British Sea Power “Man Of Aran”: Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

A school assembly style seating arrangement was set out in Belgrave Music Hall in preparation for British Sea Power performing their soundtrack to Man Of Aran live as the film was projected onto the screen. British Sea Power regularly sell out the venue whenever they play in Leeds and this was no exception. As the band arrived on stage they sat facing the screen with their backs to the audience and as the opening credits rolled they began with some light piano tones.

The concept behind the film depicts the daily struggle that the people of Aran have to go through in order to do things which, even in the 1930’s when this was filmed, people on mainland Britain would have taken for granted. With no soil or electricity the islanders struggle to produce and catch food whilst under constant threat from the ferocious Atlantic Ocean.

As the film began to set the scene their accompaniment was tender and beautiful portraying the scenic nature of the surroundings but as the film progresses to show their toil the music expertly evokes and amplifies the emotion of each scene. They gradually build and add layers which bolster the emotion and intensity as the situations within the scene become more perilous.

The roots of their composition stems from traditional Irish folk music. Elements of this influence are audible but British Sea Power push and embellish these beginnings until it becomes atmospheric, highly intense, modern and most of all deeply moving and powerful. Every emotion is portrayed with panache making the film a gripping watch.

Without the unique creativity of the band the film alone would seem fairly boring and extremely dated but with their input it becomes a captivating and thought provoking masterpiece. The sound track has such brilliance that it could easily stand alone without the film but the film wouldn’t posses most of the qualities of the piece without the music.

In each scene they display their wonderful flexibility and artistic flair, the styles adapt and change perfectly as the images progress. During the course of the scene in which a young boy is fishing the sounds effortlessly glide from their jaunty and jovial beginnings to a atmospheric depiction of nature, then building to the point of uplifting as he catches the fish before ending on feelings of trepidation as he witnesses the approach of the Basking Shark.

The DVD of the film has all the characteristic that were present at the live performance but somehow their live rendition took you further into that world, conjuring up deeper emotions and making you unable to divert your eyes from the screen.