawing together the disparate threads of rock, electronica and drama we’ve seen from tonight’s excellent undercard, but Meursault don’t take long to demonstrate they’re capable of meeting the challenge head-on.

Presenting a set spanning their decade at the forefront of Edinburgh’s music scene, tonight Meursault perform as a two-piece, with Neil Pennycook mainly remaining seated behind a piano and triggering skittish loops from a sampler, partnered by Robyn Dawson on violin and accompanying vocals. In Dawson, Pennycook has found an ideal vocal foil for his renowned bellow; capable of reinforcing the raw explosiveness he can unleash, while lending a measured mellifluousness of her own.

The set begins with the melancholic, pulsing Americana of The Mill, a song of regret and bewilderment at capitalism’s unwelcome intrusion into the arts, which is a good political fit for for the evening’s cause and has quite rightly established itself as a stalwart of Meursault’s live shows. The performance goes on to feature the welcome and long overdue return of early-period tear-jerker Crank Resolutions, and cover versions of tracks by past-collaborators Viking Moses and Virgin of the Birds. There’s a distinct nostalgia about the set as a whole; and, while it’s not the first time the evening’s cause has been mentioned from the stage, Pennycook is the only performer to speak about it at length. To cheers of support from the audience, the singer describes both the plan to demolish a distinctive set of buildings on Leith Walk, and the developers responsible, in less than favourable terms – indeed quite profane ones. The buildings in question offer a home to a number of small independent businesses, including the acclaimed bar and live music venue Leith Depot. The redevelopment plans are to replace the existing buildings with a vast student residential block, and have the full support of both the City of Edinburgh Council and the University of Edinburgh. That certainly means the opposition campaign has an uphill struggle, but the goodwill and enthusiasm evident tonight shared by both the audience and the performers suggest that the campaigners can call on plenty of public vigour and stamina for the forthcoming fight.

Photos courtesy of Deborah Mullen.

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