Over the last 12 months the online version of Under the Radar (UtR) has grown from an irregularly updated blog manned by one lonely journalist to a multimedia micro-site with daily contributions from writers across the country.
But this isn’t (all) about blowing our own trumpet. No, this is a glowing reflection of the Scottish music scene’s particularly rude health. If it wasn’t for the swarm of artists, labels and promoters that buzzes around us, we simply wouldn’t be in the position we are now.
Scottish music is no longer the periphery-dwelling underdog it once was. This fertile landscape of talented musicians has coincided with a robust sect of keyboard tappers who are keenly spreading the word about Scotland’s cauldron of sound.
This year, like no other, Scottish acts are bringing their music to people across the UK, across Europe, and across the world. They’re perking the ears of brand new audiences who are, in turn, fanfaring their virtues across social networking sites like PR men and women working for free. The best and most trustworthy kind of testimonial, you’ll no doubt agree.
Our point is this: Scottish music is no longer under the radar. At the risk of stretching the metaphor, today Scottish music is firmly on the radar. And because of this shifting scenario, we’ve decided to get with the times and point UtR in the same direction.
From today, we’ll no longer exist in our current guise. We’re having a facelift, a name change and we're moving to a brand new website.
Don’t worry, everything you’ve loved (and loathed?) about UtR will continue to be; we’ll keep bringing you the latest news, features, reviews, and podcasts from the heart of the Scottish music scene. But instead of doing it in the hope that someone will pick up on the music we love, we'll be doing it with the knowedge that people are listening.
So, as this is our last ever post on this page, we’d like to thank you for reading. It’s been a blast.
Newsbits: End o' Findo, Fanclub return, Astros freebie, Swimmer One album
[Findo Gask at T in the Park '09 - photo by Su Anderson]
Findo Gask call it a day We heard a rumour about this from one of our Glasgow writers a few weeks ago but we didn't want to believe it. Alas, it turns out to be true: Findo Gask, purveyors of perfect electro-pop, have turned off their synths for the last time. A blog on their MySpace reads: "It has come to an end, or at least it will have done pretty soon. The tyres were shot out a while ago, the engine is kaput, and we're slowly coasting to a stand still. Before that happens, we will finish the album we should have finished ages ago." Findo were real highlights at Homegame recently (twice), so it's surprising and sad to see them go. Awrabest.
Fannies plot their return They might have outgrown their own name, but perennial indie favourites Teenage Fanclub have announced details and tracklisting of their long-awaited ninth album. It's called Shadows and is released on 31 May. A preview of the track 'Baby Lee' is streaming on their official website. Let us know what you think below...
Astronauts re-launch Fanclub EP Fresh from their showing at yesterday’s Haddow Fest, indie-urchins Cancel The Astronauts have announced that last year’s superlative-inducing EP, I Am The President Of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home) is available as a free download. The band’s joyful philanthropy whets our already eager palate in anticipation of their soon to be released follow-up EP, which if recent shows are anything to go by is bound to be a another glorious slab of hip-swivelling pop-picking. Get your paws on said EP here.
Swimmer One front crawl into fore Esoteric synth-poppers Swimmer One are set to return with a new record, the chirpily titled Dead Orchestras. The follow-up to 2008’s persuasive Regional Variations – a record one UtR hack described as “captivating to the point of hypnosis” - is released through local label Biophonic Records and enters the musical stratosphere on 31May. According to the press release it’s an album that “finds room for both a 12-minute, three-part pop symphony and a simple, two-minute acoustic lament. It is even a concept album, of sorts, a collection of songs about the things we leave behind when we're gone - as parents, as lovers, and as a species". Now that's what we call avant-garde.
And finally... Last week we forewarned you of some news of our own. Check back here tomorrow and all will be revealed.
[We Were Promised Jetpacks: descending on Edinburgh on Sunday]
Plan your gig-going with our pick of the week's finest live music nights...
Ten Tracks presents... The Verden Whistle Test Saturday @ Verden Studios, Portobello, Edinburgh / 6pm / £10 You're probably too young to know what The Old Grey Whistle Test was... So, this is a special, intimate studio gig that's all being filmed, featuring the likes of UtR faves Over The Wall, Dead Boy Robotics, Esperi, Fur Hood and John B McKenna. There are only 100 tickets on offer and everyone gets a free DVD. More info here.
La La Vasques, Golden Grrrls, Girls Names Sunday @ The 13th Note, Glasgow / 9pm / £tbc What do you get when you mix cool girls with fuzzed out shoegazy style? Perhaps something like these bands. And that's something pretty good.
Haddow Fest Sunday @ various venues, Edinburgh / 1pm - 12am / £20 (£15 in advance) Glasgow may have Hinterland and Stag and Dagger, but now Edinburgh has its own multi-venue gig sprawl. Haddow Fest has rounded up a batch of indie-rock bands to entertain the masses, including the likes of Idlewild, My Latest Novel and We Were Promised Jetpacks. Check the website for more information and stage times.
RM Hubbert Sunday @ Slow Club, The Flying Duck, Glasgow / 8pm / Free Ex-El Hombre Trajeado man RM shows off his fingerpicking skills with an instrumental guitar set, hopefully with a few pieces from his stunning First&Last album. What a pleasant way to spend a Sunday evening.
The Besnard Lakes, Wolf People, Olympic Swimmers Sunday @ Captain's Rest / 8pm / £8 Proving that matrimony and work can mix, Montreal's The Besnard Lakes have won over many fans with their sweeping indie rock. Get there early for UtR-featured Olympic Swimmers.
Benni Hemm Hemm, Rachel Sermanni, Graham McGeoch Tuesday @ Bloc, Glasgow / 9pm / Free Benedikt Hermann Hermannsson, going by the altogether easier to pronounce name of Benni Hemm Hemm, has brought the gift of excellent folksy pop from Iceland to his adoptive home of Glasgow. Get a free taste tonight as he plus band launch the Retaliate EP. Also playing The Roxy Art House, Edinburgh on Monday
Dam Mantle, Fox Gut Daata Friday @ Glasgow Social Centre, Osborne Street / 8pm / £5 Dam Mantle launches a new EP with suitable support from Fox Gut Daata. If you like your beats and blips on the interesting side you should head along. Plus DJ sets from Cry Parrot and Halleluwah Hits.
The Twilight Sad, The Unwinding Hours Friday @ ABC, Glasgow / 7pm / £10 Just in case you thought The Twilight Sad's live show was lacking a few decibels (you fool!), the Kilsyth band will play this gig with an extra PA, achieving so-called "quadraphonic" sound. Hold on to your hats, and make sure you check out the sublime Unwinding Hours. Also playing The Warehouse, Aberdeen on Thursday
Conquering Animal Sound, Debutant, Wounded Knee Friday @ Roxy Art House, Edinburgh / 7pm / £5 Hardly a week goes by where we don't mention a gig by one of these hard-working tunesmiths. Maybe tunesmith is the wrong word, because all three acts like to break conventions however and whenever they can.
This may be the launch show for RBRBR’s shiny new Bobby Masicks EP, but it doubles as a handy opportunity to catch some of Scotland's finest electro-indie acts live.
Dead Boy Robotics are up first, and if you're a regular reader you'll need no introduction to this Edinburgh duo. The interplay between the live instruments, vocal harmonies and backing tracks is well orchestrated, the disparate sounds coming together in unexpected ways - each song like the surprising outcome of a successful experiment.
