MiloMc Reviews

Playing with the Past

I’m delighted to say that Playing with the Past is back in Edinburgh for a second night on August 22nd. This combination of film and live music was my highlight of this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival (ok I only saw one other film, what of it?) bringing together three of my favourite Edinburgh bands eagleowl, Meursault and Found, to provide original soundtracks to some bloody ancient, but fascinating pieces of footage.

The picture above is from the film Granton Trawler, for which eagelowl provided a lovely instrumental sea-shanty, complete with a brilliant replication of a creaking boat, which Bart somehow created merely by twisting his guitar strap (via an effects pedal). Living in the vicinity of Granton Harbour, it was great to see this genuine slice of life from over 70 years ago, and although the fisherman’s life looked very tough indeed, it’s hard not to romanticise their seafaring ways just a little bit when you’re stuck on the number 8 bus due to endless roadworks. Notice I didn’t mention the word ‘salty’ once. The ‘owl also provided a fast and furious accompaniment to a strange little animated film from Canada called Begone Dull Care which let us see the other, less laid back side of the band.

Meursault were up next, for Stan and Ollie, a bizarre piece of newsreel about Laurel and Hardy’s visit to Edinburgh, back in the day when there were those old-fashioned trams.. (cough). Their accompaniment to this piece was quite subtle, with their main contribution to the event an epic twenty minute piece de resistance to the 1936 short Night Mail, about the postal train from England to Scotland.

This was a bit of a blast from the past as I was shown this film as part of my degree many moons ago. Like Granton Trawler it made by the GPO film unit, which was a pioneer of British documentary, if I remember rightly.

I’ve included a very brief extract from the Meursault track below, to give you a sneak preview if you weren’t there, and am hoping that the band won’t mind (if they do though, it will be removed sharpish..) Cheers to Chris Bathgate for his recording expertise.

Finally it was Found (who I’ve seen live so often recently they must think I’m stalking them). They had a particularly tricky piece called Camera Makes Whoopee, which included montages of various instruments, making it difficult for them to deviate from the footage, but the band cleverly brought in samples and beats to match what was on screen.

What I enjoyed about this was the creative, and different approach taken by each band, and the genuine enthusiasm of the crowd. I’d like to see some contemporary local film-makers teaming up with the city’s musical talent more often, but I can see that it would take a lot of work to come up with something like this completely from scratch.

Anyway, it’s great that there’s another night in the offing making this an almost unique, two-night only event that you’ll not want to miss the second time around. – Night Mail (extract from Playing with the Past live performance)

Playing with the Past is on at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh on August 22nd: more info here.

2 replies on “Playing with the Past”

Just to pick up on your idea – I am currently in the process of contacting local bands with a view to creating collaborative film efforts and screening them with live accompaniment. Mass obliteration seems to be the theme of choice but hey, we’ve still got a couple of years before we do it for real…


Good work – keep me informed. Though it doesn’t surprise me about the theme – musicians can be a nihilistic bunch 😉