Monday, 30 November 2009

On the radar: Stanley


Play: Flowers

Imagine, if you can, that you'd broken up with your partner. At the time the separation made perfect sense. There’d be no more arguments, no more uncertainty and you’d get back to the carefree life of singledom.

But then, imagine (stay with us on this) that you realised you’d messed up. The light of day had shown that you’d run away from someone you were madly in love with.

Most of us would have walked the obligatory post-breakup road of getting drunk and sending a couple of weird, slightly unhinged, text messages, before ending up in the arms of someone we didn’t really want to be with.

But for Stephen Podlesney, the frontman of Aberdonian quintet Stanley, that wasn’t going to be good enough, so he wrote Flowers, a song of utter sincerity. As you listen to Podlesney promising to change and begging his lover to “please come home” you understand exactly what she means to him. Even the Littlest Hobo would have settled down.

The song is testament to five of the most proficient musicians on the Aberdeen scene. Named after comedian Stan Laurel, Stanley couple a love of slapstick comedy with serious ambition. Podlesney claims, with scant regard for modesty, that they have "the intelligence of The Divine Comedy, the creativity of Radiohead circa The Bends and the soaring vocal talents of Scott Walker.”

Play: Join Hands

With the mixture of orchestral backing tracks, guitars and vibraphones, the live show would be disastrous if it weren't for the tightness and dedication that comes from a band made up of music teachers and guitar salesmen.

Add the powerful, almost operatic quality of Podlesney’s voice and you have something that could very easily tip into a Mike Flower’s Pop tribute band. Thankfully, the sincerity of the music ensures it’s a sound that’s far removed from kitsch.

It seems with every gig Stanley become more original, more willing to let loose and discover their own sound more. With an album nearing completion, you can expect more gigs throughout Scotland soon.

Words: Andrew Learmonth

Play: Made for TV

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Friday, 27 November 2009

Radar recommends: 28 Nov - 4 Dec

There Will Be Fireworks
[There Will Be Fireworks at The Caves on Tuesday. Not the deathtrap it sounds.]

Let's face it. We're rapidly heading into festive season, so you might want to give your wallet (and your liver) a rest this week in preparation for the month of parties, work nights out and gigs ahead.

But we're not letting you off the hook that easily. Gig temptations coming your way...

Frightened Rabbit
Tuesday @ The Warehouse / 7.30pm / £12
The popular Fat Cat signed band tour new material ahead of the release of their third album in the new year.
Also playing The Ironworks, Inverness on Sunday and Fat Sam's, Dundee on Wednesday.

Saint Jude's Infirmary, Kid Canaveral, Panda Su, Hookers for Jesus
Sunday @ West Port Bar / 7.30pm / £5
Scottish music blog Manic Pop Thrills puts on another fine billing of up and coming talent.

The Little Kicks, The Void, He Slept on 57, Salute Mary
Sunday @ The GRV / 7pm / £5
The hard-gigging Kicks return to Auld Reekie to showcase their polished indie-pop to the Sunday night crowd.

Johnny Foreigner
Sunday @ Cabaret Voltaire / 7pm / £7.50
Brummie's most mental noise-pop three-piece, much loved by the kids over on DiS.

Ringo Deathstarr, The Manikees, The Debuts
Thursday @ Sneaky Pete's / 7pm / £6
Not Ringo Starr, not the Deathstar, rather a disturbing combination of the two in musical form. The Austin Texas nu-gaze quartet's first UK tour hits the Wee Red Bar on Thursday.
Ringo Deathstarr also play the Captain's Rest, Glasgow on Friday.

**UtR's gig of the week**
There Will Be Fireworks, Broken Records (solo acoustic), Saint Jude's Infirmary, Meursault (solo acoustic)
Thursday @ The Caves / 8pm / £5 (£3 in advance from Avalanche)
Back in July There Will Be Fireworks burst on to the scene with an impressive, impassioned debut LP that had us scrabbling for adjectives. And we're not the only ones. Avalanche record shop has selected the Glasgow band for their next Album Club, and this launch party looks like a great night of music. More info here

Ten Tracks: Found, Meursault, Panda Su
Friday @ Roxy Art House / 7.30pm / £7-£10
The Scottish music download service is offering free entry to this gig if you buy a £10 annual subscription. That's mightily tempting when they've pulled together three of the east coast's most promising acts, including our recent blog guest Panda Su. More info here.

Woodlands Creatures
Sunday @ The Halt Bar / 7pm / Free
Either stay in and try and name as many woodland animals as possible, or go to this event. I suggest the latter.

We Were Promised Jetpacks, Dupec, Jesus H Foxx
Sunday @ King Tut's / 8.30pm / £7
Feeling patriotic? The part of Homecoming Live that isn't wallowing in 80s nostalgia.

Regina Spektor
Tuesday @ o2 Academy / 8pm / £22
Get your 'crispy, crispy Benjamin Franklins' out and buy yourself a ticket to see this quirky songstress.

Neon Indian, Zhyrlings, Tangles
Tuesday @ Captains Rest / 8.30pm / £6
With recently remixers Grizzly Bear, this promises to be an audio/visual delight you shouldn't miss.

Casino Brag, Foxgang, Satellite Underground
Wednesday @ Nice'n'Sleazy / TBC / £TBC
Have a punt on these post-punk players and support.

Lords, Holy Mountain, Citizens
Wednesday @ Captains Rest / 8pm / £6
Yes all round, have a look at Citizens' UtR profile here....

The Pain Of Being Pure At Heart
Thursday @ Stereo / 7.30pm / £12
Melancholy pop from this New York band, who've kind of made Glasgow their second home.

Lightning Dust, Early Day Miners
Thursday @ Captains Rest / 8pm / £9
Black Mountain side project comes to rest at the Captains.

Titus Gein, Black Sun
Friday @ 13th Note / 9pm / £TBC
Any band citing Trans Am and Lightning Bolt as influences deserve a gander.

Ringo Deathstarr, Silvermash
Friday @ Captain's Rest /8pm / £TBC
The aforementioned Deathstarr, this time with support from Fife shoegazers Silvermash, playing their first Glasgow gig.

Words: Aimi Gold, Nick Mitchell, Craig Dickson

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eagleowl: No time to hibernate

[Poster artwork by Ola Rek]

Unlike their feared namesake, eagleowl the band are attracting more and more admirers around their neck of the woods. Within a few days of releasing new single 'Sleep the Winter' last week, practically every Scottish blogger and music scribe worth his / her salt had picked up on it with studied words of praise.

And rightly so. It's another wonderfully evocative release from the band, with mournful cello and languid guitar combining to conjure a cold, foreboding atmosphere, until a change of chord and the hushed words of the title gently add a layer of much needed warmth. Like the best alt-folk, it sounds timeless, permanent, but not dated.

So with the hype still feathering the Edinburgh group's nest, we thought we'd catch up with Bart 'The hardest working man in post-folk' Owl to find out what's new since Billy spoke to him in May...

Play: Sleep the Winter

Where did the idea for Sleep the Winter come from?

In some ways it came from an argument I had with Dan from Withered Hand. I had suggested that we both write Christmas songs, so that we could then do a show together at Christmas time. He said it would be "a waste of a song". I think we both have a rather laborious approach to songwriting - definitely aiming for quality over quantity. Dan thought spending ages writing a song you could only play at one time of the year would be a waste. So this was an attempt to write a song that "felt Christmas-y", but wouldn't sound too weird when played at other times of the year.

It's going to be the first release for Kilter - a new Edinburgh-based label. The people behind it were previously responsible for the Tracer Trails shows in Edinburgh, and have brought some amazing names to the city in the past (Viking Moses, Tiger Saw, Jeffrey Lewis, Woodpigeon, etc). They're friends, and we have quite a close working relationship, but I just really respect their approach to promotion, and the effort they put into every conceivable detail.

What have you been up to since we last spoke?