The use of the floor toms during synchronised rhythm breaks adds a welcome bit of showmanship to an otherwise low-key stage presence. A little more energy in the delivery wouldn't go amiss, but DBR still show the inventiveness for which they're becoming known, and much is expected of their EP, due out in May.
Things get off to a promising start for Glaswegian 'house rock' two-piece Any Color Black, with strong vocals and rock-star poses suggesting a more upbeat set to come. Mixing live guitars with laptop beats, the bells and whistles serve to disguise more conventionally-structured songs, bringing to mind polished 90’s electro-poppers Garbage and their ilk.
Perhaps it’s the mix tonight, but the disparate strands don’t mesh as you might hope, with the guitars often sounding more like an afterthought than an integral cog. The crowd too don’t seem as engaged, with chatter audible in the quieter moments. All the pieces are in place and the performance is competent, but somehow it never quite gels. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what is missing, but there's something about this performance that sadly fails to satisfy.
On then to the headliners and the reason for tonight’s get-together. RBRBR have been plying their trade for a few years now, and have used that time to conjure up their own madcap world. With cardboard cut-outs of demented animals from their EP artwork decorating the stage, and band members adorned variously in fairy lights, fighter-pilot uniforms and ninja outfits, it's a strange and intriguing place.
The benefit of the first live drummer of the evening is immediately felt as the band bounce into EP opener ‘Maff’. The full band helps the whole performance feel more organic than what has come before, which is not to say that there aren’t lashings of electronic beats and unfeasibly deep bass tones pumping through the speakers. This is amply demonstrated in final number ‘Masick’s Groove’, a dance-a-long beast of a tune.
With this EP launch RBRBR show that they can match their recorded talents in person. Mission accomplished.
Scotland’s burgeoning musical future has two crucial components: the talented emerging artists, and the forward-thinking independent record labels which nurture them. The Pictish Trail, rigorously maintained pseudonym of entrepreneurial Fifer Johnny Lynch, is of that rare breed who can claim to have a foot in both camps.
In his capacity as musician, Lynch now also comprises one half of electronic duo Silver Columns, who attracted early attention late last year thanks to their anonymity and a trickle of enigmatic tracks that whipped bloggers into a frenzy of excitable speculation.
Meanwhile, along with fellow alibi enthusiast King Creosote, Lynch helps manage the much-loved Fence Records, coordinators of the recent Homegame festival (where Silver Columns made a triumphant live debut) and champions of the likes of UtR favourites Withered Hand, eagleowl and Meursault.
“When I joined Fence Records full time, in 2003, my main objective was to promote my own music,” says Lynch, when asked about the relationship between label boss and musician. “Each member of the Collective has their own solo project, and their respective success is entirely dependent on how much effort they, as individuals, put into it.”
Early glimpses into Silver Columns’ repertoire are indicative of such an effort. Pulsating space organs and breathy call-and-response vocals, respectively recalling the Klaxons and Talking Heads, characterise new single ‘Cavalier’, while the deliciously over-produced drum rolls that feature prominently on acclaimed debut cut ‘Brow Beaten’ are reminiscent of early arcade racing games.
Although Lynch's other unmasked band mate Adem is “a massive fan of the mid/late nineties UK garage sound”, the duo’s inspiration derives largely from sources closer to home: “I’d say our music has been informed by the music our friends make," says Lynch. "That’s always a predominant influence on any musician whether they care to admit it or not.”
Beyond the fraternity of the Fence Collective, Silver Columns certainly have the connections to expand outside the Scottish perimeter that can often smother domestic talent: “Down in London we’ve a network of friends – Caribou, Hot Chip, Four Tet, The Memory Band – who have been supportive of our music.”
We’ll have to wait until the release of their first album Yes, and Dance in May to see if Silver Columns can fulfil their early promise and join the ranks of such esteemed company. But the odds are getting shorter by the day.
Words: Dan Moss
‘Yes, and Dance’ is released on the Moshi Moshi label on 24 May. The first track, ‘Cavalier’, is available to buy from 19 Apr.
To date, all upcoming Silver Columns shows are in London. Check their MySpace for details.
Zombies seem to be everywhere at the moment, from the Left for Dead series of video games to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies novel. Perhaps that’s why the advice from UtR’s favourite hyper melodic uber spazz triumvirate Super Adventure Club on their latest album seems so timely.
Avoid Zombies, the follow-up to their self-released debut Chalk Horror, is unveiled on 5 April. In anticipation of this event we caught up with bassist Mandy Clarke to see what they’ve been up to since they were last featured on UtR a whole year ago.
“We've had a lot of fun the last year touring and writing the new album. We went over to Ireland for a mini tour with Adebisi Shank which was awesome, then we supported Dananananaykroyd on a few dates of their 'Hugtober' tour at the exact time we became horribly aware that swine flu does actually exist.”
On top of this there have been shows with the likes of Future of the Left and a tour of England. Somewhere in the midst of that the band also found time to make the new album.
“We recorded Avoid Zombies over two days, starting at 4pm and finishing around 8am. It was really cool being able to just stay all night and not have to worry about getting kicked out. It sounds like it might be quite intense but it was actually a lot of fun!’”
If you’re not familiar with SAC, try to imagine Melt Banana channeling Primus. The Glasgow-based trio mix styles and sounds in a way that initially seems confusing, even distressing. Give the songs a chance though and you’ll find each one has some sneaky earworms hidden inside, and you’ll find yourself humming them in the shower days later. To see what we mean, have a listen to 'Nosferatu' from Avoid Zombies:
SAC - Nosferatu
With a number of shows coming up to promote the new album, what else is lined up for SAC?
"We're planning on doing a Scotland tour because we've not done that yet, then back to Ireland, England and hopefully France again … a tour of Europe would be amazing but we'll see. We made a video for Hip-Hop-Hot-Pot-Pot-Noodle which will be ready in the summer, probably get a BAFTA for that. Kanye West is still hassling us to collaborate with him but we're a bit busy right now. Maybe next year."
Words: Craig Dickson
Super Adventure Club play the Captain’s Rest, Glasgow (album launch show) on Thursday (25 Mar) with United Fruit and The Banana Sessions, and Henry’s Cellar Bar, Edinburgh on Sunday (28 Mar) with Pneu and Shield Your Eyes.
Avoid Zombies is released on Armellodie Records April 5th, and the single 'Pick Up Sticks / SAC Attack' is out now.
Newsbits: Last Battle sign deal, Wickerman acts revealed, NAO album released
The Last Battle sign to 17 Seconds It's happened again: not long after we interview a band for UtR, they bag themselves a record deal. We're not suggesting that we influence these things of course... Anyway, this time the band in question is The Last Battle (pictured above, UtR profile here), who have penned a contract with the Edinburgh label 17 Seconds. It's fast progress for the Leith six-piece, who only formed last year and started gigging around six months ago. Read more from label boss Ed Jupp on his blog of the same name.
Wickerman bands revealed Hardly a week goes by at this time of year without a festival announcement of some description. Now it's the turn of Wickerman, the Dumfriesshire weekender that boasts some pretend Paganism alongside the usual mix of lager and music. Names out of the hat so far include Ocean Colour Scene, The Saw Doctors, The Futureheads, Sons & Daughters and Codeine Velvet Club, although there will be a fair smattering of up and coming bands appearing too. Wickerman takes place on 23 and 24 July - more info here.
Get your Hooks on NAO It's a big day for another fine band to have graced this blog, North Atlantic Oscillation. That's because today's the day the Edinburgh/Glasgow outfit release their debut album Grappling Hooks, which has already generated glowing reviews from near and far. They've come a long way from the slightly awkward performance we once witnessed in the tiny Henry's Cellar Bar a few years ago, and it's great to see them fulfilling their potential.
