Detour presents... Meursault / Happy Particles @ Glasgow Science Centre, 9 October
The planetarium isn't just a novel location for the sake of gimmickry, since a certain brand of rock music routinely provokes descriptions like "star-gazing" or "cosmic" and can feel emotionally profound in the same vague, mindclutter-emptying way as staring at the stars.
Sunday's first band Happy Particles fit the bill perfectly: even without a domed ceiling of stars and planets above them, they might fairly be described as a space-rock band. Before they start, the seated crowd is treated to a brief introduction to astronomy by planetarium staff member Simon, who amusingly talks to all us trendy music types like we're six years old again. "Look out for Geoff the Whale!" he tells us, before the stars above start to orbit the room, and Happy Particles slowly shift between chords.
Theirs is not a clean or intricate game, preferring to play in the mud of indistinct guitar noise and heavily processed vocals, but it’s perfect for right now, gazing at flickering stars, what looks like Mars, and some dubiously drawn constellations (how can you get a dog from two dots?). Happy Particles should never perform in a wee bar again; please, talk to Simon about a residency.
Meursault, perennial kings of Edinburgh’s gentle acoustic scene, could be a less appropriate choice for a setting that encourages us to consider infinite size, and the closer, a sparse take on ‘...Fields’ familiar to any fan, is somewhat swallowed by the "endless canopy" above it. But the new songs that dominate tonight's set reveal a heavier sound than ever before, which fills the room, if not the universe. Neil Pennycook’s songwriting has taken an angry turn, so his bandmates wallop the drums and strangle the guitars, but Pennycook’s voice is still a versatile emotional tool, and some of the new piano melodies are startlingly pretty. Meursault may benefit from more intimate venues, but Detour deserve a lot of credit for thinking outside the pub.