Sleep the WinterSince we last spoke we finished the recording and mixing of the single. There's also an EP recorded and ready for release next year, and we've recorded a track for a Jonathan Richman tribute album, which is due out on Fortuna Pop at some point next year too. We've not been playing that many shows recently, but we did do a few nice support shows in October - with ballboy, Bowerbirds, and Trespassers William. We also did the Playing with the Past event - both during the Film Festival and again in August. For this we composed and performed a live soundtrack to two short films from the Scottish National archive.

Any other plans afoot?

We're playing the Versus night on 21 January at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh. This is a relatively new night and not a conventional gig - three acts set up at once so that they can collaborate with each other. It's a really interesting idea and gives us scope to try out new things and work with some great acts that we really respect. The full line-up's not been confirmed yet, but it's shaping up rather nicely. We're also hoping to do more shows outside of Edinburgh, and outside of Scotland, next year.

Words: Nick Mitchell

Sleep the Winter is released on 14 Dec.

The launch night is at the Bowery, Edinburgh on Friday 11 Dec, with support from Jill of Sparrow & the Workshop and Dan of Withered Hand. There's also a Glasgow launch at the 13th Note on Monday 14 Dec, with Dan again and Ali from Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers.

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Wednesday, 25 November 2009

On the radar: Panda Su

Panda SuThe gift of the gab’s not a trait you’d readily associate with an Ailuropoda melanoleuca, otherwise known as the Great Panda. Lumbering and lonely, the animal’s monochromatic fur and moribund features cry out like a downtrodden mime who’s discovered surround sound.

This notion of the panda’s lip-closed solitude filters into UtR’s train of thought as we prepare to wax lyrical with Su Isabel Ferreira Shaw. After all, this is a girl who decorates her cranial canvas like an endangered Chinese mammal; a girl whose mew spills out like a gush of painstaking isolation; a girl who prefers to go by the alias Panda Su.

But despite our preconceptions, Shaw is not at all quarantined from conversation. In fact, we’re finding it rather difficult to get her to pause for breath.

“The biggest perk of the job, so to speak, is that I get to share a stage with bands that I really admire and that have had a big musical influence on me,” she exhales. “Three years ago I was writing fan mail to King Creosote and chasing around KT Tunstall asking her to sign her name on a piece of paper which I would then take home and frame. This year I played on the same bill as both of them at Homegame.

“That's an amazing achievement for me to be in a position where I get to play my music to people who are equally as excited about it as I am. And I get to do so whilst sharing the stage with bands and artists that I really like.”

Play: Eric is Dead

She may be dishing out doe-eyed homages, but the part Scot, part Portuguese songstress’s own star is quickly expanding into a sparkling constellation. Shaw’s craft of esoteric acoustica bedded under a charm-soaked intone has begun to lubricate the gullet of Scotland’s musical underbelly.

“I have a fairly unconventional approach to writing songs,” explains Shaw of her creative process. “I don't have an idea about what I want to write about, I sit down and words fall out my mouth onto the piece of paper in front of me. I don't choose them and it's not until after that I start to pull comparisons and find the relationship between what I'm singing about and how it actually relates to me.”

So what is it that makes Panda Su so special?

“Well, I spend about an hour before every gig locked in the venue toilet applying black and white paint to my face,” Shaw japes. “In terms of songs, I write about the same things as everyone else but I write about them in a less obvious way. You can take one of my songs, pull it apart and make it relate to you in any way you want, and the way it relates to you is probably completely different to the way in which it relates to me.”

She continues: “I don't write about concrete things in an obvious way because personally I find that really dull. When I listen to a piece of music I don't want to know what the singer is singing about because that strips out all the fun for me and makes it boring. “

Boring is one slight you could never fling at Shaw. Her sound veers from folksy canticle to chart-bopping ditty with schizophrenic regularity, marking Panda Su out as a cut above the vacuum-packed hoards of humdrum sonic tailchasers.

Yet for Shaw the future holds no thought of fame. “It's a real shame that people these days grow up wanting to be famous. Not successful or inspiring or influential, just famous - like it's a physical job that they can apply or attend an interview for,” she sighs. “I don't think people realise that doing music and trying to make a living out of it is quite challenging and requires some real hard work.

“From quite early on I decided that I wanted to do as much as I could myself. For my first release I did all the artwork myself, set up my own record label and put it out under that. I think it's more fun that way. It's a lot harder work, but ultimately, much more rewarding and definitely worth it.”

Play: Moviegoer

Those rewards are now being reaped. Shaw recently shared stages with Fence Collective luminary Kenny Anderson and the pristinely tuned Frightened Rabbit. For a girl who spent her formative years in a school band with members of The Seventeenth Century, this rise in fortune has been a long time coming.

“Back in those days getting through to the second round of our school's shitty little rock band competition felt like we'd just been asked to headline Glastonbury,” she regales. “Suddenly, it's not all about getting signed up to some major record label that's going to put you in a dress and stick you in front of a camera. There's been a real emphasis on DIY and I think that's a really positive thing.”

Words: Billy Hamilton

See Panda Su for yourself at the following shows:
29 Nov @ Westport, Dundee
4 Dec @ The Roxy Art House, Edinburgh
5 Dec @ Duke's Corner, Dundee
17 Dec @ 13th Note, Glasgow

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Monday, 23 November 2009

Newsflash: Your chance to record King Creosote

King CreosoteSanta may not have got round to pressing his gigantic red pantalons yet, but UtR’s mind is already getting giddy at the prospect of next year’s Homegame.

The annual Fence Records spectacular takes place in and around the quaint Fife seaside town of Anstruther on 12 – 14 March 2010.

Sure, it’s months away, but, with a roster that always guarantees an exquisite selection of tasty tunesters, tickets sell quicker than hot cakes on a frosty day in fat camp.

And, just to make sure you put Homegame tickets on your crimbo list, those relentless teases at Fence have dropped one humdinger of a pre-Xmas news nugget.

King Creosote, also known as fence luminary Kenny Anderson, will be playing his newest, as yet unreleased, album My Nth Bit Of Strange In Umpteen Years in its entirety at the Fence bash.

‘So what?’, we hear you holler. Well kids, Mister Anderson is allowing punters at Homegame 7 to record the entire show. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it PirateBay.

Anderson says: “Since the release of Flick The Vs in April I’ve written ten new songs for an album that, for various reasons, I’d rather not record and release in the usual way. Instead I’ve come up with this idea of a live album, and together with Fence drummer Captain Geeko, I performed My First Bit Of Strange In 13 Years in its entirety at the Fence Hallowe’en weekend in front of an invited audience. The members of this audience were asked to record the show for themselves on battery powered equipment, and at my behest these recordings have since been passed around in the hope that they present a poor substitute for the show itself.”

Apparently, Anderson will be playing the 'album' set a shattering seven times due to microscopic venue sizes. The shows will be the only King Creosote ‘gig’ over the weekend and ticket holders will be alloted a specific show to attend.

One interesting stipulation is that each person has to have a recording device of some sort on their personage to access the show. What constitutes a ‘recording device’ in this day and age is anyone’s guess, but if you’ve got one of those web-browsers that also masquerade as a mobile phone we reckon you’re okay.

“This new album will naturally evolve over time, and My Second/Third/Fourth ... Eighth Bits Of Strange In 14 Years will all be performed at Fence Homegame7 by King Creosote with various special guests.” Anderson explains. “That’s seven performances for 40 people at a time over the course of three days. And if recording the show for yourself scares you, we might well have a fortifying wee dram for you during the interval.”

We’re not quite sure how it’s going to work, but the concept of having fans (and, more interestingly perhaps, non-fans) record his album is certainly typical of Anderson’s songsmithery-for-all ethos. And for that, you really do have to admire the man.

Words: Billy Hamilton

Homegame runs from 12 – 14 March 2010. Weekend tickets are £75 and go on sale at Noon on Tuesday 1 December 1, 2009. The full line up will be announced nearer the time. For more news click here

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Sunday, 22 November 2009

On the radar: This Silent Forest

This Silent Forest

Play: Falter Discover

Play: I Have To

This Silent Forest is a three-headed beast*, producing music in a trio of ways: full band, acoustic and orchestral shows.