And finally... We have some news of our own this week, but we can't really say anything just yet. Keep checking back though and all will be revealed in days to come.
[Wounded Knee: "Bearded fella, sings accapella", in Glasgow on Thursday]
Plan your gig-going with our pick of the week's finest live music nights...
The Moth & the Mirror / Esperi Saturday @ The Doghouse, Dundee / 8pm / £5 With members shared with Frightened Rabbit and Admiral Fallow, The Moth & the Mirror may keep themselves busy with other projects, but for now they're focusing on launching new single 'Fire'. Support from the UtR-featured Esperi.
Limbo: Withered Hand / Pictish Trail / John Egdell / Enfant Bastard Saturday @ The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh / 7.30pm / £8 Fresh (is that the right word?) from their Homegame exploits, Dan Willson of Withered Hand fame and the insanely prolific Johnny Lynch of Pictish Trail (look out for our upcoming Silver Columns interview) play Edinburgh's flagship gig night. They're joined for the occasion by Newcastle strummer John Egdell and local talent Enfant Bastard.
RBRBR / Dead Boy Robotics / Any Color Black Saturday @ The GRV, Edinburgh / 7pm / £TBC Edinburgh electro-heads RBRBR launch 'The Bobby Masicks EP' at their spiritual home in The GRV, and they've notched up fine support in the shape of Billy's favourite local act Dead Boy Robotics and Glasgow synth-pop duo Any Color Black.
Her Name Is Calla, worriedaboutsatan, eagleowl Saturday @ The Flying Duck, Glasgow / £5 / 7.30pm From a Stolen Sea presents atmospheric northern progressive types, with support from worriedaoutsatan and Edinburgh’s own eagleowl.
Franz Nicolay Sunday @ Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh / 7pm / £7.50 Former Hold Steady keyboardist and wearer of stylish hats Franz Nicolay brings his punk cabaret show to Edinburgh for his only Scottish date. We don’t know exactly which of his musical guises he'll be channeling, but it sounds like a good time to us.
Stanley Odd Monday @ The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh / 7.30pm / Free Classic hip hop with an Airdie twist. Find out what that might sound like at six-piece Stanley Odd's latest live outing.
Youthmovies / Adam Gnade Tuesday @ Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh / 7pm / £6 A last chance to catch the Oxford art-rock crew Youthmovies, as they play their farewell tour before throwing in the towel for good. It could get emotional. Support comes from experimental Americana peddler Adam Gnade
The Mill: Song of Return, Midnight Lion Thursday @ Oran Mor, Glasgow / 7pm / Free but ticketed In a stellar piece of timing this week’s UtR recommended act, formed from the ashes of Union of Knives, headline The Mill’s free showcase event with synth-pop supergroup Midnight Lion.
Call To Mind, Diamond Sea, Yahweh Thursday @ Stereo, Glasgow / 8pm / £5 Atmospheric, expansive rock from Inverness band Call To Mind, launching their new EP. As if that wasn't enough to tempt you, more music is provided by Diamond Sea and the wonderful Yahweh.
Wounded Knee, 7VWWVW Thursday @ Whitehill School Auditorium, Glasgow / 7pm / £3 We're big fans of Drew Wright and his sometimes savage, sometimes amusing spoken word incantations. Pairing him with electro-pop act 7VWWVW is unusual, but sometimes that kind of thinking results in the best gigs.
Black International / United Fruit / The Fatalists Friday @ Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh / 7pm / Free Last year we wrote that Edinburgh band Black International were "a welcome antithetical thrill compared to the city's gentle folk exterior". The post-punk rabble are backed by the highly regarded United Fruit and The Fatalists, and, best of all, it's free!
North Atlantic Oscillation / Barn Owl / Panda Su Friday @ Sneaky Pete's / 7pm / £5 Touring their debut album Grappling Hooks, this may be one of the last chances to see NAO live at such close quarters, with their music being championed by the likes of Marc Riley. UtR-approved support comes from Barn Owl and Panda Su.
Wise Blood Industries Friday @ Roxy Art House, Edinburgh / 7pm / £5 The offbeat Glasgow record label takes over the Roxy for a night of live music with a literary feel, featuring novelist Alan Bissett reading from his latest work, Y'All is Fantasy Island's Adam Stafford, recent UtR stars Burnt Island and The Kays Lavelle.
Pinup Nights: Boycotts, Washington Irving, Male Pattern Band Friday @ Flying Duck, Glasgow / 9pm - 3am / £5 This month's Pinup features two UtR veterans in Boycotts and Washington Irving, plus the little known Male Pattern Band and the usual late night DJs.
Words: Lisa-Marie Ferla, Craig Dickson, Nick Mitchell
It's that time of year again. Following last month's announcement of the headliners and big-hitters, T in the Park now wants to fill out the smaller stages, starting with the long-running T Break.
Today the organisers launch the hunt for 16 unsigned bands to play the Balado festival, chosen by a panel of industry experts.
Want to get involved? Here's the spiel:
"T Break is open to any unsigned musical act resident in Scotland, provided they are over the age of 18, and performing original material.
To be in with a chance of performing in one of the highly coveted slots on the T Break Stage unsigned bands should go to www.tennents.com/tbreak for full details on how to submit their work. They will be invited to upload a link to their myspace page (or alternatively they will find instruction on how to make a postal submission.) The deadline for submissions is 16th April 2009.
The 16 bands who have been invited to showcase on the T Break Stage at T in the Park will be announced in May."
Signing a record deal isn't always the surefire gateway to success it might seem.
When things are going well the label are your best friends, offering to buy you sweets and take you to the cinema, and when things are less than rosy they drop you for the cool kid who just moved in around the corner.
The excellent and now defunct Glasgow electro outfit Union of Knives know only too well the fickle nature of the band-label relationship.
“We were doing okay I guess,” explains singer and multi-instrumentalist Craig Grant. “Over in LA land recording with a big shot producer. Then when we came back to Scotland, the label were concerned about the lack of ‘sure fire number one hit singles’. So they asked us to write some more demos with a view to going back to LA to finish them. Whilst all this was happening, they were losing money so they decided they couldn't send us back over to finish the tracks and also that they wanted to drop us.”
Song of Return - Shackles
After taking roughly a year out Grant decided it was time to make music again:
“I was bored out of my senses having not played live in ages so decided I wanted to get a band together to make all this new music happen live. The new stuff we had been recording had the feel of a different band anyway and as we had lost a few members to babies and weddings etc, we decided to form a brand new band.”
The new songs have an unsettlingly dark sound, complimented by the light vocal tone and falsetto harmonies Grant and Gordon sing over them. If you liked Union of Knives you won't be disappointed by Song of Return: moody, intense electro with ethereal male vocals.
Song of Return - Risk And Writhing
One thing is still up for debate though:
"I should probably say that we might change the name of the band from 'Song of Return' to something else in the next few months," Grant explains. “We're not quite sure what to yet, so sorry in advance for the mix up!”
So, go along to one of the gigs and give a warm welcome to Song of Return, or rather, [insert new band name here].
Words: Aimi Gold
Catch Song of Return live at The Mill, Oran Mor, Glasgow on 25 Mar, and at their official launch at Stereo, Glasgow on 8 May.
Homegame report: King Creosote's Numerous Bits of Strange
If you had taken the trouble to scan this year's Homegame lineup, you may have sensed that someone or something was missing. That intangible lacking ingredient? None other than Fence co-founder Kenny Anderson, aka King Creosote.
