Thursday, 30 July 2009

On the radar: Randan Discotheque

Randan Discotheque
Play: Daily Record May 18th 1993


Music fanatics romanticise their idols as if they were mirror images of themselves: insatiable audiophiles salivating over the rarest vinyl pressing; Simon Reynolds-like geeks spouting conjecture on an obscure afro-gabba-punk outfit; and hovel-dwelling delinquents eagerly seeking out the next small thing.

But once those rouge tinged specs are removed, a harrowing truth is revealed. These deities of the stage are no back-catalogue collecting nut-jobs. Instead, they’re disappointingly conventional nine to fivers with girlfriends, jobs, mortgages.

Randan Discotheque
’s Craig Coulthard is a perfect example of this prosaic normality. On stage, he’s an eccentric artist-cum-musician blessed with an ear for melody that screams ‘aural-obsessive’. But removed from a venue's elevated platform? Well, that kettle of fish is entirely different.

“I’m not a massive gig-goer and I don’t buy a lot of music,” he confesses when asked about Scotland’s musical revival. “I do know however, that there are a lot more good gigs, good bands, good promoters, good radio DJs and good writers than there were 5 years ago... The truth is I’m maybe not the best person to ask; I’m very self-concerned, critical and pessimistic.”

Complying with indie norms has never been high on Coulthard’s agenda. Since 2005, the Edinburgh-dwelling Fifer’s been flaunting Randan’s wonk-pop (un)sensibilities while extolling lyrics so sharp they could scythe the entire Amazonian rainforest. Clearly, Randan Discotheque’s not your archetypal alt-folk outfit.

“I certainly don’t know what to say when people ask what we sound like,” says Coulthard, attempting to pin down the group’s sonic persuasion. “Some people find it hard to categorise what we do, and that makes us different but not necessarily good. I guess music based on the sound of doing a jobby on a plate would be hard to categorise too - though I think we are slightly better than that.”

Play: Time to Waste


With an appellation that conjures images of bevvied-up neds cutting rug in the local dancehall, Randan Discotheque could easily be dismissed as a comical proposition. But, as Coulthard explains, nothing could be further from the truth:

“I was on a camping holiday in northern Italy... and there was this horrible sixties building that said ‘Discotheque, RANDAN, Dancing' – it just seemed to be the right name,” he says. “I always had the knowledge in my head that the music I wanted to make would move away from acoustic song-writing to something fuller and more energetic. I liked the idea of being called a discotheque, while not providing anything like a disco experience.”

Not quite a pill-popping night out, Randan Discotheque’s swelling numbers (it's now a full band quartet) have inspired a bulbous, vibrant sound that nudges new single ‘Daily Record May 18th, 1993’ into more commercially pleasing climes. It's a direction Coulthard's more than eager to pursue:

“I genuinely believe what we do is catchier, more imaginative and modern than a lot of pop music that seems to do well enough to sustain a career,” he enthuses. "I want to move on to releasing other people’s music on the label, start a nightclub, write a novel, build a house, get a decent music programme on Scottish TV, do some screen-printing, appear on ‘The Friday Night Project’ with Alan Carr and that human lion, and get to play for 15 seconds on top of that balcony thing before the ad break.”

With the mainstream almost within his grasp, does Coulthard ever wonder where he’d be without music?

“I would be a very depressed person if I wasn’t making music and being an artist,” he explains. “I have to do it so I don’t take myself too seriously, it’s like laughing at yourself a bit. I also want to make the music I don’t hear from elsewhere. I love playing live, though it scares me shitless, and I love it even more playing with other people – being surprised and impressed by what they do, feeling a sense of achievement together, plus it is hot, sweaty fun and you can’t beat hot, sweaty fun.”

Catch Randan Discotheque in the flesh at the following shows:

1 Aug @ Dolphinstock Festival, Lancaster
19 Aug @ Electric Circus, Edinburgh
28 Aug @ Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh * DAILY RECORD SINGLE LAUNCH

Words: Billy Hamilton

Think Randan Discotheque have got what it takes to 'go all the way'? Let us know why below...

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On the radar: Cast of the Capital

Cast Of The Capital

Play: Stone Breaking


Cast of the Capital make music that sounds like it's been forged in a widescreen expanses, with empty roads trailing off into the horizon and mountains looming in the distance. That's not to say they sing in drawling accents, soundtrack barn dances or indulge in Ry Cooder-esque levels of slide guitar.

But their music is ingrained with that unmistakably American 'openness'; like The Shins or Band of Horses, it's possesses that wholesome, pristine quality that just doesn't seem native to our cramped nation's drab towns, grey skies and deep-fried diet.

Which would be fine if it weren't for the fact that brothers Matthew and Steve Morris, who formed Cast of the Capital with Alastair Naylor and Jamie Watt, all grew up in Aberdeen, not Austin, Texas. Maybe it was just all that fresh North Sea air?

Unsurprisingly, Steve reveals that their influences run the transatlantic gamut: "We listen to a lot of American bands such as Rogue Wave, The Shins and Death Cab For Cutie. However some Scottish acts have also really inspired us. Bands like Stapleton and Frightened Rabbit write such amazing songs, and I find myself listening to their music almost every day. Non musical… We all love to travel. I guess the feeling of discovering new places and meeting new people has influenced our music, I’m just not sure how."

Together for three years, it seems that the pace is finally starting to gather for the quartet, with a calendar virtually fully booked until the end of September (when they embark on a mini-tour with UtR-featured Trapped in Kansas) and a debut EP due for release that same month.

It seems that healthy ambition rather than unreal expectations is the band's current outlook. "We would do anything to have a career of writing music and touring," Steve says. "This is going to sound cheesy, but the idea of spending the rest of my life with the other three members of the band doing just that is totally awesome. We are going to try really hard to make it happen. For now, we are excited about our forthcoming EP and playing another couple of Scottish festivals over the summer months."

While the Aberdeen music scene has been both praised and panned on this blog by different north east acts, Cast of the Capital are upbeat about the city's sonic industry: "The Aberdeen music scene is excellent, if you look in the right places. With a bit of hard work and promotion you can get a really good gig any day of the week. Venues like The Tunnels and The Lemon Tree are perfect for rock shows, it’s just a shame that so few touring bands come up here to use them."

Words: Nick Mitchell

Like what you hear? Watch Cast of the Capital live at the following shows:


24 Jul @ Tiger Tiger, Aberdeen
25 Jul @ Mambo’s, Peterhead
28 Jul @ Westport Bar, Dundee
30 Jul @ Snafu (Dirty Hearts Club), Aberdeen
31 Jul @ Pitstop, Forfar
1 Aug @ Cosmopol, Glasgow
2 Aug @ Cape, Stirling
7 Aug @ Belladrum Festival (Seedlings stage, 15.15), Beauly, Inverness-Shire
15 Aug @ The Lemon Tree (Wizard Festival Showcase), Aberdeen
28 Aug @ Wizard Festival, New Deer

Play: Passing The Horse


Play: Tampa Am

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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

UtR editorial: The sharp end of the hatchet job

In a recent On the Radar profile, Andrew Cowan of Glasgow band Lyons suggested a blanket of hyperbole is smothering Scotland's music scene. His gripe was that a lack of media criticism has spawned arrogant acts ill-equipped to do battle outside the country's forgiving climes. It was a fascinating point and one that’s had UtR towers reverberating to raised voices ever since.

In its short lifespan, UtR’s raison d'etre has been to provide a platform upon which the very best new music can be heard. Critique has never played a part in our remit; the focus gravitates towards up-and-coming artists gaining a voice in a medium increasingly interested in ABC fluctuations and advertising rates. Don’t get us wrong, we’re by no means a philanthropic entity, we’d just prefer to make like Dr. John and accentuate the positive rather than linger in a mire of doom and gloom.

But Cowan’s point has got us scratching our craniums while pondering the question: Is anyone really benefiting from this parochial trumpet-tooting?

Local media is full of well-intended sorts eager to give bands a foot into the music industry’s infuriatingly bolted door. Over the course of their [cough, splutter] careers every Scottish music hack will encounter an editorial mailshot commanding an agreeable stance on bands north of the border. Subsequently, every scribe will have the joy of turning out flabby, opinionless copy that says nothing and means even less.

In the short term, this localised back-scratching achieves its goal: stirring up ripples of interest across the blogosphere by gifting bands positive soundbites to plaster on posters, CDs and the social-network site of their choice. But once hoodwinked punters rip aside this facade to expose a sea of crookery, the game is up: reputations are tarnished, careers are tattered, mothers are weeping.

Now, your average human being would probably agree that a one-star hatchet job on the latest unsigned upstarts is an exercise in futility: it can do irreversible damage to a band's prospects, while making the writer, the editor and the magazine or blog in question public enemy number one in the local scene.

But it could also be argued that a well-reasoned, constructive piece of criticism, no matter how damning, might force a mediocre band to re-evaluate what they're doing, go away and come back making better music. OK, in some cases it might drive them to give up the music game altogether, but would that be such a tragedy if their output really was so bland/derivative/tiresome?

For us at UtR, critique v commendation is a stickler.

While we're constantly excited by an array of new acts, for every gem we uncover there are at least ten duds. The solution for us is to be as selective as possible when choosing the bands we feature. At the risk of coming across like pompous gits, we value our reputation and, more importantly, we value YOUR ability to sniff out the good from the cack. And while personal taste always plays a part in this debate, we would never promote an artist without agreeing (or at least having a good punch-up) about their worth.

The big question is: Are we doing the right thing?

Words: UtR

Debate: do you think unsigned bands are fair game for the critic, or should they be spared the media guillotine?

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Monday, 27 July 2009

Japanese War Effort's rough guide to Edinburgh

In every scene, gig attendees are as crucial as the musicians performing and around the Auld Reekie right now there's a plenitude of inspiring experiences to be had for audiences. I consider myself a listener as much as an artist, and getting to local gigs is often as rewarding as playing them, so here is a quick run through of the focal points of the Edinburgh scene.

***

The most important man in Edinburgh right now is Drew Wright, more commonly known as Wounded Knee. He seems to effortlessly straddle the noise, folk and electronic scenes; his eclecticism and unique vision quite uncontainable, with performances at Benbecula Records showcases, Nackt Insecten shows, or Gentle Invasion nights.

Continually reshaping and redesigning his sound, each set is a unique and inspiring experience, be it a collection of folk songs from Aberdeenshire or a 30 minute tirade against the British National Party. His post-apocalyptic Downsize Sound night is a must attend as well.

***


The Bowery’s new-folk haven has stolen the limelight in Edinburgh since October, and seems to have lured many of the city’s best promoters. But I have a love-hate relationship with the venue’s wonderful ambience, delicious selection of beers and often terrible live sound.

There are few bands who can drum in that room and carry it off, and all the best things I've seen there used little to no acoustic percussion. It seems there’s a new rule for all fledgling Edinburgh bands: sack the drummer. You can rehearse in a bedroom, you don't have to taxi to gigs and you can sound great in The Bowery all the time - then people will love you. Get go (The sound man from The Bowery is lovely though and is simply handicapped by a bad room).

***

Matthew Young’s Song, By Toad website is essential reading for anyone interested in the scene in Edinburgh. As well as filming some great sessions, reviewing new bands and swearing at mostly everyone who posts comments - disagreeable or otherwise – he is also responsible for (re)releasing Meursault's "Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing with Tongues" album, the best record I've heard come out of the city since moving here, and for that, the man deserves the highest of praise.

***

The presence of musicians like Neil Pennycook [Meursault] or Wounded Knee - artists who have created their own voices and continue to confound me every time I see them - is what keeps me inspired, keeps me going to gigs, keeps me writing music. Upon moving here, I pined for the music scene of Glasgow, but in the past year or so, as I have become more involved, it has become apparent that Edinburgh is an inspiring place to be making music right now.

