Over the past dozen or so years Shooglenifty’s unique twist on trad has won them an extensive and devoted fanbase not only across Europe, the US and Australasia, but as far afield as India, Malaysia and Japan.
The Edinburgh-based six-piece their global touring with recent shows in Denmark, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Canada, Russia and UK appearances. Previous career highlights include performing for Nelson Mandela and Emperor Akihito of Japan (not both at once), and playing in Cuba a full year before the Manic Street Preachers' much-vaunted Louder than War gig in 2001. Back in 1996, meanwhile, Shooglenifty became the first band ever to incite a stage invasion at Sydney Opera House.
Among the current Shooglenifty line-up, the percussionist James Mackintosh is the fourth remaining original member, while the bassist Quee MacArthur and the Tasmanian expat Luke Plumb, on mandolin, banjo and bouzouki, both joined five years ago. The band's collective CV takes in backgrounds as diverse as Crosbie's apprenticeship in alt.rock obscurity, Finlayson's early blues fixation and Grant's childhood immersion in the West Highland fiddle tradition. Beneath their folky-looking exterior lurk electric as well as acoustic guitar, samples and programming as well as "real" percussion, while Finlayson switches between regular banjo and his own customised hi-tech version, or "banjax". All six players, though, are maestros of effects, distortion, feedback and - crucially - improvisation.
The resulting sound marries traditionally based tunes - primarily Scottish in style, but featuring a wealth of other world-music flavours - with the rhythmic energy, inventiveness and sophistication of contemporary dance music. Such a description, though, hardly begins to capture the dazzling multi-layered intricacy, exquisitely jewelled lyricism and intoxicating, coruscating grooves that are Shooglenifty's hallmarks. The band's own, none-too earnest attempts at capsule descriptions include "hypno-folkedelic ambient trance" and "acid croft".
Their latest album ‘Troots’ was described by The Guardian as “predictably classy” displaying their trademark scope, scale and wildness with fiddle and mandolin playing
off each other across a bewildering array of grooves.
“…still the original and best.” The Scotsman
“This virtuoso band started building crescendos from the start, each one higher than the last, until the final, shuddering chord left the roaring crowd breathless and cheering wildly” Evening News