Scanner and the Heritage Orchestra brought their interpretation of Joy Division’s music, Live_Transmission, to the Usher Hall in Edinburgh as part of a UK tour. Review by Mike McDonald
Few artists who cover beloved ‘classics’ equal the original, faithful to their source as they may be. Fewer still manage to reinterpret a 30-year-old legacy and make it sound original and, more importantly, relevant. Having started off as a commission for the Brighton Festival in 2012, Live_Transmission: Joy Division Reworked is an attempt to reinterpret the sound of the Mancunian post-punk pioneers by dismantling and rebuilding their songs in a unique and immersive way.
The idea began with creative producer Laura Ducceschi, and soon grew to include the sound artist Robin Rimbaud (Scanner) and the Heritage Orchestra (conducted by Jules Buckley). Alongside them at the front of the Usher Hall’s accommodatingly large stage is a three-piece rock band and a floor-to-ceiling screen onto which Matt Watkins’ empathetic visuals are projected. One by one, attention is drawn to each component on stage; starting with orchestral strings, followed by dancing blocks of light, and eventually by propulsive bass signalling the start of ‘Transmission’.
From here on things get interpretive, though the focus remains on strings, keys and drums throughout. Scanner is perhaps best known for his early works of ‘found’ sound montage and that experience shines through as the source music is used as a base on which to build, or as a motif to be dropped in and out at will.
All the while the sound and visuals comment on what Joy Division mean today; with abstract figures on screen showing off Ian Curtis’ now iconic dance moves, and a focus on both the sounds of Neu! who influenced the band and the electro bass lines they themselves influenced.
The only let down of the night is the closing ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, which is at once reverential and staid. Culminating in lone strings and Curtis’ vocals, sounding strangely like one of Scanner’s ‘found’ telephone conversations, it’s a flat ending to what has been a thoughtfully crafted and original take on work many would consider to already be timeless.
The final date of the Live_Transmission: Joy Division Reworked tour is tonight (2 Oct) at The Sage, Gateshead
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