Headed by lead singer Graeme MacDonald, the five-piece, which includes MacDonalds' sister and Bronto Skylift drummer Iain Stewart, have been making music together since 2008.

“This Silent Forest came together through friends and other bands, a very organic birth,” MacDonald says. “The songs by themselves, just my voice and the acoustic, never sounded as full as they did inside my head, so I formed the band to get the sound I wanted. After a few changes in line-up we are now creating the sound I’m after.”

Simple song structures, along with lyrics that wouldn’t necessarily be filed under 'cryptic', mark This Silent Forest as a band that wears its heart on its sleeve. Folksy guitars and Celtic sounding vocals add to their allure, and it was this sound which helped earn them a place at The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, an event which pairs bands with a 15-piece orchestra at the Old Fruitmarket this week.

“I grew up on the classics of our generation, Queen, Runrig; rock ballads at their best, dad rock", MacDonald laughs. “My mum subjected me to classical music which was amazing, it’s where I get my love of melody I think and I’ve always wanted to play with an orchestra.”

Stepping up their rehearsal regime, the band hope their hard work will pay off with more exciting gigs next year. “I need to practice constantly just to keep up with my band," MacDonald says. "Everyone in the band knows we have to work, work, work to achieve anything; hard work is something that will hopefully make us and me stand out.

“We’ll be in the studio in the New Year recording and then playing shows around the country. We want to play in unusual places, with other great bands and of course we are looking towards the summer festivals.”

* Please note, for the purposes of the article three-headed beast means a band who play in different forms. Please also note, the beast is friendly.

Words: Aimi Gold

This Silent Forest play The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle Showcase at the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow on 25 November.

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Friday, 20 November 2009

Radar recommends: 20 - 26 Nov

Findo Gask
[Findo Gask: bringing their own version of Crufts to Sleazy's on Saturday]

If you live in certain parts of the country, venturing out to a gig is probably the last thing on your agenda, nevermind the fact that you'd need to build some kind of Noah's Arc contraption to go anywhere. But for the rest of us, if you don't mind the whipping wind and lashing rain (and living in Scotland you should be used to it by now) here's this week's gig guide...


The Slipper Room – Mr Choade’s Wild Ride
Monday @ The Tunnels / 8pm / £5
Something a bit different for Aberdeen on a Monday night. The driving force behind the New York Burlesque scene brings a house band made up of members of Belle & Sebastien, the Vaselines and Teenage Fanclub.

Bo Ningen, Amber Pilot, Sarah J Tingle
Wednesday @ The Tunnels / 8pm / £5
Japanese punk rock that The Observer once described as being somewhere between wolves and Nintendo. Supported ably by the quite exciting Amber Pilot and the brilliantly versatile Sarah J Tingle.

Fat Hippy Showcase
Friday @ Café Drummonds / 7.30pm / £3
Local label Fat Hippy put on another night of local talent made up of acts on their roster or who’ve impressed them suitably when using their fine recording studio. Hardest working man in Aberdeen and possessor of a fine voice Nicky Powell headlines with support from Turning 13 and the Marionettes.


Charity Baw
Saturday @ Roxy Art House / 7pm / £10
Raising more cash for Oxfam, this packed line-up of talent includes The Real Tuesday Weld, Aberfeldy, Withered Hand, The Parsonage, Come On Gang!, Big Ned, Little Eskimos and Benni Hemm Hemm. Radio 1's Vic Galloway, The Pictish Trail, On the Fly and Paul Vickers will be DJing. Optional fancy dress theme: Ball Boys and Belles of the Ball.

Field Music, Snide Rhythms, Epic 26
Sunday @ Sneaky Pete's / 7pm / £6.50
Acclaimed experimental indie from North East England.
Also playing Captain's Rest, Glasgow on Saturday.

Good Shoes, Copy Haho, Jesus H Foxx
Thursday @ Electric Circus / 7pm / £8
Copy Haho are cadging a lift around the UK from this London band in November, and for their Edinburgh show they've booked recent UtR stars Jesus H Foxx.
Also playing King Tuts, Glasgow on Tuesday.

Futuristic Retro Champions, Vendor Defendor, Death Trap City
Friday @ Sneaky Pete's / 7pm / £4
Brighten up your Freitag with indie-pop from the headlining Champs.

Tango in the Attic, Pose Victorious
Friday @ Cabaret Voltaire / 7pm / £5
Upbeat indie-pop in the vein of Vampire Weekend - with Fife accents.


**UtR's gig of the week**
Crufts: Yellow Magic Orchestra Tribute
Saturday @ Nice'n'Sleazy / 7.30pm / £tbc
Findo Gask's residency pays homage to the Japanese act, with sets from UtR favourite Tokyo Knife Attack and Adult Emergency.

Aurora Stands In Snow, Conquering Animal Sound
Saturday @ The 13th Note / 9pm / £tbc
If you missed their early and curtailed Oxjam show, here's a chance to get acquainted with the understated allure of Conquering Animal Sound. Aurora Stands In Snow seem to be kindred spirits, judging by their MySpace.

The Little Kicks
Sunday @ Nice'n'Sleazy / 7.30pm / £tbc
Aberdonian indie-pop band who we recently interviewed on our Oxjam podcast while inebriated.

Burnt Island, Rick Redbeard, The Starlets, Autistic Angus
Thursday @ Captain's Rest / 8pm / £tbc
No, their not a tribute to the Fife seaside town. They're the band fronted by novelist Rodge Glass. Support from Phantom Band singer Rick Redbeard and a mystery act with a very un-PC name.

The Pastels, 1990s, Golden Grrrls
Friday @ King Tuts / 8.30pm / £12.50
Glasgow indie stalwarts bring their twee fare to Tuts.

Words: Nick Mitchell, Andrew Learmonth

What have we missed? Tell us below, or add it to our gig guide by emailing

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Thursday, 19 November 2009

Take part in our survey for a chance to win Twilight Sad tickets...

We're trying to learn a bit more about the Scottish music scene, what our readers think of our coverage and who reads our blog, and we would be grateful if you could spare a couple of minutes to take part in our survey.

We have a pair of tickets to give away for The Twilight Sad's pre-Christmas show at Edinburgh's Voodoo Rooms on 15 December courtesy of Synergy Concerts.

One reader will be chosen at random to receive the prize from those who complete the survey.

If you're reading this blog then you probably know how good they are, and this is an unmissable chance to experience their explosive live show at close quarters.

To enter the competition, take part in the survey here »

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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

On the radar: The Unwinding Hours

The Unwinding Hours
[Iain Cook and Craig B in their Aereogramme days]

Play: Knut

Most music fans in Scotland would agree that Aereogramme's end was premature. It was doubly so for me, as I had to leave their farewell gig at the QMU early to catch the last train home.

But their fans - especially the loyal ones who did stay and miss the train - will be buzzing at the news that after a lengthy hiatus two members of the triumphant post-rockers - singer Craig B and guitarist Iain Cook - are returning under the name The Unwinding Hours.

As if to tee up this semi-reformation, the Aereogramme song 'Barriers' soundtracked a recent TV advert, taking the cult Glasgow act to a wider audience than they ever had before. Better late than never?

Singer Craig B thinks it is: "I’m not sure if our record sales have grown at all but what I find interesting is how happy people are that we got used. I think anyone who knew Aereogramme thought we were somehow unlucky to not find success and so to get an advert is a great way for more people to hear what we did. I think the YouTube video has had 241,000 views and that is far more people than we ever played to in our nine-year career."

Far from ending in a blaze of bruised egos and creative differences, Aereogramme broke up after their final album, the presciently titled My Heart Has a Wish That You Would Not Go, failed to haul them up to a higher rung of the ladder. So how does it feel to move on?

"I’m not sure about 'moving on' as such but the chance to work with Iain again after Aereogramme has been very enjoyable since our approach was incredibly relaxed," Craig says. "We weren’t aiming for a new band, we just started writing and it slowly developed into a full album."