Words: Martin Moog

Martin Moog is responsible for The Japanese War Effort and has a hand in Conquering Animal Sound.

Play: You Like Dogs LOL


Play: St. John


What do you think of the current Edinburgh scene? Agree with Martin or feel it's much ado about nothing?

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On the radar: Boycotts



Play: Luella and Lies


Here at Under the Radar we're not always trying to elbow our way to the front of the queue. Of course, our stated aim is to uncover the best new bands in Scotland, but there are times when we like to give a gentle nudge to someone after the initial flurry of newsprint has become, well, today's fish and chip paper.

Which leads me to argue that Glasgow's Boycotts still aren't, *cough*, off our radar, simply because The Scotsman's David Pollock interviewed them back in February, and complimented them on their "urgent indie sound that's surely only a bit of spit and polish away from being chart ready."

When guitarist Joe Gillies (the Edinburgh native who also goes by the nickname Josef K) sent us a note saying his band had "come a long way since then", we were curious to find out more. So Joe, how far have you come?

"We've luckily managed to achieve a lot of the things we set out to do in our first year, such as getting radio play, press and support slots, so releasing our EP is the perfect way to finish that year off. It's also the end of a very long process as we first got asked to go and record at Chem19 in November 2008 and then didn't get the final master tracks back until last week."

The backstory may be old news to you by now, but a little introduction never does any harm. Joe went to school with singer Christina Tweedale (Stina Twee) in Edinburgh, and both made the decision to uproot to Glasgow for university. But it wasn't until Joe met bassist David Dunsmuir (Hardcore Dave) that the seed of Boycotts was planted. Graham Young aka Dragon completes the line-up on drums.

Joe believes their pan-Central Belt origins are important: "Having two members from Edinburgh and two members from Quarter just outside Glasgow means that we have characteristics of both an East coat and a West coast band. I think there is an obvious difference in style between Glasgow and Edinburgh bands, if you compare Idlewild and Glasvegas they are both obviously influenced by the cities they grew up in. I think that not belonging to one particular place has played an important role in shaping our sound and the way we approach being in a band."

And it's not just their geographical backgrounds that differ. "As a band there is very little that we have in common musically," Joe says. "I'd say there's a couple of bands/DJs that we all agree on but mostly we have very different tastes. Stina and I love The Smiths but Graham and Dave just can't get into them at all. On the other hand Dave and Graham are really into The Mars Volta and Rage Against the Machine, bands that Stina and I aren't particularly drawn towards. I think that's why people have a hard time comparing our sound to one other band."

He's right. It's bloody hard to pin Boycotts down. At times Stina sounds like a female Roddy Woomble fronting The Libertines. Then Hardcore Dave will launch into a bassline dredged up from the long-lost days of post-punk, but with an anachronistically overdriven guitar from Joe fuzzing over the top. Needless to say, this scattershod pillaging of sounds results in an end product that's quite unique.

Having already played the Stag & Dagger fest in Glasgow, and with a Scottish tour set up for August, the momentum seems to be building again for Boycotts. But that hasn't stopped a few butterflies fluttering by...

"I think because we've put so much into the EP there will be an element of nerves when it comes to seeing what people's reactions are," Joe admits. "I think we're just all hoping that we can get a load of people down to ABC2 for the launch."


So why not allay Joe's fears by turning out for their EP launch at ABC2 in Glasgow on 15 August? Then you'll be able to make up your own mind whether this band are indeed "chart ready".

Words: Nick Mitchell

You can also catch Boycotts at the following dates:
7 Aug @ Harley’s Bar, Bathgate
8 Aug @ QMU (14+), Glasgow
14 Aug @ The GRV, Edinburgh
20 Aug @ The Mill, Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh
21 Aug @ The Doghouse, Dundee
22 Aug @ The Greenside Hotel, Leslie, Fife
23 Aug @ Harley’s Bar, Bathgate
24 Aug @ Snafu, Aberdeen
19 Sep @ The Captain’s Rest, Glasgow
9 Oct @ This Is Music, Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh

Play: Beat on the Dancefloor

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Sunday, 26 July 2009

Radar recommends: 26 Jul - 1 Aug

[Bronto Skylift: Playing UtR's Gig of the Week]

Now summer appears to have completely deserted us we can get back to doing what we do best: Drinking booze in sweaty clubs while listening to a clutch of braw bands. And to help you in the pursuit of this Rock 'n' Roll inspired debauchery, let our handy wee gig guide lead you like a shepherd does his sheep...

Aberdeen
Glint, Atlas Skye
Sunday @ The Tunnels| 8pm| £5
Gazey electronica with a twist of - shock, horror - guitars from New Yorkers Glint. Rather excellent Glaswegians Atlas Skye show face in support.

Miles Hunt, Dave Sharp
Monday @ Moshulu| 7.30pm| £8
Wonder Stuffer Hunt jingle-jangles through his solo catalogue before, no doubt, recycling Size of a Cow and the like. This rose-tinted spectacle is completed by former The Alarm axe-man Dave Sharp.

Edinburgh
Duty Free presents:
The Remnant Kings, Night Noise Team, Hippocampus
Sunday@ Cabaret Voltaire| 7pm| £3
The Remnant King's rambunctious Rock 'n' Roll is supported at this free showing by the 80s Pop throes of Night Noise Team and heady Rockers Hippocampus.

White Noise presents The Marvels, Seven Deadly Sins
Tuesday @ Electric Circus| 8pm| £4
Clean heeled scuffling from promising Edinburgh upstarts The Marvels. Support comes in the form of 'classic' Indie janglers Seven Deadly Sins.

The Nature Boys, The 10:04's
Friday @ Cabaret Voltaire| 7pm| £3
Rough edged, Buzzcocks-like punk from two local upstarts.

The Strands, Bronto Skylift, The Void
Friday @ Sneaky Pete's| 7pm| TBC
The mundane tunesmithery of Oasis wannabees The Strands is almost made palatable by an undercard of UtR favourites Bronto Skylift and The Void.

Found, Dent May and his Magnificent Ukulele
Saturday @ Electric Circus| 8pm| £8
Aeronautical pop-picking from Edinburgh luminaries Found. Support comes from Stateside cooer Dent May who has a magnificent ukulele, apparently.

Glasgow

Carnivores, Kong

Sunday @ Nice 'n' Sleazys| 8pm| TBC

Rough 'n' ready guitar sludging from Manchester's Kong and, slightly less aggressive, Perth boys Carnivores.


Earthless, Pontiak

Tuesday @ Captain's Rest| 8pm| £7

Guitar thrills aplenty from - ahem - 'cosmic space rockers' Earthless and metal-peddlers Pontiak. Nice, huh?


Ming Ming & The Ching Chings

Thursday @ Oran Mor| 8pm| free

Now making splashes in the big boy pool down south, Glasgow's Ming Mings... headline The Mill's weekly shindig where tickets are free and drinks are provided by a well known American brand at unreasonable prices.


How to Swim

Friday @ Captain's Rest| 8pm| TBC

The criminally underrated 11-piece set out to swoon hearts with their exhilarating blend of avant-garde tuneage and vaudevillian histrionics.


Miss The Occupier, Hugo A Go Go, Reality Killed Us, The Red Show

Saturday @ Nice 'n' Sleazy| 8pm| TBC

The sassy punk-pop sound of Miss is joined by the like-minded Hugo A Go Go, the clattering Reality Killed Us and Glasgow-based Shetlanders The Red Show.


School's Out For Summer featuring Unicorn Kid, Paper Planes

Saturday @ ABC| 4pm| £7

Mayhemic afternoon scenes from Unicorn Kid and Paper Planes. It's a gig for kids who like their Haribo with a sprinkle more sugar than the norm: Old codgers are strictly forbidden.


**UTR's Gig of the Week**

Bronto Skylift, Pensioner, Mountains Became Machines, You Already Know

Saturday @ Captain's Rest| 8pm| TBC

Let's face it, this is already going to be good based purely on the appearance from the Bronto boys. But sublime Math Rockers You Already Know and Dundee throbbers Pensioner transcend this from a great show to a truly superb one.


Words: Billy Hamilton


As usual, tell the world what gigs we've missed below...

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Saturday, 25 July 2009

Tweet Nothings, feat. Errors, Bronto Skylift, Edwyn Collins

Tweet NothingsSwine flu, golfing grannies, poolside cocktails and Refreshers all crop up in this week's Twitter round-up. It's enough to make you sick...


Errors catch a roadside virus...
@weareerrors: At tebay services. If I didn't have swine flu already then I've just caught it at this granny festival

... while Bronto Skylift drummer has a bout of leprosy...
@brontorawks: has anybody got a new pair of hands for our drummer?

Boycotts take a lead from Talking Heads and stop making sense...
@Boycotts: We're back from tour and all i'm saying is there were no Dolphins with Jetpacks and no-one's arsehole was turned into a footprint x

Edwyn Collins spills the beans on his sporty ancestry...
@EdwynCollins: watching the golf. My Granny won a ladies tournament at Turnberry in the twenties. Yes she did.

Glasvegas are happy to be a rock'n'roll cliché...
@Glasvegas: watching four sexy spanish girls play beach volleyball is the perfect pick me up after a night of sinking cocktails and trashing hotel rooms

And Dananananaykroyd live it up with the oldies down under...
@dananananaykroy: Relaxing morning in/by the pool. Same for The Specials. We saw them relaxing by the pool.

Cast of the Capital tweet from the playground...
@castcapital: Love Hearts or Refreshers? I want a serious answer.

Yahweh get into the Pagan spirit at Wickerman...
@Yahwehtheband: HEAAAAAATHENSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

And Epic 26 reveal their tasteful reading habits...
@Epic26: @under_the_radar, great links to great bands and interesting reading. Follow follow...

Words: Nick Mitchell (and Twitter)

Spotted any other tweeting gems we've missed out on? Share your favourite weekly tweets with us below...

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Friday, 24 July 2009

Retro-graded: The Shop Assistants


Do you know your history? In the first of a series of features on seminal Scottish bands, Gillian Watson remembers The Shop Assistants' all-too-brief spell on the indie-pop shelf...

In a curious twist in post-millennial indie history, one Scottish band who seemed doomed to obscurity are seeing their fuzz-pop formula resurface in the music of New York hipsters. Step forward the Shop Assistants; an Edinburgh-based quartet whose short-lived noise still echoes and whispers through new records like the reverb on guitarist David Keegan’s foggy melody lines.

Play: All That Ever Mattered


Formed in 1984, the band was lumped in with the NME-coined C86 scene - a new vanguard of acts that redefined indie as jangly guitar pop created by people who prized ideas over tunesmithery, or vice-versa, depending on which they were better at.

Although members of other shambling Scottish bands such as The Pastels were to pass through their ranks, the line-up eventually solidified as the four characters who peer coyly out from the Polaroid snaps on the cover of their only album, Will Anything Happen: Alex Taylor, vox coolly shrouded in mist, Keegan, noisy keening guitar, Sarah Kneale, gurgling bass, Laura MacPhail, Neanderthal drums.

Fading out almost as soon as they faded in, the Shop Assistants split in 1987, reforming two years later only to disintegrate again in 1990. Behind them, they left a slim catalogue that seemed forever shelf-bound until its recent critical resuscitation.





Part of the attraction revivalists find in these old maids of the Scottish indie milieu is the band’s easy winning formula: Ronettes drumming plus Ramones strumming equals indie-pop success. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Not quite.

While other bands of the era swaddled clumsy musicianship and traditional songwriting in layers of cosy fuzz (cough – Vaselines - cough - Jesus and Mary Chain), the Shop Assistants’ airy noise was stitched into the fabric of their sound. Much like their adopted home Edinburgh without the constant squall of sea wind, Shopmusic without feedback is unthinkable.

And that’s why, although their gauzier moments are gorgeous, it’s their ‘gazier tunes that are the most powerful. While Taylor mumbles and coos her way through much of the catalogue with expressionless cool, Keegan’s knack for dumb, jangly guitar lines, as elemental and enduring as the Scottish landscape itself, provides the real emotional punch.

