+3 Review: Countermeasure: 14 Characters (theSpace @ Surgeons Hall: 5-13 Aug: 17.30: 55mins)

“Beautifully layered harmonies”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

The Fringe always seems to be a breeding ground for a capella groups: so many of them pop up from all over the place, and this year is no exception. My first (of I’m sure, many) this year is Countermeasure all the way from Canada. Dressed smartly in coordinating outfits and taking the stage like they mean business, they certainly look the professional outfit.

Overall their style is very modern, and, dare I say it, trendy, with lots of complex layering, mixing, and blending of tones. I was a little disappointed in the use of vocal looping for a couple of the songs – despite being recorded live, it slightly detracted from the power of pure unadulterated a capella of the rest of the show.

Most of the repertoire performed in 14 Characters I was unfamiliar with, which in some ways was nice as I got hear completely new songs, while I would have liked a couple more songs that I knew to really appreciate the group’s originality and quality of arrangement to suit their style. Under My Skin was given a very fresh and electro swing vibe, and All Aboard the A Train underwent a thoroughly modern makeover to accompany an original animation (shown on screen during the song).

In general, the group’s arrangements are quite electro and upbeat, and while this worked for many of their songs, I would have perhaps preferred a bit more variety to show the group’s depth. Midway through the set the male members of the choir were left alone on stage to sing Fox in the Field – a beautifully stripped back song with simple harmony and a real focus on the lyrics, and for me, this was the real highlight of the show. Later on, a slightly more traditional rendition of The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles gave a glimpse of different styles the group can turn their voices to, and this was a very enjoyable and intelligent song choice for their run in Edinburgh.

It’s not just the prepared and rehearsed numbers that Countermeasure excel at. Partway through the show they venture into the audience to find out more about who’s at their show, before constructing songs on the spot about what they’ve learned – impressive stuff. Add that to the substantial choreography the group deliver and this really is a show with everything.

Countermeasure are a very likeable group with great personality and beautifully layered harmonies, they deserve to do well in Edinburgh.

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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 5 August)