As he suggests, the new project seems to have arisen naturally after the initial stock-taking period. "I didn’t pick up the guitar for nearly a year after we split up," Craig recalls. "I just felt I had nothing else to write but it slowly came back and so I started to record some demos at Iain’s studio with no clear aim in mind. We started to collaborate more and the songs started to develop but we were never in any rush to get back into another band so we just kept writing by ourselves."

Only two songs have appeared on The Unwinding Hours' MySpace so far - a demo of 'Solstice', and 'Knut', featured here - but already Craig's vocals are unmistakable, set against a backdrop of slow-building guitar and simple piano patterns. It's more progression than reinvention, as Craig confirms: "There were four people writing in Aereogramme so I’m sure there is a difference but the elements that Iain and I brought haven’t changed that much... I think."

Unlike other new bands, the duo's musical CV already runs to several pages, and their former label have confirmed they will release the debut album next year. "Chemikal Underground were supportive from the start," Craig says. "They always said they would be interested in anything we would do and we have had a great relationship with them for years. They just patiently waited on us finishing the album."

With experience also comes a dose of realism for Craig: "I spent years in Aereogramme feeling constantly frustrated at the lack of progress in comparison to the effort everyone was putting into the band. I really don’t want to go down that road again. I’m incredibly proud of this new album and I’m happy for it to find it’s audience whatever size that might be. Obviously I would love as many people as possible to hear it. We had no expectations when we started this and that has always felt incredibly liberating."

The Unwinding Hours play their first show as part of Celtic Connections at the ABC, Glasgow on 31 January, with a tour pencilled in for later in the year. This time round us East-coasters will just have to take the night bus home.

Words: Nick Mitchell

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Monday, 16 November 2009

On the radar: Thomas Western

Thomas Western

Play: Plough

Play: Your Front Door

Some acts toil for years to make their mark. Others never manage to succeed no matter how hard they try. To their eternal frustration, it has taken singer-songwriter Thomas Western less than a month to become the talk of the town.

Having moved from Derbyshire to Edinburgh for a spot of postgraduate study and musical adventure, Western’s first month was a whirlwind of activity. He got his first local radio appearance, had his EP in several shops, featured on some prominent blogs and managed to become ‘musician in residence’ at the capital’s much loved Bowery venue.

Not all of this was part of a master plan, as Western happily admits. On his serendipitous Bowery meeting after a Jesus H Foxx gig, he says: “I met Ruth who runs the place, and half-jokingly asked if I could play every week. She said yes”.

As part of the link-up, Western will also produce an album - another unique offshoot of the collaboration between performer and venue. “The plan is for me to write three songs each week to play, then to record and release them as an album at the end of it all”, he enthuses.

After starting out as a drummer, Western has moved on to solo work, although he admits he was “too scared for a long time”. But he says that this also acts as a spur: “In playing by myself I am totally accountable to myself and if the music isn’t good enough, then it is my responsibility to work harder at it”.

Western’s musical style is, at times, similar to the 1960s San Francisco folk scene epitomised by Tim Buckley - his vocal style is also not dissimilar, singing in octaves other artists would never dare attempt.

Citing his influences as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Will Oldham and Jeff Buckley, it's easy to see where the inspiration has come from in tracks like ‘Plough’ and ‘Your Front Door’, the latter featuring on Western’s wonderfully homemade and packaged EP ‘Quite Early One Morning’. There is also something charming and old fashioned about finding a CD in a shop which appears to be made from paper and UHU glue, potentially falling apart at any moment.

Western plans to release a solo album in addition to his Bowery sessions album. Beyond that, he doesn’t rule out playing as part of a band again. “There is a joy to playing with other people that is lacking from solo performance, so I would really love to get an ensemble together at some point," he says. "It is dependent on meeting the right people though."

Given how much Thomas Western has achieved in the short time he has lived in Scotland, by this time next year he could be running the country, although surely he's too honest for that.

Words: Stevie Kearney

Thomas Western’s EP is available from emusic and iTunes, as well as Avalanche in Edinburgh. His Bowery album will be released later this year and his first full solo album is due to be recorded in early 2010.

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Friday, 13 November 2009

Radar recommends: 14 - 20 Nov

Withered Hand
[Dan Willson aka Withered Hand: solo show on Tuesday]

Glaswegians are well covered for live music this weekend (see our Define Pop preview a few posts down the page). But they're not the only ones with a few gig-going dilemmas this week. There's plenty going on in Edinburgh tomorrow night, and even Aberdeen is showing off an amply filled calendar. (Although that's partly because we have enlisted local knowledge this week.)

Smokin’ Catfish
Saturday @ The Blue Lamp / 9pm / £5(£3)
If you’re into banjos, double bass, fiddles and four part harmonies then head down to see Aberdeen’s premier bluegrass band. In fairness they’re probably Aberdeen’s only bluegrass band but they are really, very good.

Kashmir Red
Saturday @ Cafe Drummonds / 8pm / £6
The normally ubiquitous Kashmir Red have been quiet of late but they’re back with a headlining gig at Cafe Drummonds this Saturday. Expect lots of Red Stripe and trendy jeans for some music that Noel Gallagher thought was so good he tweeted it.

Daniel Padden & The One Ensemble, Sarah Kenchington, Matricarians
Sunday @ Peacock Visual Arts / 8pm / £8(£6)
The Peacock website was down when I was compiling this so I can’t give too much detail but essentially composer Daniel Padden will be playing with Sarah Kenchington and the new band from Alan 'Kitchen Cynic', the Matricians, to a film from the award-winning Matt Hulse.

Sunday @ Kilau / 8pm / FREE
They’ve only had four or five gigs but already people are talking about these two musicians. A little bit like the Swell Season, they specialize in beautiful music and lovely harmonies.

Trashcan Sinatras, Brother Louis Collective, The Seventeenth Century
Monday @ The Warehouse / 7pm / £10
Trashcan Sinatras tour their well received new album and single, with excellent support from two UtR tipped bands.

Francois & The Atlas Mountains, The Balky Mule, Rozi Plain
Wednesday @ The Tunnels / 8pm / £6
Trombones, casio keyboards and lovely, lovely music from Bristol’s Francois & The Atlas Mountains, with support from friends The Balky Mule and the Fence Collective’s Rozi Plain.

An evening with Chemikal Underground Records
Friday @ The Lemon Tree / 7.30pm / £15
Sound Festival presents this showcase of the legendary Glasgow label's newest acts The Phantom Band and Martin John Henry, with an encouraging pat on the shoulder from stalwarts Aidan Moffat and founder Emma Pollock.

Trampoline: Panda Su, John B McKenna, The Last Battle
Saturday @ Wee Red Bar / 7pm / £5 (£3)
This month's instalment of the Edinburgh night features fast-rising Fifer Panda Su, the weird and wonderful McKenna and new Edinburgh band The Last Battle.

Espers, The Cave Singers,Woods
Saturday @ Electric Circus / 7pm / £12
The 'Shred Yr Face 2' tour rolls up in Reekie, promising psychedelic folk aplenty.
Also playing at Stereo, Glasgow on Friday

The Fatalists, United Fruit, Vchecka
Saturday @ The Voodoo Rooms / 8pm / Free
Don't know much about The Fatalists yet but with United Fruit on the bill this will probably be a reverb-heavy gig all round.

Sunday @ Sneaky Pete's / 7pm / £5
Hipster indie disco all the way from Sydney, Australia.

Cymbals Eat Guitars, North Atlantic Oscillation
Monday @ Sneaky Pete's / 7pm / £7
Staten Island tikes who worship at the alter of Malkmus, plus the UtR approved NAO.

Conquering Animal Sound, Aurora Stands In Snow, Molly Wagger
Friday @ The Bowery / 7.30pm / £5
If you missed their early and curtailed Oxjam show, here's a chance to get acquainted with the understated allure of Conquering Animal Sound. Aurora Stands In Snow seem to be kindred spirits, judging by their MySpace.

The Hussys
Saturday @ Sleazys / 8pm / £TBC
80s sounding electro-pop from self –titled loose woman.