On 'Caledonian Road', Taylor’s unemployed narrator sounds bored, but her escape is found in the craggy mountains of guitar around her, while early classic 'Safety Net' captures how nervous and exciting it feels to be a young adult in the city at night.

Play: Safety Net


So while they’ve long since passed into legend, there have been no pretenders to the Shop Assistants’ throne. Realising it’s impossible to replicate music so universal and so simultaneously rooted in its setting, Scottish bands have left well enough alone.

But sometimes an unexpected flicker of that spirit will appear; be it in the occasional chord progression or when a frontwoman gets a particularly deadened look in her eye. And it’s then, more than ever, when you need to discover the real thing for yourself.

Where to start: 'Safety Net', 'All That Ever Mattered'

Will like if you like: Vivian Girls, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, No Age

Chances of a reunion:
High, if anyone can drag David Keegan away from his bike shop in Aviemore.

Play: Fixed Grin


Words: Gillian Watson

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Thursday, 23 July 2009

On the radar: Small Town Boredom

Small Town Boredom

Play: Void Lighting


Not recommended as a party kick-starter, the sound of Paisley-based pairing Small Town Boredom (STB) should be experienced alone; preferably with a whisky in hand, possibly nursing a broken heart. Interruptions are not welcome. Sign on the door: Do Not Disturb.

Originally formed in 2001 by Fraser McGowan and Colin Morrison, STB's 2007 vinyl-only release, Autumn Might Have Hope, seemed to require extra care when placing it on the turntable for fear of fracturing its delicate reveries. Barely rising above a whisper, the record's impact was profound. It was involving and introspective, or, as McGowan puts it, “honest, if a touch depressing”.

What followed was a tour alongside the likes of Adrian Crawley and Eagleowl that ultimately ended in burnout; the heavy schedule culminating in the sort of personal demons that somehow make artists all the more compelling.

Thankfully, after a period of rest and reflection, STB have returned with a new album. Like all their work, Notes from the Infirmary was lovingly made in a Paisley attic “using computers, 8-tracks and dictaphones” with help from bassist Richard Kengen and guitarist Gordon Bartholomew.

Both permanent band members work as full-time engineers, crafting their recordings during their spare time. “Personally I find making music very therapeutic, I can lose myself for hours each night in recording and mixing - that’s the stuff I enjoy,” says McGowan.

But, after the fallout from their last tour, the duo are unwilling to delve too deeply into the music business. “Playing live and promoting what we do I hate, so we don’t do it that much," McGowan explains. "I think we will keep making music as long as we enjoy the process, if that ever goes I don’t think I would do it anymore."

Despite their west-coast roots, STB are much more excited about the Edinburgh music scene than Glasgow's. “There is a lot of great stuff going on in Edinburgh just now. Bands such as Eagleowl, The Kays Lavelle, Withered Hand and The Leg for example, their music has affected me massively," says McGowan, “I’m really not a big fan of the music scene in Glasgow, I think it’s completely overrated and most of the bands getting hype or press just now bore me.”

The new album continues where Autumn Might Have Hope left off. ‘Void Lighting’ is a carefully crafted love song which draws you in with an intensity rarely heard since Nine Inch Nails' ‘Hurt’, while ‘World’s Most Unwanted’ dares to raise the tempo, vocals building to a stunning finale.

A magnificently hushed masterpiece, Notes from the Infirmary proves Paisley has a band to shout about. If this is what small town boredom can create, then it's certainly not as futile as it sounds.

Words: Stevie Kearney

Notes from the Infirmary is due for release later this year, although no date has yet been finalised. In the meantime, Autumn Might Have Hope is available from tromerecords.com

Play: Our Valentines Day Rebellion


Is Glasgow's music scene really 'overrated'? Discuss...

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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Ah, Bristo: Retreat! festival

Withered Hand
[Dan Willson of Withered Hand]

Hot on the heels of Trampoline’s four show Fringe extravaganza, the boys and girls at Retreat! have announced the return of their August-time Edinburgh music festival.

A more condensed version of last year’s month-long sprawl, Retreat! 2009 will take place on Sunday 16 August, cramming 15 tunesmith into Bristo Hall’s intellectually enlightened cove. What’s more, it’s absolutely free.

Bart Owl, co-organiser of Retreat!, explains the festival’s ethos: “I always found it frustrating that at a time when there was this huge international audience in our city, there were no chances to see Edinburgh acts. So Retreat! was intended to be a celebration of Edinburgh music - a way for those people to be seen. Although it's not an exclusively Edinburgh line-up, that's been the focus.”

Rob St JohnWith a line-up boasting UtR regulars Rob St John (right), Withered Hand and Meursault, as well as Wounded Knee and Viking Moses, Retreat! offers ear-soothing refuge from the Fringe’s hustle and bustle. But rather than acting as a toff-excluding antidote, Retreat! is a welcoming sanctuary for all:

“I don't want to ever sound like we're against the Fringe, as it is a really exciting time to be in the city,” explains Bart. “But there are two aspects I don't like: there isn't enough representation of local acts, and the events are generally too expensive. Last year when Retreat! was a series of gigs, they were all priced at £3. This year, it's a single free event. So I don't think we're taking an audience away from the Festival or from any of the other great events happening in the city. There's room for both.”

An enchanting day of music delivered via the spirit of community, Retreat! 2009 rolls out something for music lovers of all predilections:

“The show runs from 11.30 in the morning till 11 at night, then DJs till 3am,” says Bart.” The venue is really central, and near a lot of other Fringe venues. I think a lot of people will show up early with and set up camp for the day and try see everything. But a lot of people will just come and go as they please - come and hang out and see some great bands before going off to another show, or kill a couple of hours between shows. And that's fine – just as long as they come back later for a dance."

And, with a swell of talent on offer, there’s ample opportunity for a special collaboration or two:

“Both Withered Hand and Jo Foster are playing and they usually collaborate or at least help each other out,” teases Bart. “Also Viking Moses and Rob St John have been working together at recent live shows, playing on each other's songs. Tisso Lake, I've been told, is planning on a 'choir' backing band for this show - basically just getting as many backing singers on board as possible. And I think there should be more than enough volunteers in the room.”

Retreat! runs from 11.30am –late on Sun 16 August at the Bristo Hall, Edinburgh and costs not even a penny to enter.

The full line-up is:

Withered Hand
Jo Foster
Wounded Knee
Hexicon
Rob St John
Viking Moses
Tisso Lake
Moustache of Insanity
Allo, Darlin'
My Tiny Robots
Come In Tokyo
Enfant Bastard
The Pineapple Chunks
Meursault
The Leg

For more information on this lovely festival click here

Words: Billy Hamilton

Play: Withered Hand - No Cigarettes


Play: Rob St John - Like Alchemy

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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

On the radar: Lyons

So rude is the Scottish music scene’s current health it’s difficult not to get carried away.

Local tunesters are being swept up by a trawl of salivating labels almost every week, while punters and promoters are involved in a mutually beneficial matrimony that spawns sardine-squashed gigs and a flu-like spread of buzz.

Of course, we in the media (hello – that’s us!) lap it up; Lego-blocking gushing adjectives upon even more gushing superlatives with the unwavering belief of a blind leper in the presence of his holiness. But does the enveloping hyperbole really equate to long-term prosperity? Lyons’ guitarist Andrew Cowan thinks not:

“The [Scottish music scene’s] reputation is there for good reason but I don't think it's healthy for a scene to exist for so long under a blanket of constant praise,” he explains. “It breeds complacency; a lot of bands include themselves in this ‘hot scene’ and pat each other on the back for being in it and pay no attention to the substance of what they're doing. You have to keep trying to improve your craft.”

Play: Fold


From any lesser act such cynicism would sound churlish; a mouth shooting rumble from an overlooked and under talented outfit. Yet from Lyons these words puncture like a warning shot through a scene that’s thus far been very good to Cowan and his drumming cohort Fhearghas Lyon.

“We've been together for two years,” says Cowan, recalling the group’s first steps. “We started jamming together during summer 2007, spent six months getting acquainted with each other's style and writing and then started gigging in early 2008... We both really liked the way our first few songs turned out. That was really encouraging so we raced to get a set written so we could start playing shows."

Slight in rhythm but vast in sound, Lyons forge overarching soundstacks via an achingly simple blueprint: drum, guitar, vocals. In this technologically advanced era, such puritanical methodology comes as a refreshing salve.

“We have a wide palette of sound for a two-piece,” says Cowan. “It’s not just a case of being as loud as we can, we try to make the songs as dynamic as possible. Both of us sing - it's melodic music. We'll always just naturally jam a riff and beat to begin with and keep everything loose and raw and creative as the song grows. But when we're finishing a song we get very particular about detail.”

It’s the finite attention and the subsequent execution that’s brought Lyons into the ears of the nation’s gig-goers, with the band recently stepping out with east-coast rabble-rousers We Were Promised Jetpacks. Not that Lyons are aiming to recreate the hype-drenched furore of the Fatcat band, of course:

“It’s not really about thinking in terms of achievements,” says Cowans. “ You just have to keep playing and writing and getting to new audiences. I hope that we can show as many people as possible our music in the time that we're given to do it.”

Words: Billy Hamilton

Catch Lyons at the following shows:

23 Jul @ Captains Rest, Glasgow
24 Oct @ Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh.

Are we too gushing in our praise of fledgling bands or does new music deserve to be lauded from the rafters? Let us know below...

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Monday, 20 July 2009

Trampoline: fest within a fest

The Kays Lavelle
[The Kays Lavelle: playing the Wee Red on 7 Aug]

To counteract the imminent invasion of London-luvvies and pitiful art-school drop-outs, those thoughtful folk at Trampoline have laid on a series of exquisite August gigs at Edinburgh’s Wee Red.

With a roster that includes sonic-deities like Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers, Conquering Animal Sound, The Kays Lavelle and Found’s Ziggy Campbell, the four show run is a tune-strewn who’s who of Scotland’s finest melody makers.

Trampoline organiser Euan McMeeken says of the event: “I thought it would be great if Trampoline could be part of the festival (in a way) and push local bands onto a wider audience than normal. The way it's worked out, you get the four Trampoline shows on 7, 8, 14 and 15 [of August] so it's going to be a wicked two weekends of music for sure.”

McMeeken continues: “It’s very difficult for local promoters to find venues during the festival. As a result, local artists often miss out on good gigs during a period where the potential to be heard is massive. I've always thought it's wrong that the festival doesn't cater enough for the people that drive this city's music scene during the rest of the year.”

Spread across two weekends and costing just five of your finest pounds, Trampoline’s August showing offers a modicum of integrity within the Fringe’s wallet-emptying ‘get ‘em in, turn ‘em out’ philosophy.

Still don’t believe us? Well, we’ll leave the final word to the man who knows best:

“People should come firstly because the line-ups are great. But they should also come and support their local music scene,” McMeeken says. “People always bemoan the fact that there’s no local shows during August. I know there’s a lot on offer during the festival, but it would be great to think that the Trampoline shows will be on the minds of people when they are trying to decide what to do. They won’t be disappointed.”

Tickets for each show at the Wee Red are £5 and can be bought on the night.

The full Trampoline line-up is:

7 Aug: Wiseblood Industries showcase: Adam Stafford, The Radiation Line and The Kays Lavelle
8 Aug: Jonnie Common, Conquering Animal Sound and one act TBC
14 Aug: Ziggy Campbell, Golden Ghost and Yusuf Azak
15 Aug: Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers, Lovers Turn To Monsters and Shenandoah Davis.

Words: Billy Hamilton

Spotted any other musical gems at this year’s Fringe? Let us know below...