But the singer/songwriter wasn't away on any sabbatical. No, that would be preposterous - you couldn't stage a Homegame without its reigning monarch after all.
In reality he was busier than ever, performing a new album of material to a small room of fans seven times over the weekend - and that's when he wasn't springing surprise pub gigs, introducing The Bluebells, packing up PA systems and chatting to anyone who said hello. It's just that it wasn't publicised to all-comers, y'see.
UtR was lucky enough to find a space in one of his Sunday afternoon shows, also known as KC's 7th Bit of Strange. As Anderson explained to us (and to his mum and gran, this being Mother's Day) the idea is that the album is performed live and the audience members record it on whatever piece of gadgetry they have to hand (phones, cameras, etc, as long as it's unobtrusive).
Later in the day we catch up with Kenny in a brief moment of respite, and he tells us the concept arose through a growing sense of frustration with the regimented process of the industry. It was last year, watching his album sales decline while his press coverage grew, that he came up with the idea of a live album in the truest sense, and he sees Nth Bit of Strange as a means of giving his most dedicated fans something unique while bypassing the carefully dictated, somewhat artificial terms of an official album release.
We sat attentively through our session, and although the darkly humourous background visuals, delicious half-time oatcakes and one-off Homegame whisky blend certainly perked us up, it was the genuine quality of KC's songwriting and the impeccable musicianship of his band that really impressed. More than this, everyone in the room felt privileged to be part of it.
Our dictaphone, with battery rapidly failing, was switched on and off at the requested points, so in the spirit of the experiment, here are a couple of short snippets of what we managed to capture. (Be warned: the sound quality is truly dire - but maybe that's partly the point.)
A few hundred people recorded the sessions at the weekend, so expect more Bits of Strange to surface online in the coming days and weeks.
Going by the rows of ghoulish faces that greet our arrival in Anstruther, day three at Homegame starts on a traditionally fragile note.
But, after a good night's kip, us early-to-bedders have more sprite in our step than a Berocca-snorting Sonic the Hedgehog and we vroom our way to the Hew Scott Hall to watch a new, delicate folk band called Findo Gask. Hang on, so this seated quartet who soothe pulsing craniums with piano, violin and trumpet are the same band who turned Legends into a forest of flailing limbs two nights ago? Apparently so, and in this pared-down, semi-acoustic set-up they really earn their musical stripes.
Next stop is the Erskine Hall to catch Adrian Crowley, who flutters out a ream of cushioning notes that are lapped up by the hurting hoards. Such charm-stained brilliance is a world away from the turgid ineptitude we face back at the Hew Scott. Hardsparrow may have gone heavy on the bevvy last night, but to forget the names, the lyrics and the chords of your own songs smacks of tragic amateurism. It’s probably slipped his mind that most folk paid £75 to get here.
Quickly ducking out of this cringing abomination, we break for a tantalising cheese and ham toastie down by the shore where we find some locals regaling tales of the Bluebells in their heyday. Back to the Erskine Hall, we catch the tail end of crackly toned Lisa O’Neill and sip on coffee awaiting Adem’s arrival with baited breath. Thankfully, he doesn’t disappoint.
Sultry of voice and genius of song, the Domino-signed tunesmith whisks away the minutes with an incandescent set. His stirring selection of laments, tinted with experimental asides, captivates even the most hyperactive kids and his final notes are met with a thunderous blast of stomping feet and slapping palms.
With James Yorkston still tied to his sickbed, we make hay for the Hew Scott to find The Pictish Trail orchestrating the crowd with a skitter of 30 second cuts. Sure, it's ramshackle fare, but Johnny Lynch’s engaging patter and ear for a song, no matter the length, sees it off as a roaring success that’s exactly what the wilting Anstruther masses ordered.
Splintering into two groups, one half of UtR makes its way back to Edinburgh in preparation for the working week. But before lighting the ignition we stumble across the brilliant Men Diamler pulling out all the stops during an impromptu street performance. Hollering to the sky like a sleep deprived Dickensian villain, the hyperactive troubadour mesmerises the ever-expanding mob before leading them inside the Town Hall with pied-piper aplomb.
It's a fantastic finale to our Homegame 2010. But for the last UtR hack standing there’s still more music to be heard ...
... While the less hardy journos speed back along the A92, the remaining UtR representative sticks it out. After nabbing Fence svengali Kenny Anderson for a chat about this year's Homegame in a rapidly darkening graveyard (more on his new King Creosote project later), there's just enough time to inhale another fish supper before heading to the Town Hall for arguably the weekend's most alluring clutch of acts.
After grinning through various sound problems (it seems Kev's bank of gadgets is just a bit too hi-fi for Homegame), Fence staples Found endear themselves with live favourite You're No Vincent Gallo (altered to Gummi Bako on this occasion) and set-closer Let Fidelity Break, which instigates the usual rash of shape-pulling down the front (at least, so it appears from the balcony at the back).
Having almost recovered from the haddock and potato binge, the arrival of Django Django warrants a closer, more involved position. The London band who formed at art school in Edinburgh fulfill their esoteric rep by turning up in safari-style khaki uniforms with skull-hugging, David Byrne hair. And the music is anything but staid, a heady mix of The Beta Band, Dick Dale and electro house. Shouldn't work but it does.
Underlining Fence's crossover mindset these days, Four Tet is the Sunday headliner, and arguably the biggest name on this year's billing. The in-demand Kieran Hebden wastes no time in rewarding his hosts' faith by crafting a set of nuanced electronica and thunderous house that sets heads nodding and, slowly but surely, bodies shaking. By the time he hits the summit of his laptronic masterclass the front section of the crowd is overtaken by the kind of hands-in-the-air evangelical rapture surely never before seen in the Town Hall of this hard-bitten fishing village.
And at that, UtR is all partied out. The more energetic Homegamers certainly aren't, spilling off towards the Smugglers Inn for more impromptu pub sessions or Legends for more beats'n'bleeps. Driving home along the dark back roads of the East Neuk, we're left to reflect on the fact that Fence have created something very special in a sleepy, overlooked part of Scotland, and it's all done for the love of music. In this age of profit margins and brand relationships, that's something to be celebrated.
Words: Billy Hamilton & Nick MitchellPicture: Su Anderson
There’s no two ways about it. We’re running pretty late.
Yesterday’s over-exertions in Anstruther have left us a little worse for wear, and negotiating the trail to Homegame doesn’t start till the rugby hoards have made their mark on the streets of Edinburgh.
So, of course, by the time we roll in at 4pm we’ve already missed Benni Hemm Hemm and Meursault whipping up an aural storm. But thank god we’ve still got James Yorkston. Or, maybe not.
On our arrival at Erskine Hall we’re politely informed the former Fence luminary has ‘called in sick’ – posh code for ‘he was bevvied last night and couldnae make it in due to his gnarling hangover’, no doubt. Fortunately, stand in pairing The Lone Pigeon and Pictish Trail are more than adequate replacements, dousing the crowd with a stream of delicately executed acoustic numbers.
The Erskine’s tangerine-splattered walls are a little too much for our pulsing craniums and, on the back of a tip from Team Skinny, we march on down to the Hew Scott Hall where Men Diamler is dishing out a plateful of quirky laments.
Striding through the crowd, acoustic guitar in hand, the corduroy-clad songsmith woos the audience with chirpy off-kilter cuts and a cloudbursting warble. The expletive-addled finale proves too much for younger punters, but for the rest of us it’s an archetypal Homegame moment that will live long in the memory.