The Northwestern
Sunday @ Captain's Rest / TBC / £6
This new band only formed in June this year. Go support them in their infancy.

The Flaming Lips
Sunday @ o2 academy / TBC / £22
If you haven’t managed to see them live yet do it. They put on one of the best shows going – giant bubbles, pyrotechnics and, knowing these guys, flying pigs.

Laura Marling
Sunday @ The Arches / 7pm / Sold out
Shouldn’t even post this really, it’s just going to make you sad that you’re missing out.

The King Hats
Sunday @ King Tuts / 8pm / £6
Good Kings come in threes - King Tuts for the King Hats who are signed to King Tuts recordings. Ah, I love a bad pun.

**UtR's gig of the week**
The Antlers, Withered Hand, Tangles
Tuesday @ The 13th Note / TBC / £5
If you haven’t already, check out Brooklyn band The Antlers' album Hospice which is beautifully sad, yet lovely and uplifting right through to the bones. Some nice supports too.

Joe Lally
Wednesday @ Stereo / 8pm / £6
With Fugazi still on hiatus, fans can take comfort from watching their bassist showcase his solo work.

Washington Irving
Thursday @ Oran Mor / 8pm / FREE
Folky-pop for free. We featured them last week so have a wee read if you need to be convinced.

The Boy Who Trapped the Sun
Thursday @ King Tuts / 7.15pm / Free
Every Thursday of November sees this soloist host an acoustic event – Cold Night Songs. Go down and reason with him to give us the sun back so we don’t have to suffer the winter.

Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire
Friday @ Oran Mor / 7pm / £10
Poppy offerings from ‘Scotland’s best-kept secret’. You’ll probably like it, everyone loves a secret.

Words: Aimi Gold, Andrew Learmonth, Nick Mitchell

What have we missed? Tell us below, or add it to our gig guide by emailing


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Thursday, 12 November 2009

Editorial: Does thinking local mean staying local?

'local band'
[Somewhere else's 'local band']

This editorial is born more out of bewilderment than anything else. You know that feeling when somebody shatters the zen-like equilibrium you’ve been maintaining for as long as your well-pickled memory bank can stretch back to? Well, that’s exactly how we’re feeling right now.

To paint the picture, we were recently contacted by an editor of a well known, well respected UK music publication (which will remain nameless) asking whether we could write a 500-word feature on a Scottish band that had been tickling our music-loving tastebuds lately. The reason being that his much read periodical was sorely lacking in north of the border coverage.

As staunch tub-thumpers of the local scene, we readily agreed to this mutually beneficial proposal and responded with a list of four bands we think are worthy of national press exposure (again, for the sake of dignity, these four bands will remain anonymous, but rest assured we’ve featured the quartet prominently over the last year). The response was not quite what we’d expected.

Depressingly, not one of our suggestions was deemed an adequate candidate for a meagre 500-word feature. Not one. That’s four bands we’ve lobbied for on this blog; four bands that a host of Scottish rags/zines, including The Skinny, The List, Glasgow PodcART, and Song, by Toad, have variously championed with considerable relish; four bands that regularly sardine-pack punters into sweat-soaked caverns on both the east and west coast. In other words, sure-fire winners. Or not?

See, when you’re writing about bands from the local scene that’s exactly how you think about it - a band from the local scene. There’s no heed paid to how they will fare in the big, bad world. Not a moment of consideration is given to whether the music making miscreants stood before you could actually sink or swim in the shark infested waters of the wider musical ocean. You just think: This is here. This is now. This is great.

But is it?

Our experience of the editorial cold-shoulder, despite running through a slew of potential caveats (“oh, he didn’t hear the right MySpace songs” or “oh, he mustn’t like those types of music”), suggests we could all be kidding ourselves. Think about it, this was a music editor proactively seeking a Scottish band to feature. Someone who WANTED (and probably still wants) to focus on bands up here. Yet when four of our finest were put forward, they were rejected. And it wasn’t just a flat out rejection. No, it was worse. It was complete and utter ambivalence.

Scotland’s microcosmic music scene may benefit from an approving environment that will always stand by its own, but is this the foolhardy response of myopic parochialism? Are we all (and by ‘all’ we mean media, promoters and fans) draping an invisible cloak of praise over our bands and allowing them to be found out in unforgiving, un-hoodwinkable climes? Christ, are we taking part in the Emperor’s New Clothes of music journalism?

Perhaps the proof lies in the grotesquely overcooked pudding that is the mainstream media. How many Scottish acts can you name that have stacked up column inches in the national press in recent times. Off the top of our heads we’ve got The View, The Fratellis, Glasvegas and Paolo Nutini. A sorry cast of major label signed acts, you’d have to agree. Lagging behind is The Twilight Sad, Frightened Rabbit and We Were Promised Jetpacks – three bands with one common denominator: they’re all signed to (the admittedly brilliant) FatCat, a Brighton-based record label.

So why are local label-tied acts being completely disregarded by the national press corps? Perhaps it’s that age-old adage that southern music journalists can’t push their hyperbole-scrawling pens past London? Or maybe, just maybe, our music scene needs to open itself up to more holistic thinking. Rather than sucking tight on the teat of the Scottish music scene’s ever-giving bosom, bands should think about advancing outside their comfort zone by getting gigs in places where they know they’ll have to work to win over a non fawning rash of sour-chopped tykes.

And what can we in the regional media do to help? Well, rather than meeting each promising new act with a stream of superlatives, it could be time to cut the crap and do some contextualising. To get bands ‘on the radar’ perhaps we need to let them know where they stand in the bigger picture instead of appraising them through a tartan-tinted microscope. And if so, then UtR has some significant changes ahead, as do those residing in the same cul-de-sac of online music journalism.

Of course, we still stand by every one of these four bands. And in our staunch, undoubtedly Scottish, resolve, there remains an element of doubt gnawing away at the back of our brainboxes that says: it’s not us that got it wrong, it was them. Maybe that’s the way we’ll always see it.

Words: UtR

What do YOU think?
Are we all blinkered in the way we view our local music scene?
Are the national tastemakers shortsighted in their outlook?


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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

On the radar: Other People

Other People

Play: Whooplash

Play: Halloween

Other People are in no hurry.

Their music may have a certain chaotic urgency, but they're quite content to take things at their own pace.

"When we started the band we faffed about a bit. Then we faffed about some more," jokes singer and guitarist Andrew Manson. "We played our first gig in April this year and have managed to cram five more in between then and now, a work rate described as 'sports casual'. It's all been pretty relaxed so far, enjoyable even."

Scrambling together Other People by poaching from other (people's) bands, Manson explains their beginnings:

"When we first got together we sat down and talked about what we wanted the music to sound like, I think we ended up with half-drunk concepts like 'a cross between In Utero and Oracular Spectacular' or 'Pixies crossed with The Beach Boys'. Squint pop songs with loud guitars really. So far it's ended up more a mix of David Bowie and L7. And Bruce, our drummer, is a whizz in the studio, so he can really capture that Paramore sound!"

There are glints of Johnny Foreigner and Dananananaykroyd in the punchy vocals and pitched guitars, but Other People are actually more controlled than both bands. Fight-pop with a restraining order if you want to label it.

Suffering from intense memory weakness, recording is a welcomed necessity for Other People: "We are recording at the moment, not to release, just so we don't forget the songs." laughs Manson.

"We have ten now, and a lot of new stuff that seems to be progressing really quickly all of a sudden. If we don't commit the ones we already know to some sort of recording then we will forget them. The band has a ten song memory, no more, no less. Which is just as well, because a lot of great records are ten songs long."

Live is where Other People are best heard, with Andrew's vocal range and tone a driving force behind the songs; in 'Whooplash' he sounds like a weekend drunk reeling off his shopping list. If you're not sure what to drink at the pub, have a wee listen above for inspiration. You might even see Other People at the table beside you, with Manson explaining their future plans:

"We'd like to to meet more often socially. To play to more people, maybe more than once a month, in different cities. To get on tour and come back smelling more competent. To think about what we have done, and do it better. And, to find a nice girl for our bassist Dave."