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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Radar recommends: 19 - 25 July

Be A Familiar
[Be A Familiar: on tour across Scotland this week]

Whether it's down to the long hangover cast by T in the Park, the gravitational pull of its smaller cousin Wickerman next weekend, or the looming prospect of the Edinburgh Festival's live music calendar, compiling this week's gig guide was like panning for gold in a puddle. But we still found a few nuggets worth leaving the house for...


Aberdeen

Be A Familiar, I See Shapes, French Wives, Mark McCabe & The Tearoom Posse
Thursday @ The Tunnels | 7.30PM | £5
UtR said that "there's an underlying feyness that renders Be A Familiar unmistakeably Scottish." Fellow Scots I See Shapes and French Wives also travel north, with local singer-songwriter Mark McCabe filling out the bill.


Edinburgh

The Cosmonauts
Wednesday @ Whistlebinkies |11.30pm | £tbc
Late 60s vibe with a modern twist and vocals like Jagger on Valium. The steady beats and catchy guitar hooks conjure up effortless rock at its finest.

The Mill: Paper Beats Rock and lions.chase.tigers
Thursday @ Cabaret Voltaire | 7pm | free
Locally sourced alt-rock in the shape of Paper Beats Rock, plus lions.chase.tigers, champions of Glasgow's burgeoning hardcore rock scene.

**UtR's gig of the week**
FOUND, Dead Boy Robotics

Friday @ Sneaky Pete's | £5
Having already treated us to shows by Meursault, Scott Hutchison and Yahweh, the Brown Bear night serves up another tasty dish: the cut'n'paste urban folk of FOUND, with the "cross-sworded cluster of palpitating electronica" of Dead Boy Robotics as a starter. Mmmm.

TV21
Saturday @ Electric Circus | 7pm | £6
Back from a 28-year interval, the Edinburgh band who counted The Skids, Teardrop Explodes and The Undertones as contemporaries have a new album to perform. Support from Fife singer-songwriter Panda Su.


Glasgow

Second Hand Marching Band, Sparrow & The Workshop
Tuesday @ Captain's Rest | 8pm | £tbc
SHMB's sound is "a thrilling skewer of swaying, earthy orchestration and climatic post-rock", while S&tW's vintage country schtick needs little introduction round these parts.

Be A Familiar, Tango in the Attic
Tuesday @ King Tut's | 8.30pm | 6pm
The aforementioned Be A Familiar, plus Tango in the Attic, who UtR said are "worth listening to". So check out this single launch. Also at Electric Circus, Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Red2Red
Thursday @ Cosmopol | 8pm | £3/£2
Energetic ska mingles with lazy reggae, as 6-piece Red2Red yield sunny, bop-along tunes. The pitch perfect vocal harmonies will effortlessly evoke summer even on a dreary Glasgow day.

Meursault, Lyons
Thursday @ Captain's Rest | 8pm | £tbc
What haven't we said in praise of Meursault? Maybe that they're named after a character from one of our favourite works of existentialist fiction. Yay. Support from soon-to-be UtR-touted Lyons.

Words: Nick Mitchell, Kirstyn Smith

What have we missed? Tell us below, or add it to our gig guide by emailing utr.scotsman@gmail.com

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Saturday, 18 July 2009

Tweet Nothings feat.The Cinematics, Dananana, Franz Ferdinand

Tweet, tweet, tweet.

No, it's not the sound of those pesky birds waking you up from your Saturday morning slumber, it's something much, much more annoying and inane. Yep, that's right folks, it's UtR's round of up what your favourite (or in the case of Glasvegas, not so favourite) band's have been saying in the Twittersphere this week.

Can we get a 'HELL YEAH'? No? Oh...

***

The Dykeenies come up with a novel way of keeping the big smoke warm...
@TheDykeenies: "London is covered in me right now."

The Cinematics become the country's first case of the dreaded post-Balado virus...
@TheCinematics: "
I think I've caught the TinthePark flu."

Edinburgh's Young Fathers are so high with excitement they don't need no lower case bringing them down...
@Youngfathers: "
TANGLED IN THE PARK.... WE NEED WIRELESS MICS OR MORE PRACTICE WITH SKIPPING ROPES.. THANKS TO THE BEEB. WE ENJOYED OURSELVES WE DID WE DID."

Anyone remember the time when Franz Ferdinand were just a small band, struggling to get gigs?
@Franz_Ferdinand:
"Just rolling into Bern. Left late last night after Roman pizza party with Vanucci, Flowers and co..."

Glasvegas show Rock 'n' Roll misogyny is alive and kicking...
@glasvegas: "
Watching four sexy spanish girls play beach volleyball is the perfect pick me up after a night of sinking cocktails and trashing hotel rooms"

John B McKenna struggles to come to terms with rambler garb...
@johnbmckenna: "
Shat masel there. Thought i had wandered into the path of an angry jakey, just a hillwalker. Same clothes ken?"

Trapped in Kansas are awfy humble...
@trappedinkansas: "
had an amazing weekend at T.....thank you to everyone who came to see us over the killers....we hope you had fun!!! we certainly did xoxo"

My Latest Novel's salacious advances on The Boss don't go according to plan...
@MyLatestNovel:
"I told Bruce Springsteen I loved him and he whispered in my ear......... ......'I know'"

It's safe to My Cousin I BidYou Farewell were a little bored last week...
@mcibyf: "You say a phrase to your iPhone. It dials a number. You say the phrase to the person when they answer. This is basic iPhone Roulette."

Yaweh successfully gets blacklisted from Tate Modern...
@Yawehtheband: "
Sometimes i want to destroy art."

The Scottish Enlightenment prove they're undoubtedly Twitter's beard-stroking intellects....
@ScottishEnlightenment: "
re "authors are infallible moral paragons" story, Disclosure stuff may be overburdensome, but they seem to think just cos they're authors..."

Gothenburg Address win the prize for most Scottish tweet of the week...
@Gothenaddy: "
ok the nanopad wins, i have not a scoobies how to midi map the bawbag."

Dead Boy Robotics get giddy over Showburner's nail-on-head TitP review...
@gregorDBR: "
Dead Boy Robotics - 'two hipsters with electronics and you’re only just cool enough to be allowed to watch' lolzer"

RBRBR tell us the, somewhat dubious, truth behind the acronym...
@RBRBR: "Rbrbr Break Runhundred Bwitter Rollowers!"

And finally, Dananananakroyd give us the run down of their Balado show like only they can...
@dananananaykroyd: "
T I T P got smelt."

Words: Billy Hamilton (and Twitter)

Have we missed any earth-shattering tweets from your favourite tune-churners? If so, let the world know below...

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Friday, 17 July 2009

In pictures: T in the Park 2009

To round off our T in the Park coverage we say farewell to the unique delights of Balado for another year with a special picture feature of our weekend of madness and music. Warning: some viewers may find images of extreme Scottish sunburn disturbing.




Pictures: Su Anderson
Music: Tango in the Attic

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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Findo Gask at T in the Park

Findo Gask
[Findo Gask singer Gerard Black at TitP. Picture: Su Anderson]

After being thoroughly impressed with Findo Gask's early afternoon show on the BBC Introducing stage on Sunday at T in the Park (see below for review), Billy Hamilton and Nick Mitchell sneaked backstage for a pint and a chat with the band, where they gave us an insight into all things Findo...

Audio: Findo Gask interview, after their T in the Park set


Findo Gask's T in the Park diary

Wake up at 8am, in the van by 9, taps aff by 10. It's the T way. The seatbelts quickly become all slippery with Findo anticipation. We're drinking whisky out of a coke bottle in the staff car park long before the afternoon has started. Not too much mind, I have indigestion from nerves, no breakfast and the sickly stench of urine fogging the atmosphere. We load in and set up with maximum ease – there are stage hands and engineers swamping the floor of the BBC Introducing stage. You could get used to this sort of treatment.

The show isn't perfect but we still leave the stage buoyed by our performance. There's a couple of interviews to conduct afterward, each executed with a respectably small amount of nervy self-consciousness.

It's still very early in the afternoon by the time we head out to watch some music. The clouds disperse and the sun peeps out, radiating unreservedly as we share familiar patter with familiar faces.

The highlights come towards the end of the day. The Pet Shop Boys really are spectacular. Their stage show is unparalleled, it is one of the most cleverly designed and choreographed shows I've ever seen. It's also surely one of the gayest things ever performed. Brilliant. We grin like idiots and gulp down sangria. Mogwai are on afterwards. The tent is much quieter but every individual there seems locked-in to the stage. The sound is awesome, their sound is awesome. It is a renewal of vows for me, a reminder of why I used to wet my pants over their records, a promise that I'll do it again.

We're back at the van as the fireworks go off, taps well and truly on. Kincardine, Cumbernauld, finally Glasgow and bed. Only 363 days to go till next year.

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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

T in the Park review: Sunday


[Sunday in pictures, by Su Anderson; music by Findo Gask]

Saturday was a hard act to follow with great shows from Broken Records, Bronto Skylift and Young Fathers, but Sunday did not disappoint as UtR returned to an over-populated airfield in Balado. If only we could work the waterproof poncho look...

Findo Gask
BBC Introducing Stage, 12.30pm

Findo GaskSunday’s opening act on the BBC Introducing stage is a sight for sore eyes and a sound for cold ears. Led to the fore by luminously attired frontman Gerard Black, Findo Gask’s melody-stained motifs brilliantly shake away the day’s rain-sopped inception.

The zig-zagging splendour of Korg and percussion emanating from this nerdish quartet has a bulging crowd jigging from the off; with tracks like 'Go Faster Stripe' and 'Va Va Va' revisiting the gleeful slurps of jangle-friendly vanguards Orange Juice.

But where Edwyn and co glossed up a distinctly New Pop finish, Findo Gask fashion out demented sonic lightning bolts that sound equally at home on the moshpit of a muddy field as they do an indiekid’s darkened bedroom.

Pirouetting across the stage one final time, Black bows his head to a bluster of clapped hands. If they maintain this heady momentum, there’ll be much, much more to follow. [BH]

Barn Owl
T Break Stage, 12.50pm

Barn Owl's shimmering, melancholic indie rock is the perfect accompaniment to a dreary and hungover Sunday afternoon at T in the Park. That said, with the heavens pouring down outside, it's not entirely clear which is the bigger draw: the band themselves or the sheltered confines of the T Break Tent.

Either way, Barn Owl take it in their stride, delivering a dreamy and gentle set to a chilled out crowd. Occasionally, the Glasgow five-piece meander into a soaring chorus, slightly reminiscent of latter-day Idlewild, but calm is soon restored and we return to emotive minor chord progressions, accompanied by rich and resonant percussion.

Indeed, Barn Owl's elaborate percussion ensemble is one the more intriguing aspects of the performance, a collection of bells, chimes and xylophones adding a wistful, ethereal dimension to their sound. As the set draws to a close, the clouds outside finally break, revealing a thin crack of blue sky.

But, even as the sun makes a fleeting appearance, still the punters try to push their way inside the packed tent. It seems Barn Owl don't need the Scottish weather's help to fill the canvas arena after all. [JM]


Tango in the Attic
T Break Stage, 1.30pm

Tango in the AtticEvery year there is one T Break band who do the pre-show legwork to ensure they're not playing to a wind-whipped, half-empty tent. Judging by the discarded flyers that litter the ground, the makeshift banners held aloft and the fans clad in branded t-shirts, this year that band is Tango in the Attic.

But at least the chirpy Fifers repay the sizeable crowd they have amassed with an energetic performance of their sun-flecked guitar pop grooves. Embellishing the standard garage rock set-up with an antique organ and sax, the smiling quintet belie their band-next-door image with tightly-coiled, sonically distinctive jams.

When they kick into the double-speed, Vampire Weekend-esque beat of 'Blunderground', their branded fans go wild with the kind of enthusiasm that no exhaustive marketing could inspire. [NM]


The Twilight Sad
BBC Introducing Stage, 2pm

DananananaykroydIt's slightly ironic that the sun breaks out over Balado and the rain finally stops as The Twilight Sad begin their show at the BBC's Introducing stage. The hyped Kilsyth band make the kind of brooding rock that's more apt to soundtrack rolling thunderclouds than blazing sunrays.

