A Trip Out With British Sea Power @ The Caves, 19 Jun

BSP flex their creative muscle against the backdrop of Man of Aran

Article by Finbarr Bermingham | 23 Jun 2008
  • British Sea Power

In an interview with The Skinny earlier this year, British Sea Power's lead singer Yan spoke of his desire to break the mould and mundaneness of the standard rock band format that has ruled Britannia for the last decade. His frustration with this lack of innovation and improvisation is often apparent and has resulted in three fine albums that have never lacked spark. Taking influence and inspiration from the unlikeliest sources, their tales of ice shelves and immigrants are as inspired and they are inspiring.

It should come as little surprise, then, to find BSP branching out and flexing their creative muscle at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival. Two of the band are, of course, former film school students – but a run through of their self-produced music videos aside, there is little of their own cinematography on show in tonight's Mirrorball 'project' at The Caves.

Man of Aran is a 1934 docufiction written and directed by Robert J Flannery, a Vermont film maker considered one of the pioneers of the documentary film. The story portrays life on the Aran Islands, off the West Coast of Ireland (also home to the Aran sweater and the fictional Craggy Island) from the perspective of one native family. In black and white, it follows the daily struggles they face in their hugely primitive lives: from trying to grow potatoes on a soil-free island (well, the Irish do love their spuds) to hunting basking sharks for their oil, to be used in lamps. The simple solution would be, of course, to relocate to grassy Galway, but the picture is a poignant snapshot of a staunchly independent community.

British Sea Power's role tonight is to provide a live soundtrack to the silent picture, in the same vein as the Cinematic Orchestra's Man With A Movie Camera tour of 2003. With their ranks swollen by a mini string section, they further augment their sound with xylophones, recorder, trumpet and tin whistle amongst others. The musical contribution to the film footage is both seamless and startling: predominantly instrumental and atypically BSP, and it's a triumph for the band's ambition and vision whilst being paradoxically modest and tastefully composed. Perhaps the most revealing praise to extol on the performance is that at times, the note perfect sound and picture are so coherent, it's easy to forget that this is a live gig. British Sea Power may not be the first band to undertake such endeavours, but it's doubtful many would have set about it with such panache. (Finbarr Bermingham)