Pandemonium / Nicolson

The Galvanisers, SWG3, Glasgow

Pandemonium? Stramash? Sounds like the ingredients for a wild Glasgow night out in the No Mean City of times gone by. 

In this case, the Festival is Govan’s Pandemonium, the piece is Alasdair Nicolson’s Stramash, and together, in a spirited performance by the Glasgow Barons, they represent a more sophisticated Glasgow than that once synonymous with warring football hooligans and Gorbals razor gangs.

Stramash is the short, single entity in this latest Pandemonium digital release from Paul MacAlindin’s impressive series, a work written in 2006 by Nicolson (who currently runs Orkney’s St Magnus Festival) for the City of London Sinfonia. It has a certain tartan gallus-ness that gets the feet tapping.

Not immediately, though. A violent frenzy of pizzicato and wild cello/bass ostinati provide a chaotic scene-setter that quickly morphs into the first of several hurtling reels, venomous and virtuosic. MacAlindin’s string band negotiates the cut and thrust with biting energy and toughness. Alternating waves of action and respite define the narrative, the latter deconstructive in character and rarely without ominous overtones – chilled harmonics over a false, fidgety calm. 

It’s not an easy piece to bring off, yet the Barons do so convincingly, up to a point. For just as blistering heat motivates so much of this performance, with dazzling solos and gritty interaction, a sense of fatigue cools the closing moments, initially in the rhythmically-charged unisons that signal the route to a fragmentary ending, less taut than it ought to be.

That aside, here is yet another uncompromising achievement for this ambitious Govan initiative.
Ken Walton

Watch the concert via Vimeo at