But any contextual niggles are soon rendered irrelevant as the band launch into one of their best, albeit briefest, live shows in recent memory.

In a half-hour set it seems daft to select highlights, but 'I Became a Prostitute', the disturbingly primal new single from their upcoming album, is undoubtedly it, closely followed by traditional set-closer 'And She Would Darken the Memory'.

Before they leave singer James Graham jokes, "What the f*** are ye daein' here? The Saturdays are on!" Evidently some T in the Parkers still value good music over good looks. [NM]


We Were Promised Jetpacks
T Break Stage, 6.40pm

It can be a challenge for bands in the T Break tent to do anything more than give the audience a taster of their burgeoning opus in the alloted 30 minute slot. But when fast-rising Edinburgh-via-Glasgow band We Were Promised Jetpacks inspire a mass of sweaty kineticism and unprovoked clapping, it feels like an occasion.

It's not that the cherub-faced four-piece do anything special to rouse the 1,000-odd folk in attendance. But then they don't need to, because their rough-edged, propulsive indie-rock is performed with such effortless gusto and untamed aggression that you can't help but be taken along for the ride.

Like most of the tracks from recent debut album These Four Walls, 'Thunder and Lightning' has added drama today, and when they launch into 'Quiet Little Voices', it really does feel like a T in the Park moment that will live long in the memory. [NM]


Dananananaykroyd
BBC Introducing, 8pm

DananananaykroydScotland's most ridiculously named band need little introduction to native audiences after blazing a path across the country with their anarchic gigs over the past few years. But to anyone stumbling across them for the first time, this was a fitting first encounter.

Boasting two drummers, two guitarists and two singers at various points in their set, the now all-male Glasgow group (having dropped bassist Laura) are an assault on the senses, albeit a non-threatening one.

Because when they ask two halves of the audience to part and run towards each other, the goal is not a 'Wall of Death' but a 'Wall of Cuddles'. Perhaps unaccustomed to trying this out on such a tightly packed crowd, this time it results in half the onlookers falling like dominos before laughingly helping each other up.

While their debut album Hey Everyone can be a trying listen, Dananana... are designed to be experienced up, close and personal, and with their endless crowdsurfing and cuddling, it doesn't get much more personal than this. [NM]

Words: Nick Mitchell, Billy Hamilton, Jodi Mullen

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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

T in the Park review: Saturday

Broken Records
[Broken Records on stage at T. Picture: Su Anderson]

The Radar-mobile raced up the M90 on Saturday morning (without breaking the speed limit, officer) to scope out the best new music at T in the Park this year. Already a bit miffed that we'd missed sets by Ming Ming & the Ching Chings and Dead Boy Robotics the previous night, we were determined to make amends over the two days by going where the tabloid hacks fear to tread. And what a day Saturday turned out to be ...


The French Quarter
T Break Stage, 1.40pm

With rumours that the band had broken up floating around Balado earlier in the day, it's both a pleasure and a relief to see Stirling's The French Quarter take to the stage.

Awash in swathes of blue light and shimmering guitars, the band play a sublime set, taking the emergent song structures of post-rock and adding melancholic vocals and elaborate layers of instrumentation, from keyboards to xylophones. The brave decision to play new material, recorded with members of Mogwai, whets appetites for what will surely be great things to come from the band.

The majestic 'Time to Leave' closes the set, its ethereal keyboard and slide guitar intro gradually giving way to a steady, pulsating rhythm and leaving no doubt as to why The French Quarter are regarded as one of Scotland's premier unsigned acts. [JM]


Sucioperro
T Break Stage, 2.30pm

Having secured a timeslot clashing with Lady Gaga on the main stage, Sucioperro were always going to prove a draw for punters hungry for substance over spectacle, but the Ayrshire alt rock outfit have surpassed all expectations by packing the T Break tent to capacity.

The band's enthusiasm is somehow surpassed by the crowd's, with a circle pit forming within seconds of the first chord of opener 'Tem V Com' ringing out, in spite of the baking heat. Though somewhat hampered by muddy sound, Sucioperro's eight-song set delivers choice cuts from new album Pain Agency as well as a sprinkling of older material, with penultimate song 'The Final Confessions of Mabel Stark' a particular highlight. [JM]


Unicorn Kid
BBC Introducing Stage, 3.30pm

Just 17, Unicorn Kid (AKA Oliver Sabin) isn’t even old enough to sip the nectar that sponsors the Balado shindig. But that doesn’t stop the electro-bending prodigy kicking up one hell of a storm on the BBC Introducing stage.

Adorning his obligatory lion-shaped headgear, the Leith-born prodigy blurts out reams of Gameboy-inspired bleeps and wonky synth notes to an insatiable contingent of similarly aged hip-flingers. Teasing the crowd into a Haribo-induced frenzy, Sabin struts his hyperactive stuff as if playing to a house party of Skins worshipping teens and not one of the UK’s largest music festivals.

Once the last deranged beat drops into the ether, a sweat-soaked Sabin greets his adoring masses with full moonbeam smile and a triumphant shake of the fist. Perhaps next year he can celebrate with something a little stronger than Orange Juice? [BH]


Young Fathers
BBC Introducing Stage, 5pm

Lauded throughout the blogosphere’s hype-driving microcosm, Edinburgh’s Young Fathers have a right to feel disappointed in the sparse turnout for their TitP showing. Maybe it was a question of scheduling or perhaps their glam-hop fare just didn’t fit with Balado’s alcohol-intense disposition, but as the psychedelically garbed trio took to the stage the polite smattering of applause was telling.

Yet what ensued over the next half-hour was worthy of a more illustrious and appreciative platform. By battling the initial ambivalence with a spate of Outkast-like beats and tongue-knotting rhymes, the band’s party-time ethos rose to the fore; stirring the attention of curious waifs and strays making their way back from the Main Stage

And if their hook-heavy tunes weren’t enough to convince that this is an act on an upward trajectory, their perfectly choreographed dance routines and pistol-quick quips, surely, remove all doubt.

Today’s TitP show might have been lightly-attended, but this time next year Young Fathers should be preparing for much, much bigger things. [BH]


Broken Records
BBC Introducing Stage, 7.45pm

It’s been a tumultuous 18 months for Edinburgh’s Broken Records. After an inaugural baptism of praise, the instrumentally-endowed septet’s debut LP, Until the Earth Begins to Part, was shredded by the sharpened claws of the UK’s music press core.

Champing at the bit to prove they’re more than just a flash in TitP’s airfield-sized pan, the group storm through a set brimming with the same feral intensity that made the early day showings such breathless propositions.

Breakneck renditions of live favourites ‘If the News Makes You Sad...’ and ‘A Good Reason’ fizz the crowd into a sea of flailing limbs and sweaty torsos that verges on utter discord. Thankfully, closing candle-burner ‘Slow Parade’ restores order; uniting punters and band via the glory of heart-struck song.

The slog’s been troubled, but on this performance Broken Records prove they’re more than up to the challenge. [BH]


Bronto Skylift
T Break Stage, 8.20pm

Confounding all logic, Glasgow two-piece noise rockers Bronto Skylift somehow manage to be the loudest band to grace the T Break tent all weekend. On stage, the secrets behind Bronto's massive wall of sound are revealed quickly enough, with frontman Niall Strachan jacking into no less than four amps at the same time and wielding an impressive array of pedals.

It's all too much for some people to take, with a few casualties staggering out clutching their ears as Iain Stewart's snare drum hits reached ear-splitting levels. Those who do stay, however, are rewarded with a breathtaking set and an impromptu jam session with the band, as Strachan takes his guitar into the crowd to close the show, paying no heed to minor details like instrument cables and panicking stewards. [JM]


Trapped in Kansas
T Break Stage, 9.10pm

After only a year in existence, Trapped in Kansas are headlining the T Break stage. That’s no small feat, but could the West Coast band back up their billing? At least they don’t seem nervous, cheekily announcing themselves as The Killers.

Aside from a few sound problems early on, the aplomb with which they take such complex musical wares to the live table casts any doubt aside.

An enthusiastically vocal crowd – most of whom seem to be cheering on guitarist Gregor – obviously appreciate their brand of yearning, icily melodic post-rock, and by the end of set-closer 'The Idiot' they have grown into their headliner status, delivering a set that turns out to be much more killer than filler. [NM]

Words: Billy Hamilton, Jodi Mullen, Nick Mitchell

Our verdict on Sunday will be online later this week...

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Monday, 13 July 2009

TitP video: Trapped in Kansas

We featured Ayr/Glasgow band Trapped in Kansas on the blog last week, and we're happy to report that they played a superb set at the T Break stage at T in the Park on Saturday night.

Before our review round-up of the festival, here's a short interview we filmed with three quarters of the band...

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Saturday, 11 July 2009

Under the Radar @ TitP

A few of us are at T in the Park this year. Why not join us through the magic of Twitter?

The TV coverage will be focusing on the tired old rock behemoths, but we'll be 'down with the kids' at the T Break and BBC Introducing stages.

So follow our updates here, and post your own comments too. This is web 2.0 stuff after all...




Who's Tweeting?

Nick Mitchell
Billy Hamilton
Jodi Mullen
Stephen Emerson

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Friday, 10 July 2009

Radar recommends: Non-TitP gigs

Sparrow and the Workshop
[Sparrow & the Workshop: sneaking into Edinburgh tonight]

Sick of all this T in the Park talk? Well don't despair, it's not the only live music event this weekend. Here are our tips for those of you who are not off to Balado...

The place to be in Edinburgh tonight is Sneaky Pete's. Fresh from a refurbishment this week, the venue welcomes back monthly promoters This is Music with another great billing. Sparrow & the Workshop weave ambitious indie-pop dreamscapes, while Randan Discotheque's art-folk-tronica always hits the spot. As usual, it's £3 for the bands before 11pm, and free entry after for the DJs.

If you prefer hardcore riffage to 'dreamscapes', you'd be advised to make the descent to Henry's Cellar Bar from 7pm for a night of furious death metal throbbing with a quartet of gruesomely monikered local bands, featuring Threshold Sicks, Nerrus Kor, Cancerous Womb and Foetal Splatter. Nice.

Meanwhile Edinburgh-based American noise-monger Ted Koterwas, aka The Foundling Wheel, launches his new single at the Confusion is Sex night at the Bongo Club.

Tomorrow night the hipster hangout that is The Bowery plays host to ebullient polska-pop from experimentalists Foxgang and it's a mere fiver entry, from 7.30pm.

Fans of an older generation might also like to know that Crosby Stills & Nash (Saturday @ Edinburgh Castle) and Ry Cooder (Friday @ Festival Theatre) are both in the capital this weekend.

In Aberdeen, what appears to be a humble effort to upstage T takes place, with Bands in the Park at Duthie Park and Hazlehead Park. We've been reliably informed the bands in question are of the brass/pipe variety though, so it may not have a festival vibe!

I'm afraid nothing really takes our fancy elsewhere. We can only assume that all the best bands in Glasgow are either playing T in the Park or are at home watching it on TV. Feel free to prove us wrong in the comments below...

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Thursday, 9 July 2009

T in the Park: 10 essential acts

Findo Gask
[Findo Gask: BBC Introducing Stage, Sunday]

It's that time of year again. The time when 80,000 singing, drinking, welly-booted, fluorescent, sunburnt, hat wearing punters - and perhaps even a few music fans - converge on a disused airstrip near Kinross.

And while it's not everyone's cup of T, Scotland's biggest music festival is so - well - big, that even the most discerning muso can plot an entertaining path through the line-up. You just have to know where to look.

