Seminal New York noise rock band Sonic Youth are on an extended hiatus. One major plus point from this is the fact that the band members are all undertaking interesting and exciting solo projects. Guitarist Lee Ranaldo is in Edinburgh to perform his solo material in the Dissection Room of Summerhall. It’s a typical cold November evening, but Summerhall warms up quite quickly as the audience anticipates a rare Edinburgh appearance from an intriguing performer and ultra-talented musician.
Support this evening comes from Glasgow based solo artist Richard Youngs. He keeps the audience waiting by taking to the stage far later than expected. This is unfortunate as his set feels very short and fleeting. Other than cramming in several songs he plays a continuous sound piece that draws on the phrase “Where are you going to get your luck from?” The result is a mesmerising composition that is at times hushed and at other times bold and forceful. It would have been nice to hear more.
Lee Ranaldo is touring in support of new album Electric Trim and new songs make up the bulk of the set. The musician is clearly enthusiastic about the new material and the passion and excitement is obvious from the get go. Ranaldo is joined onstage by producer and guitarist Raul Refree Fernandez, bassist Cayo Bellveser Machancoses and percussionist Chloe Saavedra. The quartet make a lot of noise, but behind the distortion lies heartfelt lyrics and finely crafted songs. Ranaldo performs with an array of acoustic guitars and constantly changes instruments throughout the 90 minute set. He even has an assistant to the back of stage retuning his instruments and getting them ready for the next song. At times the vocals feel a little lost in the soundscapes that the band are creating. The PA system may not quite be able to handle the blend of vocals and loud distorted guitars. Nevertheless, the set is a varied and enjoyable one and underlines Lee Ranaldo as an excellent songwriter and performer who is constantly experimenting and trying out new techniques with fantastic results. The set concludes with a raucous version of the Velvet Underground song Ocean and the audience leaves the venue with their ears ringing.