Sunday may be a school night, but hey, it’s the holiday season. And it’s a balance that the The Slow Club has kind of got right. The intimate evening at Edinburgh’s Roxy is a kind of final fling for the weekend, in the quietest, most low-key sense.
And the organisers aren’t afraid to build the club’s reputation sloooowly – no big names, they even take the step of two out-of-town acts on the bill – no friends and family here, just music lovers who want that anti-adrenaline rush and alternative to X Factor and Songs of Praise.
Michael Feeney, whose day job involves fronting slo-core trio Smackvan, was founded the club, a remarkable 18 years ago… it’s been in hibernation since its days at the 13th Note, with original Note owner encouraging Michael to revive the night.
“It was started as an antidote really to noisy bars and clubs,” he recalls. “Not so much a chill out night – it pre-dates the whole idea of a chill-out room ! But more as a place of refuge… somewhere you could drift in, and get woozy to off kilter music…”
First up is Cheer, one man and his guitar, though you’d be forgiven for thinking there was something more going on here. Alec (Cheer’s given name) displays some impressive fingerpicking, which ties in nicely with the soundscapes he creates through a variety of harmonics and effects. With the Slow Club’s other medium, film projected onto the performers and with Michael Feeney mixing in some ambient sounds between the acts, it’s all atmosphere.
So it seems that the nights haven’t really changed that much in ethic over a couple of decades, with the Edinburgh version in the almost gothic surroundings of the Roxy’s candlelit basement, with a grainy monochrome film of a ballet projected onto the stage.
“Since restarting the night last year I’ve incorporated films to complement the music. In some cases, musicians have written their own scores to films of their choice – Jer Reid & Fanny Ampism, Jodi Cave & Adam Smith, Zero de Conduite, The Seashell and the Clergyman…”
Despite the mixed media feel of the nights, it is, largely, about the music, and Feeney is taking the opportunity to put on acts that perhaps aren’t as likely to crop up on the more mainstream venues across Scotland.
“There just seemed to be so much new music, particularly electronic, electroacoustic, diy, that was interesting,” says Feeney. “Alva Noto, Fennesz, Machinefabriek, loads more… that struck me as being close to what I was playing all those years ago that I thought it would work again.”
RM Hubbert is the ‘headliner’, in what’s a more conventional venue than he’s been recently used to – he’s ‘toured’ people’s houses in his Will Play For Food series of shows. Tonight he’s in fairly cheery mood – well, given that, as he candidly admits, his instrumental tunes were written as his way of communicating his emotions during tougher times. Most poignant of the lot is one for his departed mother, an atmospheric piece which silences the already well-behaved audience and which is perfectly suited to the feel of the night.
However, Hubbert’s skills are as much about sheer manual dexterity, and the former El Hombre Trajeado guitarist throws in a combination of more conventional flamenco-style moves which combine percussive effects on his instrument’s body – achieving the kind of result that would require somewhere between a duo and full band.
“I think the club works really well with certain musicians. It frames what we do as Smackvan beautifully I think,” Feeney says afterwards. “I hope it creates the right atmosphere before and after. Dark, candlelit, quite loud slow music, interesting images… I thought it worked particularly well with Hubby and Alec who were fantastic. People do seem to get a little lost in it which is wonderful.”
Hubby’s final tune is, if anything, out of keeping for the Slow Club – a manic race along the fretboard, but one which leaves us with a smile on our faces as we depart into the fading light.
Slow Club’s next outing is in Glasgow at the Flying Duck last Sunday of the month. Edinburgh is also once per month, though the night may change, see the Facebook page for details. Feeney takes the night plus bandmates Smackvan and guests Arcs to Aberdeen’s Tunnels on December 4th, and there are also plans to repeat the Barcelona show of last year.