This week we've introduced you to four bands who we'll be watching at Balado: Barn Owl, Tango in the Attic, Trapped in Kansas and Bronto Skylift. But that barely scratches the surface, so while you're dusting down your tent and packing your wet wipes, have a listen to a few more must-see acts...

Dead Boy Robotics
T Break Stage, Friday

"Bound by the idea of making guitars squeal like Gameboys, the duo have rapidly escalated from late night drone to melody laced avant-gardism and cemented themselves as one of the capital's most alluring live spectacles."

Ming Ming & The Ching Chings
T Break Stage, Friday

"Orchestrated by Craig Wilson’s howling shrill, Ming Ming fuse the visceral horror-schlock stomping of The Cramps with Josef K’s iconoclastic rumbling to produce a sound that’s rawer than an acid burn laceration."

Broken Records
BBC Introducing, Saturday

"Bastions of Edinburgh's bulbous music scene, the baroque-swaying Broken Records get back to the nitty gritty of the live domain, tautening up new numbers and bellowing out old faithfuls."

Sucioperro
T Break Stage, Saturday

"Heavy rock with a melodic sensibility, this band are starting to make waves in Scotland's hardcore rock community"

Paper Planes
T Break Stage, Sunday

"Their style draws heavily on a wide spectrum of Yankee sounds, from the elemental pop of the 1960s to wild alt-rock via drawling outlaw country, all energised with propulsive rhythms."

Unicorn Kid
BBC Introducing Stage, Saturday

"17-year-old Oliver Sabin is the epitome of the bedroom DJ, except he also has a nationwide and American tour lined up and is fast becoming a worldwide hit with his ringtone-friendly electro-pop."

Findo Gask
BBC Introducing Stage, Sunday

"Formed just two years ago, the band have indented the Scottish music scene with smoulders of zigzagging electronica and Indie-Pop melodies."

The Twilight Sad
BBC Introducing Stage, Sunday

"...chasmal atmospherics reverberating to the shrill of ruminative guitars and James Graham’s strangulating crow."

We Were Promised Jetpacks
T Break Stage, Sunday

"Formed in Edinburgh but switching to Glasgow, they blend post-rock with folk-flecked tendencies and even the jagged angst of Biffy Clyro to create a full-on noise best experienced live."

My Cousin I Bid You Farewell
T Break Stage, Sunday

"Reminiscent of Arcade Fire with undertones of Bruce Springsteen, MCIBYF's haunting darkness adds to these influences and it just works."

A few of us Under the Radar bloggers will be at T in the Park this weekend, trying our best to fit in some live music between all the interview chasing, video editing and bar queueing. You can keep up with all the coverage on the blog or at scotsman.com/tinthepark09.

And if you've not got a ticket and all this preview stuff is driving you mad, we'll have a wee guide of what brave souls have dared to stage a gig elsewhere in Scotland this weekend...

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On the radar: Bronto Skylift

Bronto Skylift

Play: Danny Glover Isn't Dead


Rockstars aren't known for having a firm grasp of mathematics. Perhaps that's why, every now and then, one of the simple equations of music fails to balance: to get a bigger sound, you need more musicians, right?

Wrong. Over the last few years, a succession of two-piece acts, from Rhode Island's Lightning Bolt to venerable Norwegian black metal crust punks (no, really) Darkthrone, have defied convention to prove that a drumkit and a single guitar can make all the noise you'll ever need.

Bronto Skylift, Glasgow's own two-pronged noisemongers, are reluctant to shed light on the eldritch mysteries surrounding how such a small ensemble manages to create such a huge racket. "We could never reveal our secrets!" laughs guitarist and vocalist Niall Strachan. "I think it's a combination of Iain hitting the drums really hard and me hitting my guitar really hard and brushing our teeth three times a day!"

Originally hailing from the north - Strachan is from Inverness while drummer Iain Stewart has roots in Orkney - Bronto Skylift formed in Glasgow in early 2007, quickly earning a reputation as energetic live perfomers. Though the band originally featured a bassist, three soon became two, and Strachan and Stewart have carried on as a duo ever since.

The Bronto Skylift sound is difficult to pinpoint, but there's nothing wrong with that, the band say. "The music maybe sounds familiar," says Strachan, sagely, "but at the same time you can't put your finger on it."

Falling somewhere in the nexus between grunge, sludge and noise rock, Bronto's songs are laden with driving, jagged riffs with plenty of opportunity for Stewart to demonstrate his virtuoso drumming skills. A comparison with Lightning Bolt is certainly valid, though Bronto's brand of noise is perhaps a little less chaotic and a bit more focused.

Bronto SkyliftLike a few of UtR's recent favourites, including Hey Vampires and The Whisky Works, Bronto Skylift are full of praise for Glasgow's emerging punk and grunge scene. "There's a great community of bands at the moment, giving each other help and support but all ploughing their own paths," enthuses Strachan, who also acknowledges a musical sea-change in a city previously dominated by indie and acoustic acts. "There seems to be a move away from the twee stuff going about the past few years towards a heavier, more crunchy type of music," he muses.

Summer 2009 is set to be very busy indeed for Bronto Skylift. As well as landing a prestigious Saturday night slot on the T Break stage at T in the Park, the guys will also play at the Wickerman Festival in Dumfries at the end of July and have a spate of other shows lined up across Scotland. They're also recording new material when the opportunity arises and may just be seeking a label to release it on in the near future.

Proving once again that maths and music make for uneasy bedfellows, Bronto Skylift are definitely more than the sum of their parts.

Intrigued? Catch Bronto Skylift live at the following dates:

9 Jul @ Bloc, Glasgow
11 Jul @ T Break Stage, T in the Park
16 Jul @ The Mill (Oran Mor), Glasgow
25 Jul @ Solus Tent, Wickerman Festival, Dundrennan
31 Jul @ Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh
1 Aug @ Captain's Rest, Glasgow

Play: Eagle Falcon


Words: Jodi Mullen

Would you get in a lift with this band? Discuss...

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

On the radar: Trapped in Kansas

Trapped in Kansas

Play: Antlers


It says a lot for the guitar-bass-drums format that it can still produce music that's practically devoid of stylistic precedents. OK, so most pub circuit bands are more likely to be a loose fitting stitch-up of The Libertines, The Jam and Kasabian, but occasionally a group uses the tried and tested set-up to inflict devastatingly original sounds.

One such band is Trapped in Kansas, an Ayr/Glasgow-based quartet who formed just over a year ago while at university. UtR has already called them "Scotland's most accomplished math rock act", an accolade which has less to do with long division than it does minimalistic alt-rock.

And although there are faint echoes of Battles or Foals' forward-thinking dexterity in there, guitarist Gregor Fair is confident they have their own sound: "As a band, we try to avoid musical clichés and experiment with different styles, timings, tempos, tunings, everything. It's more fun as a musician that way, and I really think it comes across in the eventual songs. We all love music, basically, and it's our passion for making it that has driven us to where we are now."

By this point you're probably wondering why four lads from the west of Scotland would call themselves Trapped in Kansas. Gregor, please explain... "If I am not mistaken, the name comes from a bad experience Finn [LeMarinel - guitar/vocals] had during a road trip through America with his mother," he says. "The bad experience being Kansas. I have been told there can be no greater torture than being 'trapped in kansas'. I may have made that sound a lot worse than it actually was.... and to avoid offending those from Kansas, I am changing my mind and saying it's nothing but a loose reference to The Wizard of Oz. I'll let you decide."

It may not be wise to compare your music to the worst forms of torture, but you only have to listen to the two songs on this blog post to understand the irony. Both 'Antlers' and 'The Idiot' are cut from a different cloth from your standard 4/4 time, 12-bar rock. Instead the guitar lines bleed off in countless directions like dabs of watercolour paint, while the rhythm slinks through unfathomable shifts and progressions.

The band already recognise that they're paving their own way: "I really feel we have developed our own style over the last year," Gregor says. "When Finn plays a piece on guitar you can just tell it's a Trapped in Kansas song. There's a definite technique to our guitar playing, which differentiates us from most bands and when combined with the time-shifts, key changes, bass lines and drumming, you can tell it's us."

This determinedly individual sound has started to turn heads across Scotland, and this weekend the band will play the T Break stage at T in the Park, a set that comes hot on the heels of their RockNess gig. But will all this attention throw any light on their native Ayr music scene?

"I think Ayr's just a wee bit too small to have a proper scene as such," Gregor says. "There are some excellent bands we know from the area such as The Darien Venture, Out of Samsara, Oslow, and many more (apologies to anyone I'm forgetting), but any band with aspirations beyond playing in a pub needs to branch out to Glasgow."

As for the country's indie scene as a whole, Gregor is optimistic: "I love the Scottish scene at the moment, it's so easy to immerse yourself in nothing but bands from Scotland and not get bored. The line up for the T-Break stage only reinforces that. It really is a fantastic time for music in Scotland and long may it continue. I'm really looking forward to hearing even more new bands emerge in the near future."


Like what you hear? Watch Trapped in Kansas live at the following shows:

11 Jul @ T Break stage, T in the Park
18 Jul @ The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh
22 Aug @ Twisted Wheel Glasgow
23 Sep @ Drummonds, Aberdeen
25 Sep @ Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
27 Sep @ Captain’s Rest, Glasgow
3 Oct @ The Red House, Sheffield
7 Oct @ Power Out, Brighton
8 Oct @ ibar, Bournemouth
9 Oct @ Joiners, Southhamptom

Play: The Idiot


Words: Nick Mitchell

So is there really no greater torture than being trapped in Kansas? Discuss...

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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

On the radar: Tango in the Attic

Tango in the Attic
[Tango in the Attic: fans of abstract expressionism]

Play: Jackanory


It's one of those amateurish, college newspaper expressions that instantly causes eyeballs to roll upwards: 'They don't take themselves too seriously'. And while this normally translates in the mind of the reader as 'they don't take themselves too seriously because their music is semi-listenable pap and they're going nowhere fast', it doesn't apply in all cases.

Take Tango in the Attic [TitA] for example. From the paint-splattered picture portrait (see above) to the daytime TV influenced name (a blend of ‘Tango and Cash’ and ‘Cash in the Attic’, if the rumour is to be believed), this Fife five-piece employ a giddy, ramshackle attitude that even extends to their musical hardware.

"We like to mix up the instrumentation a lot," says guitarist Jordan Craig. "Guitars, saxophones, trumpets, electric organs, synths, a weird and wonderful collection of percussion, including a hybrid instrument named ‘SHELBY’ which comprises a traffic cone, a road bollard we knocked over when we crashed our van, and a cowbell which we stuck to the top of it for good measure! We use all this but try to stick to writing straightforward pop songs. We try not to make our music too alienating or self-involved, and we try to keep it upbeat."

Such prankish behaviour usually equates to immature sounds, but the difference here is that this band's music is worth listening to. Together for a little over a year, TitA have managed to forge a tight, bright indie-pop sound that seems a world away from Scotland's current reputation for introspective, skull-rattling post-rock. Our featured track, 'Jackanory', is an instant rush of coiled pop energy, with singer Daniel Craig (no, not that one) veering from off-beat cynicism to impassioned chanting, over a backing track that sounds like Vampire Weekend without the string section.

And Vampire Weekend aren't the only Manhattan-dwelling music-makers to play a part in TitA's kaleidoscopic pop vision. "We seem to like a lot of bands from New York like The Strokes, The Walkmen, The Velvet Underground etc," says Jordan. "But then loads of other random stuff like Bombay Bicycle Club, Paul Simon, Radiohead and The Pogues."

But TitA hail from Glenrothes in Fife, a post-war new town of roundabouts and giant daffodil sculptures that is thousands of miles from the Big Apple, both in distance and vitality. Or is there a thriving music scene across the Forth Bridge that's still undersold in the national media?

"Fife has a strong music background and a good reputation for live music," Jordan argues. "Because of the state of things just now, everyone's a bit strapped for cash and local crowd attendances have dropped a tad, but there’s always people up for it - folk around here have that kind of mentality. You have to appreciate the effort people are still making to support local music. Dunfermline and Glenrothes are constantly producing bands of a very high standard which is always exciting and encouraging."