We'll leave most of that to them. And ladies, the last point is over to you.

Words: Aimi Gold

Other People play Define Pop 2 at the Flying Duck (Kitchen Stage), Glasgow at around 7.30pm on Saturday. See preview below.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Radar recommends: Define Pop 2

Define Pop 2There is much to challenge our collective happiness in the final months of the year.

As ever, the nights are drawing in, the weather is worsening, shops are taunting us with premature displays of Yuletide faux-cosiness, while the once important Christmas number one will inevitably fall to 'Jedward' or one of the other semi-human droids in that inescapable Saturday night tele-oke.

So it's just as well Define Pop returns this weekend with another mini-fest of live music to raise our dampened spirits.

Once again the Define Pop crew have assembled a range of acts that cross the boundaries of underground Scottish music. If you're into indie-pop or post-folk, you'll probably head for the Living Room stage, where you'll find UtR favourites like Yahweh, The Second Hand Marching Band and Esperi.

But if you're more of an adrenaline junkie (not in the Top Gear sense), you'll be more at home at the Kitchen stage, where the likes of Dead Boy Robotics, Pooch and The Morgue Party Candidate will aim to raise the BPM.

It all happens at The Flying Duck in Glasgow on Saturday and Sunday, with doors opening at 4pm. Tickets are priced at £7 each day, available here.

And check back tomorrow for an interview with one of the bands on the bill.

The full line-up is as follows...


Living Room Stage:
Kid Canaveral / Vendor Defender / Kochka / The Costapeens / Mickey 9's / Louise Against The Elements / Miniature Dinosaurs

Kitchen Stage:
Young Aviators / Gdansk / The Morgue Party Candidate / Pacific Theatre / Other People / The Blessed Order Of Fallen Stars / Make Sparks / Little Yellow Ukeleles


Living Room Stage:
Yahweh / Second Hand Marching Band / The Lava Experiments / Diamond Sea / Julia and the Doogans / Esperi / Incrediboy and The Forget Me Nots / Lovers Turn To Monsters

Kitchen Stage Sunday:
Pooch / Nevada Base / Stereo Grand / Dead Boy Robotics / Lad Lazarus / Fridge Magnets / Marshall Chipped

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Monday, 9 November 2009

On the radar: Ambulances

AmbulancesThe debate over the power of the web in promoting new bands just keeps on going.

But when your MySpace page convinces a renowned producer to fly from New York to Scotland to record your debut album, you can pretty much put a tick in the “pro” column.

For Ambulances, that's just what happened when Kramer got in touch. You might recognise the name from some of his former clients: Low, Daniel Johnston, Galaxie 500, Jon Spencer... even GWAR.

“He said he'd do anything to work with us,” explains Ambulances singer Sara Colsoton, “so we hired a cottage in the country, made a big pan of soup, set up our instruments and Kramer arrived with a teapot and laptop ready to go.”

Play: Come With Us

What emerged eight days later was Ambulances' dreamy, laid-back, stunning self-titled album, which Kramer describes as “a post modern psychedelic masterpiece”.

“We didn't plan anything with regards to what tracks to record,” Sara says. “Whoever wasn't sleeping, or walking the dog, or collecting logs for the fire, played on whatever song, and in a week we had 14 done.

“Rather than huff and puff over what to put on the album, we just put it all out there cos that's how it fell together.”

The six-piece – Sara is joined by guitarists and vocalists Scott Lyon, Graham Jack and Chris Miezitis, bassist Stephen Oswald and drummer Al Fraser – hail from Fife.

Sara says: “It's just a wee place, and you gravitate towards folk with a similar outlook on things. We were all drawn to the same places, so it was inevitable that we'd be drawn together.

“The band just came from enjoying each other's company and listening to each other's records – anything from Ivor Cutler and Robert Wyatt to the Beach Boys, Kate Bush, Gram Parsons and old reggae stuff.”

Play: How Could You Leave Me Here?

As far as promotion goes, they have a similar style: “We just take things as they come. If anyone offers us something and we can make it, we'll be there.

“People are only just starting to hear about us now. Hopefully some of them will like what they hear and we'll get to play for them. We're just back from supporting Damo Suzuki in London which was a huge thrill.”

Ambulances are also “doing wee bits and bobs” with fellow Fifer Steve Mason and will record some new material in the new year. “The Beta Band were always trying new things, and we definitely want to push things in different directions," Sara promises. "So we can't wait to see what comes from that”.

Words: Elaine Liddle

See Ambulances live at the Greenside in Leslie on November 27

Play: What I Thought Of

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Friday, 6 November 2009

Radar Recommends: 7 - 13 Nov

[Japandroids: heating up Edinburgh on Friday]

Avid readers of this blog may be confused. Yes, this is Radar Recommends, but no, it isn't Sunday. Better than that, it's Friday evening, and you still have the whole weekend ahead of you. Hurrah.

To make things clear, we've moved the gig guide forward as a trial this week. We'll see if it likes its Friday slot enough to lay down a deposit and move in.

sound festival
Until 22 Nov @ various venues
This festival aims to 'broaden your musical horizons'. A grand ambition, if it works.

Meursault, Holy Folks, Debutant
Monday @ The Tunnels / 8pm / £5
Edinburgh's Meursault mix up delicate banjos and searing beats to great effect. But you knew that.

Broken Records
Wednesday @ Café Drummonds / 8pm / £8.50
Earnest love songs and Balkan-folk gestures from these Edinburgh lads done good.
Also playing: Perth on Tuesday, Inverness on Thursday and Glasgow on Sunday.

Thursday @ The Tunnels / 8pm / £tbc
Are you man enough for the 'wall of cuddles'? Find out at one of Dana's typically anarchic shows.
Also playing The Ironworks, Inverness on Friday

The Go Away Birds, Adam Stafford & Louise Hendry
Saturday @ Henry's Cellar Bar / 7.30pm / £tbc
Side projects ahoy! Catherine Ireton, also one half of God Help the Girl, joins up with Zoey Van Goey guitarist Michael John McCarthy. And you might know Adam Stafford from his YiFi exploits.
Also playing Brel, Glasgow on Sunday

Citizens, Hosemox, Munchkins
Sunday @ Henry's Cellar Bar / 8pm / £4
We bigged up Citizens last month, so check out their post-hardcore racket in this intimate, potentially deafening setting.

The Proclaimers
Tuesday & Wednesday @ Usher Hall / 7.30pm / £22.50-25
What kind of a Scottish music blog would we be if we didn't mention Fife's finest musical twins? I ask you.
Also playing Aberdeen on Saturday, Perth on Monday and Glasgow on Friday

The Specials
Thursday @ Corn Exchange / 7pm / £32.50
Another group of veterans that definitely ain't Scottish. Priced at, cough, £32 quid, this is probably one for the die-hards.

Cuddly Shark
Wednesday @ Henry's Cellar Bar / 8pm / £4
90s slacker rock from this Glasgow trio.

The Graham Coxon Power Acoustic Ensemble
Thursday @ The Queen's Hall / 7.30pm / £16.50
Blur guitarist goes all mellow on us, with help from Robyn Hitchcock and chums.

**UtR's gig of the week**
This is Music: Japandroids, Super Adventure Club, Bronto Skylift
Friday @ Sneaky Pete's / 8pm - 3am / £3 (members free after midnight)
The monthly gig/club regulars have pulled out a corker of a line-up this time, with Vancouver duo Japandroids leading the charge.

Take a Worm for a Walk Week, Hey Enemy, The Ballad of Mable Wong
Saturday @ Nice'n'Sleazy / 8.30pm / £tbc
Love metal riffs and don't mind having your personal space invaded? Take a Worm are the delicious noise you're looking for. And they have a great name.

Action Group
Sunday @ The 13th Note / 9pm / £4
Synth, keys and violin all thrown together - in a funky pop way, it works.

Meursault, Barn Owl, Brother Louis Collective, Olympic Swimmers
Tuesday @ The 13th Note / 9pm / £tbc
How nice! Not one nor two nor three but four bands who've been featured on UtR all playing together. And a chance to hear Meursault's new Nothing Broke EP live too.

