Saturday, 27 June 2015

Tinariwen Live: Cafe Cossachok Review, Maria McKee - Late December

Maria McKee - Late December
Album Review
Tastefully arranged but lacking personality: McKee attempts to cover all musical bases.
Maria McKee was in Lone Justice, a fearsome country rock outfit in the days before Americana was hip. This album suggests that she is a talent looking for direction. After failing to reinvent herself as a folky singer-songwriter, Late December sees McKee attempting to cover all musical bases. Every song is functional but mediocre. 

The title track is generic soul, tastefully arranged but lacking personality; No Other Way to Love You is an unconvincing canter while revisiting her hit (made famous by Fergal Sharkey) A Good Heart feels desperate. By the trite platitudes of Too Many Heroes, she is reduced to imitating her roots. Destine is a poor copy of last summer's vaudeville melodrama; Scene of the Affair is punk imagined as opera. She demonstrates that her voice is versatile and controlled - yet fails to invest meaning into the insipid material. She might be transforming into a diva, but this is far too tame.

Suggestive of a thousand oriental cliches, Tinariwen convert the austerity of The Arches into an oasis.

Coming from the African desert and singing in Arabic, Tinariwen have a unique take on the blues. Inspired by John Lee Hooker, infusing their guitar-based numbers with gentle chants and the distinctive warble of mourning, they eschew the drum kit for pulsating percussion to create a hypnotic rumble. 

Each song throbs with longing, guitars curling and slinking around the swaying rhythm. Suggestive of a thousand oriental cliches, Tinariwen convert the austerity of The Arches into an oasis. With the words incomprehensible to the majority of the audience, Tinariwen rely on relaxed virtuosity to weave their majestic hallucination. 

Dividing their set into two, this gig is more formal concert than the background to beer-drinking. They capture the audience with discreet psychedelia, as each number settles into an easy pace, the voice and guitars whispering and seducing. Never aggressive, but always engaging, Tinariwen are one of world music's most glorious secrets.

Cafe Cossachok Review
Since opening in 1998, Cafe Cossachok has developed a distinctive ambience and a reputation for wholesome Russian food. The menu, which combines Russian, Armenian, Georgian and Ukrainian cooking, dispels fear of a post-Soviet austerity, offering duck and salmon dishes, alongside the signature blintzes (stuffed pancakes).

The borscht starter is a delicious vegetable soup, with beetroot adding a distinctive tang without overwhelming the other ingredients. The Zakuski- a platter of cold appetizers - are a generous and light first course. The Babushka Blintzes are a selection of vegetables wrapped in a pancake and served with an exquisite orange sauce. Hearty and subtle at the same time, they are the ideal food for cold Glasgow evenings that do not sacrifice taste for bulk. The meat Pelmini is a Siberian take on ravioli: although in a smaller portion than the extravagant Blintzes, they are equally filling with a more direct and immediate taste. Pushing on to the desert, the menu offers a range of ice-cream related items. Despite being more generic than the starters and main courses, they are made to perfection and more than satisfy any sugar cravings.

The service is attentive without being intrusive, the decor bright in Russian style. As would be expected in a restaurant owned by the musical genius Lev Atlas, some nights feature live music of an incredibly high standard and there is a small art gallery at the back of the cafe. Cossachok has a selection of vodka and beer that equals any speciality bar, and makes a refreshing change from the generic Glasgow scene, with an attention to detail in both the food and the atmosphere. A unique experience.

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