By now our hangovers are receding quicker than Wayne Rooney's thatch and we attempt to finish them off with a quick trip to Anstruther harbour. With the sun setting and a cool sea breeze blowing through our barnets, we’re struck by the beauty of this tiny Fife village. The sad thing is, if it wasn’t for Homegame we’d probably never know it exists.
Poignant day trip moment ticked off, we make a beeline for the Town Hall where we catch Remember, Remember turning out a dreary post-rock symposium. One half of UtR is adamant the Glasgow outfit’s better than this, but tonight they're a paralysing bore until the cacophonous closing number invigorates our pulses. Sadly it's too little, too late and the damage is done.
Returning 80s legends The Bluebells are greeted with a hero’s welcome. But chomping through stodgy, jangle-friendly numbers like a pastiche of their former selves, there’s little sign of the sparkle that rocketed them chartwards during their ‘glory years’.
Young at Heart is the obvious standout and a sea of moment-catching mobile phones greets its epileptic violin strains. But the execution is lackadaisical and the group’s only bonafide classic is reeled out as tiredly as you’d expect of a band that’s strummed the same chords for over 25 years.
Accepting defeat in our attempts to stay off the ale, we retreat to our new favourite boozer, Saor Alba, where we’re met with a cockle-warming coal fire, the oddly familiar sirens of Casualty and a host of Central Belt scenesters. You just couldn't make this festival up.
Beer swilling in bellies, we find Meursault, Animal Magic Tricks and King Creosote setting up in a sardine squashed Hew Scott Hall. Sounding a little blunt, the telltale signs of tiredness creeps through the set and a wave of punters, including half of UtR, make their way to the Legends rave room to witness Silver Columns attacking ear-canals with ‘electro moroder disco sounds’. Whatever the hell that is.
For the rest of us, we’re done. Finding Team Skinny in need of a lift back to Auld Reekie, we make a beeline for the UtR mobile and set off on the trek home to bed. Tomorrow we’ll be in better shape, we promise.
Popping our Homegame cherry shouldn’t be a big deal. After all, it’s only a music festival. And a small one at that. But there’s a definite churn in the pits of our stomachs as we navigate the trail that leads into the quaint Fife harbour town of Anstruther.
Perhaps our somersaulting nerves can be put down to the curvature of the roadway that confronts our dinky motor, but with a weekend of incessantly good, Fence-backed music ahead we suspect it’s something a little bit more.
Press passes in hand, we start the day drowning in a sea of corduroy-garbed folk eager to ingest the hallowed sound of Eagleowl. Although firmly lodged at the back of a packed out Hew Scott Hall, we’re able to confirm two things from the all too brief set: (1) Eagleowl know how to hush an audience. (2) There’s no better time for Bart Owl and co to forge a pathway into a wider music-appreciating sphere.
Trekking up to Anstruther’s Town Hall, we’re confronted with a dose of light-hearted tomfoolery from our master of ceremonies, Johnny Lynch, and KC himself, Kenny Anderson (much to our swooning photographer’s delight).
The lung-puncturing Mr Meursault, Neil Pennycook, kicks off proceedings with a spell-binding acoustic set that has jaws dropping floor-wards as he bellows out a short succession of psalms from new record ‘All Creatures Will Make Merry’.
Next up are London-based ensemble Player Piano who muddle rickety melodies with rock wig-outs that shudder the rafters of a, now bulging, venue. Coming across a lot like Tapes n’ Tapes without the cowbells, the quartet rummage through their closet of smarting, jaunty pop to pull out a sterling set teeming with vibrancy.
After refuelling with a somewhat underwhelming platter of fish ‘n’ chips, we’re back to catch Rozi Plain at the Town Hall. Despite her vibrant stage merriment, Plain’s armoury of light-weight nu-folk does little to galvanise our bloated bodies and flagging attention spans. Well, that’s until the appearance of a dancing on-stage toddler makes for the weekend’s most endearing spectacle.
Thankfully, the flour covered Withered Hand resuscitates us from our food-induced comas. Tooled up with a flush of buoyant Country-washed tunes, Dan Wilson and his star-studded cohorts rattle out cranky, melody fuelled cuts with a verve that’s been lacking in recent showings. Strolling off stage to a barricade of applause, Withered Hand are, without doubt, the defining moment of Homegame 2010 so far.
Having retreated in front of the fireplace of an olde tavern to sample some refined local ale (in reality we’re not sure a pint of Tennent’s could truly be considered local or refined), we make our way to Legends to see Findo Gask close out the opening day.
Inside, it’s a fuzzy picture of Phoenix Nights decor crossed with methadone clinic-like ambience. And, judging by the lunatic shapes being pulled on the dancefloor, you get the impression the over-enthusiastic punters are at home in this scorching asylsum.
By the time Findo Gask take to the stage the atmosphere’s rabid and the Glasgow-based-but-Fife-born quartet take their time to adapt to this frothing hovel. But once they’ve hit their stride, the scuzzy setting erupts as a gush of sweat and discobeat that’s so luminous it’s almost blinding. Finishing on a triumphant Va Va Va, the band bow their head and say goodnight, clearly overwhelmed by the rapture blowing their way.
For us, it’s a long drive on the road home. It’s times like these we wish we’d booked a room.
Plan your gig-going with our pick of the week's finest live music nights...
Four Tet Saturday @ Bongo Club, Edinburgh / 7pm / £12 If you weren't lucky enough to get your hands on a Homegame ticket for this weekend, at least there's an opportunity to catch the supremely talented Kieran Hebden when he passes through the capital on Saturday en route to Anstruther.
Frank Turner and Chuck Ragan Tuesday @ HMV Picture House, Edinburgh / 7pm / £12 Two graduates of the school of rock performing their solo material. Ex-Million Dead man and current radio favourite Frank Turner will be airing numbers from his most recent album, Poetry of the Deed, and Chuck Ragan, formerly of punk rock favourites Hot Water Music will be showing off his grizzled voice over some Americana.
Citizens, Jackie Onassis, Guns of Parlophone, Xavier and the Bastard Tuesday @ Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, Glasgow / 8pm / £tbc If desperately in need of some light (heavy?) relief from a week filled with indie-pop, try Citizens and Jackie Onassis on for size. Melodic, tuneful hardcore, proving that idea-filled rock music may indeed still exist.
Miaoux Miaoux, Firebrand Boy, Errors DJs Tuesday @ 13th Note, Glasgow / 9pm / £4 Recently featured on this very site, Julian Corrie is launching his Blooms EP this week. It’s a late starter, but with so many sweet electro beats to be had, it’s worth the scary trek down through the Trongate.
Mono (plus support) Wednesday @ Oran Mor, Glasgow / 7pm / £12 The epic, emotive post-rock sounds of Mono are back on tour, following last year’s Hymn to the Immortal Wind. The Japanese quartet are epic, emotive and definitely too loud to miss.
Pensioner, Bronto Skylift, Degrassi, Curators Wednesday @ Sneaky Pete’s / 7pm / £6 Dundee’s Pensioner feature ex-members of Alamos, making a slightly heavier but still intelligent kind of noise. With Glasgow’s Bronto Skylift and the capital’s own Degrassi and Curators in support, this is a great value evening for the more discerning rocker.
Findo Gask, Paper Planes, French Wives Thursday @ Captains Rest, Glasgow / 8pm / £6.15 It’s time to wave farewell to UtR’s favourite synth-poppers, Findo Gask. And what would nip your sadness in the bud better than knowing your door money is going to charity? Not much, other than the surfy punk of Paper Planes and the crooning melodies of French Wives.