Jay Reatard, Paper Planes
Wednesday @ King Tuts / 8.30pm / £8
UtR-tipped Paper Planes pick up a sweet support slot with the scruffy punk from Tennessee.

Make Love, The Ballad of Mabel Wong, Lyons, Monoganon, Mr Peppermint, Fox Gut Daata
Thursday @ Stereo / 8pm / £6
Monoganon is the fantastic John B McKenna playing tunes with some pals - and the rest of this night is a lovely mix of acousticy-to-noisy electro goodness.

A Place to Bury Strangers, Japandroids
Thursday @ Captain's Rest / 8pm / £6
Total sonic annihilation promised from New Yorkers APtBS, plus two-piece fuzz fun from Japandroids.

The Cave featuring: Black Rat Death Squad, Russell and the Wolves, Suicide Party
Friday @ The Flying Duck / 8.30pm / £5(£4)
Raucous riffs from the theatrical BRDS, kicking off a new garage/surf/punk club for the Duck.

The Fall
Friday and Saturday @ The Ferry / 8pm / £25 (for two nights)
Can you handle two whole nights of Mark E Smith and his latest incarnation of a backing band? Sounds like hell to me - but heaven to plenty.

Words: Elaine Liddle, Nick Mitchell

What have we missed? Tell us below, or add it to our gig guide by emailing

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Vote for us! (if you want to that is)

Vote for us!You may remember all that moaning we did about awards ceremonies a while ago? Well we take it all back. Awards are great, especially when we're in the running for them.

Yes, apparently we're in the shortlist for the 'Breaking Music writer of the year' category of the Record of the Day awards, which cover music journalism and PR.

So if you like what we do, we'd be much obliged if you could click here and cast your vote.

The form asks for your name, company and email and then you skip through the various categories, but it's not as laborious as it first seems.

There are only three more days to vote, so get clicking.

/Self-promotion ends

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Thursday, 5 November 2009

On the radar: Washington Irving

Washington Irving

Play: The Magician

Play: It Creeps

It makes sense for us to be talking about Washington Irving.

Not only is their name being bandied about Glasgow town, a number of them are in bands we’ve covered recently (My Cousin I Bid You Farewell and The John Knox Sex Club), and to top it all they make music in the vein of some of Scotland’s best and most successful indie-pop exporters.

Think Belle and Sebastian or Camera Obscura: simple yet poignant lyrics, sung in a broad Scottish accent, that sit nicely over the accompanying plucky guitars and flute trills.

Alongside the usual staples they have a unique mix of instrumentation that includes the singing saw, piccolo, mandolin and a mixture of melodicas, maracas and a bouzouki, which is a traditional, pear-shaped, stringed, Greek instrument (thanks Wikipedia).

But far from rendering them obscure or difficult, this folk sound is commercial enough to make a mainstream crossover seem tangible, as drummer, Chris McGarry, explains:

“We’re more influenced by Scottish and Irish folk than American folk. Our songs lend themselves well to an energetic drunken hootenanny. Crowds have recently started flailing around frantically at our gigs. At the single launch of 'The Magician', Joe's (the singer) mum was almost crushed by a bunch of rowdy shinty players!”

When they’re not playing host to potential parental murder the band have found time to record and release some of their material, recently working with Marcus Mackay, who put the first Frightened Rabbit album to tape.

“We also want to get lots of new songs into the set and onto record,” McGarry says.

“We recorded a single with Marcus earlier in the year. He's just built a new studio, the Diving Bell #2, which we went to visit the other week. Hopefully we'll be recording there soon.

“We also plan to play more gigs outside of Glasgow, go back to Inverness, Edinburgh and Aberdeen soon. Tours hopefully, up and down the country, coast to coast, nationwide."

So there you have it. Now you get talking about them too.

Words: Aimi Gold

Want to see Washington Irving live with your own eyes?
Go to The Mill at Oran Mor on 19 Nov and you'll see them with Anna Meldrum - tickets are free, text MILL44K to 82500 to claim a couple. Or see them acoustic with Jeremy Warmsley in Brel on 5 Nov. Lasty, they also play The Bowery in Edinburgh on 5 December with Sebastian Dangerfield and We Were Promised Jetpacks (acoustic solo).

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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Halls of fame: The Queen's Hall

Queen's Hall

It's a cliché you often hear from fledgling reviewers, but live music at its best can seem like a religious experience.

One such occasion for me was watching Spiritalized singer Jason Pierce's comeback show at the Queen's Hall a few years ago, when he gave his normally raucous repertoire the semi-acoustic, gospel choir treatment.

But it wasn't just the music that was the trigger for the emotive impact of the night; the venue was just as important.

The Queen's Hall opened under the intriguing title of the Hope Park Chapel of Ease in 1823, and it continued as a church under several names until its closure in 1976. The gig venue opened in its present guise after substantial refurbishment in 1979. With its narrow upper tier and church-like seating plan, it has retained its character of old, and marketing manager Andy Catlin believes this is what appeals to musicians.

"Bands love the atmosphere, the intimacy and the acoustics of the venue. Audiences love being able to be close to artists as well as being able to hear them at their best," he says.

Although known as a platform for classical, folk and jazz music, Catlin believes the venue also has a part to play in Edinburgh's local band scene: "We do have a role supporting all types of musicians - classical music only makes up around 25% of our overall programme. We've previously hosted local events like Battle Of The Bands and Spectrum, which is where Broken Records first played as an unknown band and now can sell out the Queen's Hall [pictured above].

"We do work with literally all types of musicians - indie, jazz, folk, roots, pop, country, blues, classical, world - and would like to do more with young bands. It's about finding the right set-up for them working in a 900-seat venue."

As for the Queen's Hall's future on the capital's notoriously changeable live music circuit (latest casualty reported by Song by Toad here), Catlin says the priority is to secure reliable support from its funders and to "start on £7 million building redevelopment plans which would make the bar a lot nicer and create a small second space that we could use for rehearsals or working with emerging artists."

And as if to prove that a century old former church is perfectly at home in the 21st century, the Queen's Hall is also an avid Twitterer.

Words: Nick Mitchell

A perfomer's memory...

Scott HutchisonFrightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison played the venue during the Edge festival in August. The experience defied his expectations.

"I always thought The Queens Hall might be a bit too posh to have us play. What with its rather reverend pew-style seating and the right royal title, I thought it may be too dignified for a band that says 'c***' sometimes and 'f***' a fair bit more.

"Yet the night we played turned out to be one of the most raucous in the history of the band. The place may well have had beautiful acoustics, I just couldn't really hear the specifics over the sheer volume of the audience singing the words back. The whole evening somewhat overwhelmed us, yet there was a homely feel.

"When you travel about a bit and see various venues, it strikes you that most them are pretty shite. 90% of them are just a room with some speakers in them, one blue light, one red, one yellow and that classic aroma of ammonia and bleach. The other 10% is where the Queens Hall sits: stately yet hip, warm, woody and not even a bit wanky. What a f***ing wonderful c*** of a night!"

An UtR writer's memory...

Lisa-Marie Ferla: You know how your favourite music can act as a time machine, transporting you back to some of the most important nights of your life? I might only have been to one gig at the Queen's Hall, but since it was the night my two best friends got together (Ani diFranco with Hammell on Trial, 4th June 2003) it's probably one of the most memorable I've ever attended.

The hall was set out like some old time lounge bar, with us seated at candlelit tables and Ani - smaller than I thought she'd be from her powerful songs that were all I was listening to at the time - mere feet from us.

We stayed at some small hotel I can't remember the name of, and drank red wine from sugar bowls because there weren't enough glasses to go round. My friends have had some tough times lately, but over six years on and they're happier than ever.

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What's your favourite venue in Scotland?
Where should we feature next?

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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

On the radar: Black International

Black International

Play: Dread Excerpt

Play: Idle Worship

Compiling a weekly listings guide can be a thankless task. No matter how thoroughly you’ve drained the internet’s information-drenched well, there’ll always be someone out there to spot that ‘must see’ show you’ve omitted. And by god, do you hear ALL about it.

