Musical experimentation is a dangerous game – do it right, and you’re a new Mozart; get it wrong and you’re the one holding a bassoon in a two-guitar garage band. Y’all is Fantasy Island frontman Adam Stafford’s beatbox side-project falls somewhere in the middle of the scale. While building vast, dense soundscapes using just your mouth is impressive, the novelty value of Stafford’s MCing wears thin fairly quickly.
Islet, on the other hand, hit the stage with two drum kits. Note to bands: everything percussive you need is on a drum kit, that’s why it’s called a kit, and you certainly don’t need two of them. Worse, Islet’s set doesn’t even warrant all the percussion – it’s a weird, sub-par mix of sleaze rock and indie, with snippets of other genres thrown in seemingly at random. It’s not often that you want to tell the same singer that he’s neither Shaggy nor Liam Gallagher, but that’s what happens when an experiment goes awry.
So to Meursault, armed tonight with ukuleles, banjos and a MacBook amongst an array of instruments. The Edinburgh alt-folkers are returning from a European tour, and their experience and confidence shows. From the off their mix of computer beats and old-school acoustics explodes into the crowd, creating a wall of distinctly Scottish noise that’s almost impossible to resist. Harmoniums, floor toms and what may well be a lute are all involved, the sound bound together by Neil Pennycook’s stunning vocals that could easily injure a small child at such close range.
By the end, we’re watching Neil play the ukulele while backed by an all-bearded vocal quartet, and it seems like the most natural thing in the world. Experimenting is a dangerous game, but Meursault seem to know exactly what they’re doing.