The Mill: The Gothenburg Address and The Elements Thursday @ Cabaret Voltaire / 7pm / Free but ticketed One of the first bands we featured, The Gothenburg Address exhibit the wintry sonic landscapes of their recent debut album, with support from locals The Elements.
Withered Hand, The Starlets, Skeleton Bob Thursday @ Mono, Glasgow / 8pm / £5 Silence Can Break Your Heart bring us the fragile folk of Withered Hand, in between the long-mopped front man’s numerous jaunts across Europe.
Egyptian Hip Hop and Bwani Junction Friday @ Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh / 7pm / £6 Mancunian indie quartet Egyptian Hip Hop may still only be in their teens but they’re already garnering a bit of a buzz. Make up your own mind at their first Edinburgh show.
Hinterland returns to Glasgow for a second year next month, bringing with it a slew of hotly tipped bands from near and far.
Taking place across six city centre venues, the mini-festival is the latest to take on the 'Camden Crawl' format, and it takes place on 3 April from 5pm 'til 3am.
The line-up so far: Mystery Jets, British Sea Power, Joe Goddard (Hot Chip) DJ set, Friendly Fires DJ set, Jeffrey Lewis, Hot Club de Paris, Wave Pictures, Greco-Roman Soundsystem, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaur, Fenech Soler, Johnny Foreigner, Bleech, Make Sparks, The French Wives, Little Yellow Ukuleles, Ambulances, Pulled Apart By Horses, Panda Su, The Boy Who Trapped the Sun, Midnight Lion, The Darien Venture, The Kays Lavelle, Kitty the Lion, Cooly G, Eclair-Fifi and Konx Om Pax.
Early bird tickets have sold out, but we have two pairs of tickets to give away.
To enter this competition, answer the following question:
How many of the bands playing this year's Hinterland have been interviewed on this blog?
Despite being best described as low key nu-folk loveliness, in terms of band inter-relationships The Last Battle are more akin to Swedish megastars ABBA.
The multi-instrumental Edinburgh six-piece (or septet, as they sometimes are live) only played their first gig in October, but have already earned gushing praise from several corners, including UtR regular Bart Owl.
“We started with the idea that if we could get a thumbs up from the bands we respected and admired, then we’d be doing something right,” says frontman Scott Longmuir. “So when Bart from eagleowl approached us and said he loved what we were doing that was a wee goal scored! We’ve now got him playing on one of our album tracks, which we’re pretty chuffed about.”
Longmuir, along with bassist Paul Barrett, had been part of an art-rock band which they were becoming “increasingly frustrated and bored with” until the middle of last year, and it was from the ashes of that partnership that the genesis of The Last Battle emerged.
“The songs I’d been writing of late were a bit folky and seemed to have a lot of scope for adding more instruments to them,” Longmuir explains. “So I started going round to Paul’s with the new songs and we’d demo them in his front room using an old drum machine and a 12-track, purely to see if we could enjoy making music again.”
And the ABBA connection? “We decided if we were going to do the band thing again, we’d include the people closest to us – take them along with us,” says Longmuir. The rest of the band consists of Barrett’s other half (Flora McKay) on cello, Longmuir’s (Ella Duncan) on glockenspiel and melodica, her sister Arwen on joint vocals and “an old school friend [Liam O’Hare] gently stroking a snare drum”. Live, the band are often joined by Barrett’s flatmate Stephen Kerr on electric guitar.
Despite the name’s military connotations, the band are named after one of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. “I was getting sick of trying to come up with a band name as all mine were crap, so I left it to someone else,” says Longmuir. “One day Paul sent me a text simply saying ‘The Last Battle’ – taken from the book he was reading – so we just went with that.
“We hear a lot of amusing stories that some people expect us to be some sort of up-for-it punk band. We’re about as up for it as a packet of digestive biscuits.”
The Last Battle - Any Ocean
Musically, the band’s influences avoid up-for-it punk in favour of more melodic acts like Malcolm Middleton, Arcade Fire, Emmylou Harris, Sufjan Stevens and Bright Eyes, with a dash of traditional folk. “Non-musical influences would have to be Leith itself,” Longmuir adds. “There’s something very inspiring about the place, especially down by the shore.
But it’s not just the locals who impress Longmuir. “The Scottish scene is really strong right now – I’m really into Remember Remember and French Wives... Of the newer bands we’ve played with from Edinburgh, for me, Conquering Animal Sound, are the ones who’ve impressed me the most.
“Frustratingly, outside Scotland all of this seems to fall on deaf ears which really riles me,” he adds. “It got to the point that I actually wrote a couple of silly letters to the NME about the lack of Scottish bands they featured, and to my surprise they printed them. Now, if only they’d actually write something about the bands other than patronizingly print my futile letters…”
The Last Battle are currently putting the finishing touches to their first album, Heart of the Land, Soul of the Sea. “It’s a loosely themed concept album about two entirely different people that fall in love knowing it’s doomed from the start,” says Longmuir. “We’re chatting with a few labels just now about putting it out at some point this year too, which should be around June.
“Some of our newer songs are veering away from the more traditional songwriting style,” he adds. “We’ve been messing around with the old drum machine again that started this all off, putting it through guitar pedals and generally upsetting the girls, which is not recommended.”
Words: Lisa-Marie Ferla
Catch The Last Battle live at the following dates, and check their MySpace for more shows:
12 Mar: This is Music @ Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh 27 Mar: Trampoline 3rd Birthday @ Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh 31 Mar: Maggie's Chamber (top of 3 Sisters, Edinburgh) 18 Apr: Carter's Bar, Morrison St, Edinburgh
It was looking like it might never happen, but finally we have recorded our first podcast of 2010.
Two months away from the microphone has rendered some of our chat slightly nonsensical (what's new?), but the standard of music on this podcast is probably the best so far...
We were fans of The Japanese War Effort from the first time we saw him play at the erstwhile Bowery venue last year, and we open on 'Usain Bolt', taken from his new LP, I Will Leave You Now, And Two Loudspeakers Will Take My Place. The fastest man alive should be proud.
Another act to have graced this blog are The Unwinding Hours, the new band comprising one half of Aereogramme, and from their self-titled debut album we've chosen the spine-tinglingly epic 'Tightrope'.
We also turn our attention to this weekend's main event, the Fence Collective's annual Homegame festival in Anstruther, Fife. In anticipation of three days and nights of crammed pubs, fish suppers and maybe even the odd bit of music, we've got tracks from a trio of acts on this year's bill: Django Django, Findo Gask and Silver Columns.
And that's not all. There's more tuneage from the sickeningly talented Miaoux Miaoux and the ethereal Call To Mind (both of whom have new EPs on the way), as well as the obligatory 6 Music post-match analysis.
Hope you enjoy, and, as ever, let us know what you think below...
Play: Podcast #7
Running order: 00:00: The Japanese War Effort - Usain Bolt 04:04: The Unwinding Hours - Tightrope 08:58: Django Django - Storm 14:59: Findo Gask - Va Va Va 18:42: Silver Columns - Brow Beaten 25:10: Miaoux Miaoux - Dream On 34:02: Call To Mind - Breathe Pt. 1
Newsbits: From 'Scottish krautrock' to Tweet music
[Mitchell Museum: set to entertain the Twitterers of Edinburgh]
Tweet music The Edinburgh Twestival, the capital's meet-up for those who prefer to live their life in 140 characters, has unveiled its musical line-up. Glasgow's madcap experimentalists Mitchell Museum and new Edinburgh outfit Pose Victorious will entertain the iPhone-clutching audience, with DJ sets from George Wallace and members of Idlewild. It takes place on Thursday 25 March at the new Ghillie Dhu venue in the west end of the city. More acts are expected to be announced this week.