TitA are still enmeshed in the scene from which they've sprung: they practice in the basement of a vintage clothes shop in Kirkcaldy, they drive their die-hard fans to gigs in an old mini-bus called the 'Tango Tank', and they try to keep the price of tickets as low as possible. But do they think this grassroots approach will pay dividends in the long run?

"It’s not that cool to say it, but we work really hard at this, despite being a pretty light-hearted bunch," Jordan replies. "We know when to get the business heads on, but we know when to have a laugh as well I guess. We never make compromises when writing our songs or preparing for gigs. The ‘luck’ factor always plays a big part in a band's success, but we're very confident in our music and ourselves. Hopefully this gets us into a career where we can make album after album ‘til we’ve got massive grey beards."

They may not take themselves too seriously, but we predict a hirsute future for Tango in the Attic.

Intrigued? Watch TitA live at the following dates:
12 Jul @ T Break Stage, T in the Park (1pm)
21 Jul @ King Tuts, Glasgow
22 Jul @ Electric Circus, Edinburgh
1 Aug @ The Greenside, Glenrothes
8 Aug @ QMU, Glasgow
21 Aug @ Captains Rest, Glasgow


Words: Nick Mitchell

Tango and Cash or Cash in the Attic? Which is better? Discuss...

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Monday, 6 July 2009

On the radar: Barn Owl

Barn Owl

This week is T in the Park week on Under the Radar. OK, so Scotland's biggest music festival isn't exactly under our radar, your radar, or any radar for that matter, but if you can drag yourself away from the main stage (or the tacky t-shirt stall) you'll find an eclectic swathe of our nation's brightest up and coming talent on the T Break and BBC Introducing stages.

We'll be covering the event over the weekend with live updates, reviews and pictures, but before that we'll profile a band each day this week that we think you should see at T. First up is Barn Owl ...

Play: Light Through Spaces


“We never took it seriously. [It was] more a means to amuse ourselves and replicate the music we appreciated,” says Greig Jackson of cushion soft Glasgow rockers Barn Owl.

Such a humble, if slightly bewildering, attitude epitomises a band that's encountered myriad line-up and name alterations since its founding members converged at college under the tongue-knotting moniker ‘On This Day We Met Gambas Pil Pil’.

But for a group who aren't taking things seriously, Barn Owl’s music begs to differ. Resplendent with instrumentation and a deep-seated sense of purity, it's a sound that makes the world around stop and realise that: Yes, this is good. Very good.

Flowing between languid instrumentals and more conventional indie tunes, the quartet clearly put in more thought than they realise. Yet, pondering the potential reasons as to why the band do what they are doing, Jackson remains as humble as ever:

“We play together more or less just to be together: It's a past-time we all share and enjoy,” he says reticently. “There are no overarching goals beyond the realms of realistic probabilities and I would say we've achieved more than we ever set out to do.”

Such modesty is always a flattering trait, particularly as it’s one more well-known acts increasingly seem to forget about. Not taking their situation for granted is something that Barn Owl do well, and if any band was ever in it for simply the music, they are it.

“Every step we take forward is neither planned nor expected and therefore nothing is forced or fabricated,” say Jackson. “This is something we've noticed in the other Glasgow bands we play with on a regular basis. There is a genuine sense of contentment in just playing with and knowing other musicians.”

Speaking of “what ifs’, Jackson's innately aware of how lucky he is to be spending time doing something from which so much pleasure is derived: “We are at the mercy of gig frequenters and MySpace perusers, so we try not to get ahead of ourselves.”

It isn't hard to see why the MySpace droves choose Barn Owl - one listen to [UtR’s featured cut] Light Through Spaces would have anybody hooked. The track encapsulates the band in all its eclectic glory; spinning from eerie organ to the rise and fall of atmospheric crescendos, before exploding as a cacophony of crashing guitar. It’s one to be played at 3am, the high upon which a night is ended.

Their biggest influence, Yo La Tengo, is unmistakable, although Jackson is, as ever, modest about the comparison: “This is mostly incidental or a conscious effort to steal their musical identity that failed miserably - it could go either way.”

Yet when describing Yo La Tengo as having the “breeze of open vulnerability that pulls you in” Jackson could very well be speaking about his own band. There’s an air of sweetness complimented by chiming glockenspiel and hazy organ that’s non-threatening and beguiling. Even when this changes into a sudden and determined rock-out, their sense of musicianship ensures the result is balanced evenly.

As well as making excellent music, there's a thread of humour running through the band. Good with words and amusingly deadpan, Jackson wasn't joking when he maintained time and again that they do not take themselves seriously: “The bands we listen to would read like a very refined and eternal dream festival line up and we could give you a list that proclaims how hip and cool we think we are,” he says. “However this is very contrived. We assure you though, that we are very hip and cool.”

He's not wrong.

Like what you hear? Catch Barn Owl at the following shows:
9 Jul @ Captain's Rest, Glasgow

12 Jul @ T Break Stage, T in the Park, Balado


Words: Kirstyn Smith

Will you be witnessing this Barn-storming troupe tear up TiTP this year? Let us know below..

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Sunday, 5 July 2009

Radar recommends: 5 - 11 July

Debutant
[Debutant: sinking ships on Monday]

As ever, T in the Park doesn't exactly make for a busy seven days of local giggage. But, if you dig deep enough, there's enough hidden gems out there to get you through the working week...


Aberdeen

Meursault, The Little Kicks, Debutant, Haight Ashbury
Thursday @ Club Snafu 10pm £3/2
The Limbo guys scoot up the A9 to join forces with Dirty Hearts Club for a night that handpicks some of the best bands from across Scotland: Edinburgh folktronica favourites Meursault, local UtR-tipped acts The Little Kicks and Debutant, as well as Glaswegian folkies Haight Ashbury.


Edinburgh

Jennifer Concannon, The Red Wall
Sunday @ Electric Circus 8pm Free
Picturesque acoustic numbers from the lusciously toned Jennifer Concannon and The Red Wall.

White Noise presents: Zoe Van Goey
Tuesday @ Electric Circus 8pm £4
Acoustic set from perennially tipped Glasgow-based tune-smugglers with a penchant for dainty melodies.

The Mill presents: Yuill Scott and the Haight, The Debuts
Thursday @ Cabaret Voltaire 7pm Free
Free as a bird showcase featuring Black Keys inspired headliners and The Debuts' run-away synth poppery.

Threshold Sicks, Nerrus Kor, Cancerous Womb, Foetal Splatter
Friday @ Henry's Cellar Bar 7pm £4
A night of furious death metal throbbing with a quartet of gruesomely monikered local bands. Likely to be loud and sweaty.

This is Music presents: Sparrow & the Workshop, Randan Discotheque
Friday @ Sneaky Pete's 7pm £TBC
The thinking man's alternative to Friday night in Balado. Sparrow & the Workshop weave ambitious indie-pop dreamscapes, while Randan Discotheque's art-folk-tronica always hits the spot.

Foxgang
Saturday @ The Bowery 7.30pm £5
Ebullient polska-pop from superlative inducing experimentalists Foxgang.


Glasgow

**UtR's gig of the week**
We Sink Ships: Debutant, Call to Mind, Hindle Wakes
Monday @ 13th Note 9pm £4
Local photographers Heidi Kuisma and Neil Milton launch the first exhibition from their We Sink Ships collaboration with a charity gig night featuring the dreamy musical talents of the aforementioned Debutant, Inverness group Call to Mind and Glasgow's own Hindle Wakes.

The Fire and I, The King Hats
Monday @ Bloc 9pm Free
Energetic indie-rock and post-punk with a touch of harmonic yelping.

You Animals, Vendor Defender and French Wives
Monday @ King Tut's 8.30pm £5
A night of bright indie-pop, headed up by Derby band You Animals with Glaswegian support from Vendor Defender and UtR-tipped French Wives.

Sparrow & the Workshop, The Chemists, White Belt Yellow Tag
Tuesday @ King Tut's 8.30pm 6pm
Widely touted Sparrow & the Workshop headline this night of Distiller Records acts.

Aerials presents: Theatre Fall, Lyons, We're Only Afraid of NYC
Wednesday @ Captain's Rest 8pm £4
Inverness indie-rockers Theatre Fall have accumulated quite a following for their electro-frazzled hooks, while Lyons are so good they'll soon be on this blog, and WOANYC make lo-fi indie in the We Were Promised Jetpacks vein. Quality night this.

De Jour, My Final Wish
Wednesday @ Pivo Pivo 8pm £3
Up and coming local guitar acts with the odd laptop plugged in.

Words: Nick Mitchell, Billy Hamilton

What have we missed? Tell us below, or add it to our gig guide by emailing utr.scotsman@gmail.com

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Friday, 3 July 2009

Tweet Nothings, feat. Edwyn Collins, Errors, My Latest Novel

Can there be a better way to whittle away the hours inside a sweaty tour van than letting the world know your deepest, darkest thoughts in 140 characters? What’s that you say ? Mind-altering chemicals? Lasciviously-intended harlots? MYSPACE? Pah...whatever Grandad. These hipsters ain’t interested in languid cliches: Tweeting is the new Rock ‘n’ Roll. Fact.

So here it is, the Under the Radar segment you’ve been waiting for with baited breath and giddy stomach: Our weekly round-up of your idols’ idle tweets. HUZZAH...

Edwyn Collins is as polite as you’d expect from a New Pop luminary...
@EdwynCollins: “Up late after busy day. Sunday Times interview, Radio 3 The Verb. Very nice man, Ian McMillan. I sang Home Again and gabbed.”

Tango in the Attic scoff in the face of punctuation as they plan a Glenrothes day out...
@tangointheattic: “ Thinking of putting on a bus to PJs on friday from glenrothes if theres enough demand, give us an email or txt if your interested!”

John B McKenna does his bit for the Glasgow tourism industry...
@johnbmckenna: “Last night a man fell asleep in the pub, wouldn’t wake up, so we phoned an ambulance, he woke up, peed on the wall, fell asleep on the wall.”

Debutant gets dizzy over a cholesterol overload that could only ever be acceptable in Scotland...
@debutantmusic: “Fucking yas! Haggis? WIN! Pizza? WIN! Haggis + pizza? WIN WIN! Exclamation marks all round!”

Pragmatism and capitalisation is the name of the game for Findo Gask...
@wearefindogask: “Are practicing hard in order to BE BETTER THAN WE ARE NOW.”

My Latest Novel wholly embrace the joys of Twitter by giving up on rational conversation...
@MyLatestNovel: “The smurf would turn flesh coloured! Can something be flesh coloured? Surely flesh is a composite of tones not a colour?”

Salesmanship is clearly not Dupec’s forte....
@Dupec: “Try out the new hand driers at @cabaretvoltaire at our gig tonight which is FREE entry and cheap bevvy. On at 8.”

Pooch + tweeting + heat = comedy gold...
@poochtheband: “Contemplating wearing icecream.”

Sixpeopleaway get into the Wimbledon swing of things...
@sixpeopleaway: "The faintly robotic & precisely disciplined motions of the ballboys/girls at Wimbledon is starting to freak me out ever so slightly..."

RBRBR go from a web of sound to a web of SPLAT...
@RBRBR:
"Big old spider in my trainer this morning. Didn't notice until the shoe was on. :-( "

Unicorn Kid is creating his own heatwave...
@UnicornKid: "Played the sweatiest show in Unicorn Kid history tonight! There was at least a pint's worth in my t shirt."

And finally, Errors say what this half of Under the Radar's editorial team has been thinking all week...
@Weareerrors: "
Too actual f*cking hot to do anything. F*ck off sun."

Words: Billy Hamilton (and Twitter)

Musicians of Scotland: Tweet something interesting/funny/newsworthy this week and you too could feature in Tweet Nothings. Just think how proud your Mum will be.