Despite the music-nerd policia's omnipotent threat, an afternoon of well-honed gig scouring sometimes uncovers a band that can penetrate even the weariest ear-canal. A band very much like Black International.

By shovelling fuzzed-up guitars and clattering drums down an acrid hole of industrialised post-punk, the Edinburgh based trio make for a welcome antithetical thrill compared to the city’s gentile folk exterior. So the question is: where the hell have they been hiding for so long?

“Have you ever found a band that you thought none of your friends had ever heard before, and you keep them a secret until you feel the time is right to initiate a deserving few?” frontman Stewart Allan asks of a curiously perplexed UtR. “ We want to be that band, a band that people listen to in their rooms at night while they plot their escape from whatever tedious rituals they find themselves doing in order to scrape through life."

It’s an intriguing, if not perilous, MO for a fledgling act to embrace. By entrenching themselves in the curious niche that attracts those of a more refined musical palate, Black International could quickly find themselves sinking down the sands of oblivion if they don’t satisfy the hipster droves. Not that they’re worried. Far from it:

“It seems like everyone plays an instrument these days, and it’s difficult to walk down the street without tripping over a load of white, middle-class boys with shiny guitars,” snarls Allan. “Unfortunately, not everyone is a true musician, and it helps occasionally to see a band that do something a bit more interesting than a three chord thrash and orchestrated stage invasions. Of course, we’re not really musicians either - we just pretend to be and hope no-one notices.”

Just over three years old, the band’s clatter of drone and gristle is gradually surfacing in a city drowning with artists desperate to be heard. So what does Allan make of this rash of new music now sitting on his porch?

“I think the Scottish music scene is perhaps the strongest it’s ever been, maybe since they got rid of lead pipes in tenements peoples’ brains have been less prone to damage,” he splutters heroically. “Also, a lot of older Scottish bands are enjoying a resurgence, bands like Josef K, Orange Juice and the Fire Engines, and I suppose a fair few people are inspired by that, the idea that these guys were doing great stuff 30 years ago and that Scottish music isn’t just the jock-rock and limp white soul that lots of us grew up with.”

As for the future, Allan wants only for simple things: “It’s always going to be more difficult for a band in Edinburgh to get recognition from a Glasgow-centric media, but I suppose developing a cheeky wee following across the country and then having the opportunity to look a bit further afield would be a good starting point for any band in our position,” he states reasonably before adding : “I’d just like to make it clear that we’re all exceptionally nice boys, and that we always wear clean underpants.”

Words: Billy Hamilton

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Sunday, 1 November 2009

Radar recommends: 1 - 7 Nov

The Second Hand Marching Band
[Second Hand Marching Band: play Glasgow this week]

So, All Hallows Eve - what a let down. All we wanted was a few ghoulishly-garbed scamps telling us jokes in exchange for teeth-rotting treats. Instead, our doorstep experienced the same pin-dropping silence that greeted Yvette Fielding in her foolhardy attempt to awaken the afterlife (come on, SHE is clearly the spectre!). Still, at least we've got enough Haribo to gorge on until Christmas. Next up it's bonfire night and by the looks of these shows there's more than enough fireworks on display for everyone...

Jeremy Warmsley
Monday @ The Tunnels / 8pm / £5
Sickeningly cute indie-electro-poppery from this hotly tipped Londonite.


Friday @ Moshulu / 7pm / £15
Anyone else yearn for the return of 'You're So Fragile' era Idlewild? Us too. Also playing Dundee on Monday.

Quiver and the Ladysnatchers
Wednesday @ The Doghouse / 7.30pm / £5
Quirky, algorithmic punk pop doused from the excellently entitled ensemble.

French Wives
Sunday @ Sneaky Pete's / 7pm / TBC
The terrific French Wives host a wee shindig for the release of debut single Dogfight/Halloween.

Kurran and the Wolfnotes, Ex-Lovers
Sunday @ Electric Circus / 7pm / £6
Shh... a special acoustic showing from this London-dwelling duo.

Leith Folk Club featuring Katy Moffatt
Tuesday @ The Village / 7.30pm / £8
A November's eve delight of folk-infused blues from Texan Katy Moffatt.

White Noise featuring Gliss, The Gothenburg Address
Tuesday @ Electric Circus / 10pm / £4
Late night decibel-shattering sonics that will continue to ring in your lugs long after the gig is done

Esperi, The Kays Lavelle, Noiserv
Wednesday @ Wee Red Bar / 7pm / £4
Forward thinking folk-pop ditties with a hint of avant-garde at the Wee Red.

Jimmy Webb

Friday @ Queen's Hall / 7pm / £26.50
Anyone remember The Webb Brothers? Well, Jimmy is their old man.

Annie Stevenson, Paper Planes, The Diversons
Friday @ Whistle Binkies / 9.45pm / Free
A Friday night feast of punk pop exuberance.

The Bowery's first birthday party featuring Meursault and Withered Hand
Saturday @ The Bowery / 6pm / £5
Celebrate The Bowery's first year with two bands that have their roots buried in its art-deco halls.

The Go Away Birds

Saturday @ Henry's Cellar Bar / 7pm / £5
EP launch for this heart-string plucking duo.

The Ray Summers, Tango In The Attic, The Rioteers
Saturday @ Sneaky Pete's / 7pm / £6
The Ray Summers are a band that, according to the News of the World, is more fun than a pillow fight between Katy Perry and Britney Spears. We doubt it.

Dananananaykroyd, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Stage Blood
Tonight @ Oran Mor / 7.30pm / £8
Homecoming show for adored local noisemakers. Support comes from the frankly bonkers Dinosaur Pile-Up, and Stage Blood’s suitably spooky post-Halloween garage rock.

** UtR's Gig of the Week**
Glasgow PodcART Presents:
Yahweh, Esperi, Debutant, Panda Su
Sunday @ Classic Grand / 7.30pm / £5
It’s East meets West at the Classic Grand tonight, as the lovely PodcART folks present some of their favourites from the other end of the M8. Yahweh’s ghostly, beautiful melodies combine acoustic with electronic samples, while Debutant specialises in ambient sound. The quirkly, childlike Esperi will launch his debut EP at the show, and the gorgeous Panda Su completes the line-up.

Pablo Eskimo, Kontroband
Sunday @ Macsorley’s / 8pm / FREE
Joyous local pop-punk.

Grizzly Bear, St Vincent
Monday @ ABC / 7pm / £15
Recent Warp signings promote their latest album, the lo-fi experimental Veckatimest. Annie Clark’s unique vocal talents provide the support.

Kurran and the Wolfnotes
, Ex-Lovers, Ardentjohn, Julia and the Doogans
Monday @ King Tut’s / 8.30pm / £6
London-based alt-folk act top an intriguing bill, which also includes Ex-Lovers’ dark pop sounds and Scottish folk-pop masters Ardentjohn and Julia and the Doogans.

Secondhand Marching Band, Esperi, Noiserv
Monday @ Captain’s Rest / 8pm / £5
How many Second Hand Marching Banders can you fit in your mobile phone viewfinder? Find out on Monday night – taking part in the multi-headed indiefolk colossus’ video experiment gets you your ticket money back.

The Shaky Hands, Laki Mera, Greg Whalen
Wednesday @ Captain’s Rest / 8pm / £5
Portland, Oregon indiepop, with support from the experimental Laki Mera and Greg Whalen.

Damien Jurado, Zoey van Goey
Thursday @ Stereo / 8pm / £10
Melancholy folk-rock from Seattle-based singer-songwriter. Glasgow trio provide a local connection.

Luke Haines
Thursday @ Captain’s Rest / 8pm / £10
Auteurs frontman slash Britpop legend performs acerbic, witty songs from new album 21st Century Man.

Yo La Tengo, Euros Child
Friday @ ABC / 7pm / £14
US indie legends showcase their latest album, with support from former Gorky’s frontman Euros Childs.

Words: Billy Hamilton, Lisa-Marie Ferla

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