And in case you didn't already know, the generous Mitchell Museum are giving away their new EP We Lost First Prize on their new website.
Frabbits burrow through blogosphere Frightened Rabbit's third album The Winter of Mixed Drinks was unveiled to the world last week, and we've been interested in the way it's been received outside Scotland's cosy bosom. For instance, self-styled Twitter reviewer (and respected rock critic too, it has to be said) Chris Weingarten, tweeted this on his @1000timesyes account: "Arcade Fire-ready hooks, given a lovely new life as Scottish krautrock.#7.5"
And since "Scottish krautrock" only returns 94 hits on Google, it looks as if we have a new genre on our hands.
In other FatCat news, the label's other Scottish high-fliers The Twilight Sad have been announced as main support for Biffy Clyro's UK tour next month, which includes a date at Perth on 29 April.
Silver Columns 'unmasked' Not since Burial's shadowy presence on the London dub scene has there been so much Guess Who?-style whisperings over an anonymous musician... Silver Columns set tongues a-wagging late last year with their slinky electro beats lighting up Hype Machine's blog barometer. But in case you didn't hear via Twitter, the protagonists behind the project are none other than Fence Collective co-founder Johnny "The Pictish Trail" Lynch and Adem, the man behind the Takes covers album.
The duo have an upcoming 12" single called 'Cavalier' that's due out on 19 April via Moshi Moshi, and with both halves playing Fence Homegame this weekend, we're hoping for an impromptu show in Anstruther.
Peter Bjorn & John - It Don't Move Me (Silver Columns remix)
Belle & Sebastian set for return Scots twee-pop legends Belle & Sebastian are set to return from their very long hiatus. In a message sent out to their mailing list, the band said that they have been writing new songs in Glasgow recently and are about to head to Los Angeles to record a new album. But if you want to see them live this summer, you'll have to travel, as the only festival dates announced so far are in Scandinavia and Japan - although more could well be added.
Back to the Futureheads The Futureheads, the forgotten-but-not-gone Sunderland outfit that once broached the Top 40’s upper echelons with a Kate Bush cover will headline The Mills’ (sort of) two-year birthday bash in Glasgow. The shindig takes place in Oran Mor on Thursday, 29 April, with local tune-churners Lions.Chase.Tigers and Admiral Fallow propping up the bill. In just a couple of years The Mill has seen over 200 acts playing stages in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Given how little most of us achieve in our early years – being unable able to go to the bathroom independent of Pampers Ultra and having no vocabulary beyond ‘waaah’ –it’s an impressive feat. Tickets for the night are £5 and can be found here.
Making Tracks The good people at TenTracks have launched yet more luscious bundles of music for your listening pleasure. For just a pound you can hear ten specially selected tracks (there’s no subtlety in the name, is there?) from Leith Records that includes such esteemed acts as Over the Wall, the 10:04’s and Come On Gang. For another 100 pence you can own a tasty selection of cuts from last month’s wonderful Hidden Door festival, that includes a ‘hidden mic’ piece composed of conversational clips taken throughout the day.
Meursault? More so Can’t wait until 24 May to get your paws on Meursault’s new longplayer All Creatures Will Make Merry? Well, if you’re attending the launch nights in Glasgow (Captain’s Rest, 7 Apr) or Edinburgh (Cabaret Voltaire, 10 Apr) you’ll be able pick up a sneaky limited edition pre-launch copy if you pre-order at Song By Toad records here. Based on the band’s recent live excursions with Xiu Xiu, ACWMM (how’s that for an acronym...) looks set to be more volumised than Pissing on Bonfires..., with frontman Neil Pennycook describing the sound as ‘epic lo-fi’, which strikes us a bit of an oxymoron. Anyway, on the back of the new album the Auld Reekie quintet will be jetsetting around Europe in the hope of finally getting the acclaim the deserve.
Mark Linkous RIP In much, much more sombre news, acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Mark Linkous committed suicide on Saturday. As the man behind the wonderful Sparklehorse, Linkous released four albums of extraordinary psych-folk. He also produced Daniel Johnston’s 2003 album Fear Yourself and collaborated with Danger Mouse on Dark Night of the Soul. A statement from Linkous’ family said: “It is with great sadness that we share the news that our dear friend and family member, Mark Linkous, took his own life today. We are thankful for his time with us and will hold him forever in our hearts. May his journey be peaceful, happy and free. There’s a heaven and there’s a star for you.” A tragically depressing day for music.
Plan your gig-going with our pick of the week's finest live music nights...
Lions.Chase.Tigers, Penguins Kill Polar Bears Saturday @ Nice'n'Sleazy, Glasgow / 7.30pm / £4 Animal-themed names abound as UtR-featured L.C.T. continue a Scotland-wide tour to promote their new 'To Their Blood' EP.
Richmond Fontaine, Amanda Levandovski Saturday @ Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh / 7pm / £TBC For those unfamiliar with RF frontman Willy Vlautin’s indulgent Americana storyscapes, get along to Cabaret Voltaire on Saturday for a real display of Oregonian songmanship.
Blood Red Shoes, Underground Railroad Monday @ Electric Circus, Edinburgh / 8pm / £8 BRS’ second album Fire Like This has been the recent subject of gushing praise on good radio stations (cue topical 6 Music rant). They make a huge racket for a duet, and will be ably assisted by London’s aptly named noise-merchants, Underground Railroad.
These Monsters, Bronto Skylift, Jackie Treehorn Thursday @ Bloc, Glasgow / 9pm / Free Leeds lads These Monsters boast tiptop Scottish support as they drop in on Glasgow as part of a UK tour. And you can't argue with the price.
Django Django Thursday @ Captain's Rest, Glasgow / 8pm / £tbc The eccentric East London-based quartet we featured last month return to Scotland to showcase their much-admired, off-kilter sounds.
The School, Django Django, Allo Darlin’ Friday @ Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh / 7pm / £4 Cardiff sixties revivalists The School are swiftly making a name for themselves with girl-group harmonies and beach-guitar melodies their arfau o ddewis (“weapons of choice”). Alongside the aforementioned Django Django, this Fresh Air-hosted gig is a snip at £4 entry.
Punch and The Apostles, Wounded Knee, Pineapple Chunks Friday @ Roxy Art House, Edinburgh / 8pm / £5 Waltz anyone? Glasgow’s seven-piece P&TA throw “uncool” traditional genres together and somehow succeed in making them very listenable. Chaotic and totally compelling, they’ll be showcasing material from their new eponymous album. Read UtR’ s interview with supporting Pineapple Chunks here.
Burnt Island - A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
Burnt Island - Music and Maths
Burnt Island are a Glasgow indie darling's dream band. From working with the Chemikal Underground label to forthcoming support from Aidan Moffat, they've checked enough cool points to chill every rum and coke poured in Sleazy's on a Friday night.
Luckily for them, and us, there's substance and musical merit there too.
While their sound has shades of The Delgados or even wistful Americans Midlake, it's the songwriting that sets them apart, no doubt aided by the fact that they're fronted by novelist-cum- guitarist Rodge Glass.
