There was a celebratory feel in Mareel on Saturday night …
No, there wasn’t free whisky testing in the bar – it was, in fact, the launch of Wind-Up Projectiles’ debut EP, An Explosion of Dirty Rhythm.
The local hip-hop rock quartet created the CD as part of a HNC music course project, recorded partly in the venue’s studio hideaway upstairs.
Celebratory yes, but slightly odd too, with cabaret-style seating filling out the auditorium but initially dampening the atmosphere, while proud-as-punch parents lingered between pogo-ing teens at the front and bar lurkers at the back.
For opener Chloe Robertson, however, all bums were parked on seats as the young singer and her trusty acoustic guitar ploughed through an absorbing set of self-penned ditties, with a couple of covers chucked in for extra padding.
Her at-times throaty vocals were a welcome deviation from some of the saccharine singer-songwriters that often do the rounds, and tracks like Vitamin D Deficiency hinted at a cunning knack for sharp-as-a-tack lyricism.
There was a completely different aura pervading the venue only minutes later, however, as instrumental jazz-funk quintet Troppo Funk rolled out on the stage.
The level of musicianship effused by these five teens is rarely seen in such bombastic form in Shetland, with the players weaving through complex passages of off-the-wall virtuosity and saxophone-led melody with discomforting ease.
Seventeen-year-old drummer Lewis Murray showed himself to be one of the most proficient sticksmen around, and with years ahead of him, it’s mind-boggling to think how much more accomplished he may become with age.
But the whole band was on top form, and songs like The Brecker Brothers’ Some Skunk Funk – a jamboree of salacious up-tempo rhythms and progressive twists and turns – was captivating stuff.
Most of the crowd, meanwhile, were snakecharmed out of their seats and on to the dance floor by the gods of groove and chucked their limbs around in the air like they just didn’t care. Never seen Troppo Funk live? Do it now while you have the chance.
Hard cheese then to headliners Wind-Up Projectiles, who had to nip on stage after such an emphatic performance; it’s not quite so bad, however, seeing as three of the band – Murray, Joe Watt and Hayden Hook – also feature in the Funk.
These tracks were more big-rock-show than the night’s previous offerings, with vocalist Watt cutting a grunge-icon figure on the grand stage and the sound system spewing out bowel-churning, fuzzy riffola.
Naturally, Wind-Up Projectiles ran through their excellent An Explosion of Dirty Rhythm EP in full, with Robynn’s Place lifting spirits and Don’t Bother giving some time out from all the helter-skelter rock.
Watt periodically spat out rhymes like verbal gunfire, evoking spiky US hip-hop; indeed, there is a transatlantic feel to this group, who sound as disconnected from Shetland’s musical heritage as just about any tunesmiths ever heard in these isles. But it’s fresh, often achingly catchy and it deserves attention from critics and punters alike outwith this archipelago.
But the winners on the night weren’t really Wind-Up Projectiles; it was Shetland’s young talent as a whole, and the music students who organised and promoted the event.
Should this current crop leave for university or other mainland endeavours in the next couple of years – and some of them inevitably will – then it seems the isles’ music scene will be left with a gaping void. But for now, let’s just enjoy the music while we can.