Spotted any other tweeting gems we've missed out on? Share your favourite weekly tweets with us below...

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On the radar: Cancel the Astronauts

Cancel the AstronautsOf all the trumpet-blowing adjectives marketing departments choose to bestow upon their latest products, sorry, bands, 'ambitious' has to be the most regurgitated. Yet, ironically, ambition’s quite often the one trait missing from the armoury of these media-savvy hipsters.

Aye, the eager young scamps crave a slurp from the garish chalice of celebrity, but can churning out ten-a-penny indie-poppery truly be classed as trophy craving intent? Simply carrying a tune is, surely, not enough when it comes to scaling the music industry's unforgiving, oxygenless peaks; there has to be, no, there needs to be something so much more.

Play: Late In The City


With their sugar-pop ditties and effervescent canters, Cancel the Astronauts [CtA], thankfully, provide the perfect antidote to such contradictory aggrandising: “I think we can one day make over £100 from a gig and sell more than 4 CDs at once,” decrees band vanguard Matthew Riley. “So far the most we have made is £93 in one go and the most CDs we have sold is three. So I will go with that. Step by step, little by little and that's all - as Ocean Colour Scene once sang.”

Riley’s lack of bravado belies CtA’s sweet melodic swoon. Citing “pasty white-boy guitar pop” like wallowing miserablists The Smiths and The Cure as influences, the Edinburgh quintet have been spray-painting the city’s venues with luscious sound swathes for the last six months.

Despite this spring-chicken exterior, CtA are eager to prove they're no fledgling greenhorns: “I have been writing songs for 10 years ever since I first picked up a guitar and it seemed natural to eventually play them to people,” explains Riley. “We all have a passion for music and we are creative people… We all enjoy the thrill of playing live. I can't imagine doing anything else with my time and it's the same for the others too. “

CtA’s debut EP, the magnificently titled 'I Am The President of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home)', is blushed with heavenly drifts of synth and guitar that stretch out into a dreamlike blur of gorgeous retrograde-pop. It’s a sound aimed entirely skywards; bound for a destination that far outruns man’s cosmonautic capacity – not that you’d know by the name, mind.

“We have no actual anti-space agenda, and given the chance I think we would all like to be astronauts - provided we'd get to fight space-aliens and blow up near-earth asteroids,” says Riley. “I think the name was the least offensive we had. We thought we'd keep it until we thought of something better, and now it's too late change. We have since thought of lots of things better.”

Not a band to rest on its laurels, CtA has one foot on the musical ladder and is hellbent on climbing every rung. As Riley puts it: “I don't write songs in a vacuum, and I think my influences are pretty clear. We definitely fit in to a specific musical genre, and I'm not trying to be original, just to be good!”

Now that’s ambition.

Play: Love Somebody


Words: Billy Hamilton

Cancel the Astronauts: stellar talents or a faulty take-off? Discuss...

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Thursday, 2 July 2009

On the radar: The Whisky Works

The Whisky Works

Play: Electric


It's a brave soul who goes against the grain and speaks out against the indie-centric press coverage of Scotland's music scene, but Iain Bethel, lead singer and bassist of Glaswegian four-piece post-hardcore outfit The Whisky Works, is not a man to mince words.

"I think if you dig deep, there's a lot of great stuff going on in the Scottish music scene," he says. "It’s become a lot better in the last few years, it has gone from being very formulaic to a lot more dynamic. Personally, I think Scotland’s music scene could do a lot better from promoting less singer-songwriter types, I really don’t think we need any more of them!"

Fighting words, perhaps, but his broadside will get many nods of agreement from those who have seen the alternative scene in Glasgow go stratospheric over the last couple of years while the taste-makers have looked on, oblivious. Then again, one would expect nothing less than polemics from a band quietly confident that they can "tear a new one in the UK music scene" with their upcoming mini-album Deficit Attention Program, due for release in August, and a summer tour which will see them travel the length of Britain from Elgin to Somerset.

Listening to tracks from the forthcoming EP, it's easy to believe The Whisky Works can do just that. Driving rock songs like 'Electric' are deceptively melodic, while the rhythm section is rock solid, laying down a tailor-made base for Bethel's impressive vocals.

The band draws influences from post-hardcore staples like At The Drive-In, Cave In and Rival Schools, as well as more eclectic acts like the late, great Aereogramme. But despite such a firm sonic grounding in the genre heavyweights, Bethel is adamant The Whisky Works' sound, and especially their live show, has its own character.

"We thrive on creating a great sense of energy both through our recordings and our live show, which we feel is something a lot of bands overlook," he enthuses. "Without trying to sound clichéd, what we believe we are doing is our own thing, we are not imitating anyone or trying to sound like our favourite bands, we just do what feels natural for the four of us."

The Whisky Works have been lucky enough to have had Iain Cook - of aforementioned Glasgow post-rock demigods Aereogramme - behind the desk for the recording of Deficit Attention Program. The band can't speak highly enough of Cook and believe his input was invaluable in the creation of the mini-album. Bethel explains; "Working with Iain Cook has been incredible! I honestly don’t think you could ever meet a nicer man. Aside from the fact he is really great at what he does, he also gave us a large amount of control over the mix."

So where next for The Whisky Works? Their upcoming tour and EP will likely keep them busy for some time but, looking ahead, the band sees the next 12 months as a real make-or-break period. The guys hope to build on their existing fanbase, establish themselves as a nationwide presence and make sure their new record gets the respect and recognition it deserves.

Whether that will be enough to make those looking for the next breakout indie act sit up and pay attention to the post-hardcore scene remains to be seen, but on the strength of Deficit Attention Program, we wouldn't bet against it.

Like what you hear? Catch The Whisky Works live at the following dates:

18 Jul: The Orange Box, Yeovil
19 Jul: Nikhs Bar, Newcastle
20 Jul: Venue TBA, Brighton
26 Jul: The Tunnels, Aberdeen
27 Jul: The Loft, Elgin
28 Jul: Balcony Bar, Dundee
30 Jul: Captains Rest, Glasgow (mini album launch)
1 Aug: The Venue, Dumfries


Play: Monster! Monster!


Words: Jodi Mullen

Will you be raising a glass for The Whisky Works? Let us know below...

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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Track by track: There Will Be Fireworks

There Will Be Fireworks

There Will Be Fireworks: It's not so much a name as a statement of intent.

The Glaswegian quartet - consisting of Nicholas McManus (above), Gibran Farrah, David Madden and Adam Ketterer - coil shimmering melodies around escalating post-rock structures to create music that mortar strikes your very core.

Somehow unsigned, the band release their self-produced debut LP today (1 July). And before the eponymously-titled record hurtles into the public sphere like an atomic bomb, UtR caught up with frontman Nicholas McManus to get the track-by-track lowdown on this astonishing album.

[The band were kind enough to allow us more or less free reign with the MP3s we chose to include, but we think it's only fair that some of the album is kept aside for those of you who go out and buy it.]

1. Colombian Fireworks

The spoken word part was written and performed by Kevin MacNeil, the author of The Stornoway Way. He came to one of our gigs, and I asked if he fancied doing us a wee turn a la Edwin Morgan on Idlewild’s The Remote Part. Happily, he agreed and wrote the piece for the album, recording it on Shetland with his brother and sending the file to us.

2. So The Story Goes
Just before this starts, you can hear Marshall – the sound engineer – say “just go for it”. We like leaving things like that in. It’s the first song in which our friend Karen Fishwick plays trumpet. The vocals were recorded with my mouth literally an inch from the condenser mic, so you can hear every little nuance. The idea with that was to make it sound intimate because, lyrically, the song is quite intimate. And quite sad.

3. Midfield Maestro

This was one of the first songs we recorded and is the oldest on the album. Writing it was a bit of a turning point for us. We stumbled upon how we sound now by simplifying everything to write this song, and discovered a poise that we hadn’t had before. The song is named in honour of this little figurine I used to have of Diego Maradona. I got it in Asda when I was six or seven and used to put it on top of my amp but I left it in some smelly practice room and haven’t seen him for over a year. Gutted.

4. Guising

This is a quiet wee vignette-type-thing. Again, recorded with really close mics so you can hear every nuance and the, vaguely disgusting, noise of my mouth moving. The guitar and vocals were done live at the top of a stairwell. The weird noises are that of an ebow on an acoustic guitar, using a slide. It’s quite an innocent song in a way; really just a couple of random memories stuck together. Someone described it as ‘knowingly naïve’ which is probably about right.

5. Off With Their Heads

This segues straight in from Guising. We were really keen to have an album that flowed as much as possible – a complete work rather than a collection of songs – and a lot of the time there are no gaps between songs. This is probably the heaviest song overall. I think we wrote this song the night before we recorded it. Probably not a great idea but it worked out OK.

There Will Be Fireworks6. I Like The Lights
This was the last song we recorded. Karen sings in it. We’ve got brass, strings, two drum parts and all sorts in it. It’s basically about when I was in Royal Exchange Square in Glasgow at night time with someone. I really do like the lights there – they’re pretty. It’s a very short song so there isn’t much to say about it except that it took me ages to get the piano right in the bit where everything kicks in because I have useless stubby sausage fingers.

7. A Kind of Furnace
This was the first primarily piano-led song we wrote. The spoken word part in the interlude is a passage from the Ian McEwan novel Enduring Love, spoken by Marshall the soundman using a really cool mic that looked like a walky talky. There’s a random accordion and organ progression at the end which we put in for a laugh because we found an accordion and thought it would be in some way wrong not to use it.

8. We Sleep Through The Bombs

After the rather sprawling nature of A Kind of Furnace, this is a welcome tune. The reverby guitar noise at the start was recorded by facing an amp into the hollow of a big piano. It probably doesn’t make much of a difference to how it sounds but we like to experiment with daft things like that and pretend we’re mad sonic pioneers like Phil Spector, but with better hair and less mental.

There Will Be Fireworks LP cover9. Headlights
Another piano led song. It’s quite striking, with quite a distinctive guitar line. The weird voices are Gibran singing wordlessly, with backwards reverb on. Basically, we recorded him singing gibberish, reversed the gibberish, put some hefty reverb on it, then put the gibberish back the right way round.

10. We Were A Roman Candle
Another vaguely angsty tune – I should really cheer up. I really loved recording the vocals because I got to scream like a maddy, which is always fun. A recording studio is the one place where you can shout and scream ‘til your heart is content and people actually say ‘well done, that was good’. After it, my vocal chords were torn to shreds and the next day I had a sexy husky voice. Sadly, it’s back to normal.

11. Says Aye

Probably the most optimistic song on the album. It’s about a kind of stupid wild optimism; a wide-eyed hope, but a good one. The little sample at the end is Edward R. Murrow; we found a random US Government infomercial from the 1950s about the threat of nuclear warfare that he had narrated. We couldn’t resist putting it in.

12. Foreign Thoughts

This is the poppiest moment on the album which is a bit paradoxical because of the weird instrumentation. David plays a non-bassy bass part, using a slide and a since-deceased delay pedal. Gibran used a really old, really cheap Yamaha keyboard played through a guitar amp. This is the one I’m most proud of lyrically – it’s basically a stream of consciousness but I like the scansion and the flow.

13. Joined Up Writing
Another optimistic song. At the end, when everything is fading out, I did a little raggedy acoustic bit, which is lyrically and melodically a throwback to Foreign Thoughts. It was intended as a not-very-subtle homage to the end of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel – I thought the way Jeff Mangum references back to Two Headed Boy at the album’s close was stunning and shamelessly pillaged the idea.

Words: Nicholas McManus (and Billy Hamilton)

The album launch is at Nice'n'Sleazy, Glasgow tonight (1 July), with support from Lions.Chase.Tigers and We Hung Your Leader.

You can buy the album online here.

Will there be fireworks? Discuss...

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