Triptych Festival, Various venues, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow

Three is the magic number
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The Independent Culture

Sometimes Triptych, Scotland's wildly eclectic music festival, can become a little overwhelming. Imagine, in the space of one night, Dr Robert Moog explaining how he invented the synthesiser, while Andrew Loog Oldham talks about how he invented The Rolling Stones. Later, the soulful electro-soup of Detroit's Amp Fiddler and the scarifying skitterings of the Venezuelan laptop wizard Kid 606 ricochet around one venue as the fragile alt.folk of Adem is heard in another. Meanwhile, Wire revive the pared-down guitar descants of post-punk, and one of the bands they have influenced, Franz Ferdinand, whip up a storm across town.

Sometimes Triptych, Scotland's wildly eclectic music festival, can become a little overwhelming. Imagine, in the space of one night, Dr Robert Moog explaining how he invented the synthesiser, while Andrew Loog Oldham talks about how he invented The Rolling Stones. Later, the soulful electro-soup of Detroit's Amp Fiddler and the scarifying skitterings of the Venezuelan laptop wizard Kid 606 ricochet around one venue as the fragile alt.folk of Adem is heard in another. Meanwhile, Wire revive the pared-down guitar descants of post-punk, and one of the bands they have influenced, Franz Ferdinand, whip up a storm across town.

An offshoot of the gargantuan T in the Park, and Scotland's Glastonbury (with lager; without the Pyramid), Triptych is an often obscure mix of music from past, present and possible futures. For example, who opened the fourth year of an event that revels in cutting-edge programming? Fairport Convention, the original olde-worlde folk rockers, that's who.

With a lot of white hair and walking sticks in the audience, the bassist Simon Nichols, the one remaining member from Fairport's original 1967 line-up, greeted the crowd like old cider-drinking mates. But the lyrical, edgy invention of the old days was long gone, and the wassailing songs and sea shanties really did sound medieval now.

The support band, led by the unassuming Adem Ilhan, were a revelation of fine-spun acoustic gentility spiked with high emotion. The feel was low-key acoustic, but the songs were racked with passion; Adem's alt.folk can be traced back to the roots of Fairport's early, pre-decimalisation songs.

Talking of pre-decimal times, Andrew Loog Oldham, now an unaccountably healthy 60-year-old resident of Bogota, presented Charlie Is My Darling, a film about the Stones' 1965 tour of Ireland, at Edinburgh's Filmhouse. The grainy, long-lost, black-and-white footage shows the boyish Stones riding the first waves of chart success, as Irish fans - headscarved women, young priests, ruddy boys in Elvis haircuts - chase and mob the ruffian, bluesy alternative to the Fab Four.

Even through a haze of bleached-out celluloid and disastrous sound, the early songs still shine and the band are mesmerising. Mick larks around with a spotty Keith, and Brian Jones comes across as a foppish pseudo-intellectual. Amazingly, the star is Charlie Watts: strikingly handsome and unpretentiously cool, the drummer draws the camera's eye like a magnet. Charlie is indeed the darling of what amounts to a shaky home movie, like A Hard Day's Night played from the bottom of a well.

Oldham claims he made the quintet into stars, but on this evidence, the Stones already were. In a lively public Q&A, he was confident, witty and as slippery as an eel - the perfect rock manager, in fact - admitting that, though he never cared for Jones, he was "looking forward to meeting him again".

But even Triptych can trip over itself, and there was a paltry turnout for an epic showcase of Matthew Herbert's Accidental Records artists, headlined by the seminal Brazilian experimentalist Arto Lindsay, an influence on Eno and Byrne. Lindsay returned to his Brazilian roots with a beautifully crafted exploration of the rhythms of samba and bossa nova in an entirely new framework of samples and slashing guitar-work.

The most exhilarating presence at this year's Triptych was Ornelius Mugison, a former Icelandic sailor, whose solo performance - he played wild, crashing guitar while mixing vocals and distorted breathing through a laptop - was a meld of the recklessly shambolic (his computer crashed twice), endearing love songs and epic, disturbing soundscapes out of the Barents Sea. Mugison's electro-shock body movements and raging absurdities only heightened the feeling that absolutely anything could happen on stage, an increasingly rare thing in our pre-programmed, pre-packaged musical age.

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