"The band started out from when I did a song with Vashti Bunyan called 'The Fire' on Ballads of the Book, an album put out by Chemikal Underground a couple of years ago", he explains. "I am mostly known as a writer and Vashti used one of my poems as the lyrics for the song, but when she invited me to play guitar and do some harmonies on the song I really enjoyed the experience and wanted to put a quiet band together."
The music is as understated as their sleepy seaside namesake (think soft plucky guitars, delicate flute licks and demure viola), creating a perfect backdrop for Glass's engaging lyrics and warm vocal tone.
Unsurprisingly, Glass's literary background is key to the way the songs take shape and helps explain why Burnt Island make the ideal accompaniment to a Sunday afternoon curled up with a good book. He cites poetic predecessors Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Bill Callahan as influences, as well as brooding indie-rock outfit The National.
"The core of our songs are the lyrics, and we build everything outwards from there. So that affects the arrangement, the harmonies, the instruments chosen for each song - everything," Glass says. "I like the songs to be ambiguous enough for listeners to have some gaps to fill in for themselves, but rich enough in imagery to have something worth listening carefully to."
To mark the release of their mini-album Music and Maths on the 15th of March, the band are set to take off on a mini-tour beginning on the 7th at Mono.
"After the launch we're doing an acoustic set at Glasgow's Book Festival the night before and playing with Emma Pollock and Josh Pyke at Tut's on March 19th. Then there's a couple of dates in Edinburgh shortly after, one at the Roxy Art House with Kays Lavelle, Alan Bissett and Adam Stafford.
"Does that count as a world tour?" Glass asks.
"Not quite," we reply. But here's hoping the Burnt Islanders catch fire outside Scotland soon.
Words: Aimi Gold
Watch Burnt Island live at the following dates:
6 March: Aye Write Festival (Gutter Showcase) @ Mitchell Library, Glasgow (Rodge solo) 7 March: Album launch at Mono, Glasgow (with Aidan Moffat, the Second Hand Marching Band and Benni Hemm Hemm) 19 March: King Tut's, Glasgow (supporting Emma Pollock) 24 March: The Forest Café, Edinburgh 26 March: Roxy Art House, Edinburgh (with Alan Bissett, Adam Stafford and The Kays Lavelle)
The outcry over the BBC's proposed axing of 6 Music has been futile. Despite DJs like Phill Jupitus quickly branding the plan "a slap in the face to licence-payers" and thousands of music fans adding their tweets to the #saveBBC6Music trend and joining Facebook protest groups, the inevitable was confirmed today.
Mark Thompson, director general of the Beeb, announced the decision as part of his "strategy review" - put simply, an attempt to shake off the persistent allegations from politicians that the corporation is 'bloated' and not delivering value to the licence-payer.
Now we could join the chorus of outrage over the absurd logic whereby Chris Moyles takes home £630k a year to jabber self-importantly over bad music but some of the corporation's most innovative and intelligent digital offerings are deemed surplus to requirments. But we'll leave that to other commentators - and there will be plenty of them. What's more, many of 6 Music's best offerings - such as Gideon Coe's intrepid archive trawling, Adam & Joe's infectious banter or Bob Dylan's themed raspings - have nothing to do with our 'new music' concerns anyway.
No, rather than fan the flames of ire (and despite the fact that it has a mere 700,000 listeners, 6 Music's fans are a vocal, media-savvy bunch), we thought it would be more pertinent to look at a few inconsistencies and imbalances this whole sorry affair spotlights:
• This is a triumph of mainstream majority over alternative minority, but since when does the BBC have to operate by such commercial imperatives anyway? No matter what the MPs say, it's the BBC's unique, non-commercial status that is its most vital quality. Its independence from advertisers breeds diversity, affording air time to unsigned bands or obscure classics on the margins of its scope, instead of wholesale playlisting across the board.
Here on UtR, on the Scotsman website, we are technically one of its online competitors, but while it would be easy to harbour jealousies for the huge resources at their disposal, the last thing we want is to see their commitment to emergent music diminish to nothing.
• As the BBC's coverage of new music shrinks (and at this rate Vic Galloway's show could soon be the only source of underground sounds us Scots get on the BBC), it makes us wonder: why is it that more traditional forms of music get such a good billing, especially in Scotland? Granted, it's native and it's inoffensive and many people love it, but you can hardly turn on BBC2 or Radio Scotland without being regaled by some implausibly cheerful fiddler. While that's perfectly fine in itself, it does seem to us that there's an imbalance here, especially given the vitality of new music in this country right now.
• It has been predicted that if the BBC does retreat from the cutting edge there would at least be a vacuum which could be filled by independent bloggers and podcasters. Again, if this theory proves correct then UtR, a kind of 'mainstream blog', stands to benefit. But we're not convinced by this argument, and as a new band starting out, would you rather tell your mum to turn on the radio or TV to hear your song or download a podcast? There's still a frisson of excitement around being featured on the traditional media that new media has yet to match.
The first draft of this editorial, written before today's announcement, ended on some suggestions for the BBC. Now that they have settled on a provisional course of action, we can only leave you with a (tongue-in-cheek) glimpse of the future for us all.
There's something very refreshing about being in a Glasgow venue where you still get more than six quid change from a tenner for two drinks.
The Grand Ole Opry might be a bit of a weird setting - neon-ringed cowboys gaze down at the crowd and the walls are painted with the wide blue skies of the plains, cactii and cowboy boots - but you can't argue it's not value for money. Plus it has a very decent sound system and a big wide stage perfect for loading up as many gadgets as Errors can manage between them.
First up are the mindbending Moon Unit (kind of the band live version of Nackt Insecten) and the poptastic Copy Haho - a strange contrast to each other and both offering a side to what Errors are about; some parts expansive exploration and other parts tightly-reined pop.
Tonight is all about new album Come Down With Me, and dropping things like 'Toes' and 'Salut France' early in the set keeps the audience happy and dancing but frees the band up to showcase more of album number two as they go along.
It's all welcomed warmly, to the apparent surprise of the band's Stephen Livingstone, who still has a good line in endearingly awkward banter. He spouts his thanks to the crowd for coming out on "such a bogging night" and promises to warm us up. Easy now.
The band are more comfortable when they're just getting down to it and their new material gives them plenty to play with. Trademark glasses and Davy Crockett hats are lost in the fray as they absorb themselves in the tunes.
Fingers fly over keyboards, laptops and fretboards, and at one point Livingstone, hands otherwise occupied, even uses his teeth on some pedal or other. (How that affects the sound isn't abundantly clear but let's be honest, it looks cool.) They even throw in some extreme cowbelling (on top of an amp with a guitar jack) for good measure.
Under the warm glow of the neon cowboys, Errors shine. They've delivered the perfect shot of anticipation to the album's release - not to mention good value for money.
Newsbits: Scottish Alt. Awards, Aberdeen protest album, Haiti appeal and more...
If ducking a handshake constitutes a front page splash, then god knows where that puts our weekly round-up of press releases and music related titbits. At a guess, we’d say page four. You know, just behind that elegant snap of a scantily clad female who’s putting the world to rights in the shape of two mountainous mammary glands.
Anyway, as this is a website there’s no need to concern ourselves with trivial matters like page numbers or, sadly, topless models. Instead, you can rest assured that what you’re reading right now will probably stay at the top of the page for the next 24 hours without subjecting you to nudity of any form.
Trapped in Kansas scoop alternative gong UtR favourites Trapped in Kansas scooped the ‘Best Rock/Alternative’ prize at last week’s Scottish Alternatve Music Awards (SAMA). The Glasgow based quartet fought off fierce competition from Make Sparks and This Familiar Smile to be crowned the most rocking alternative act in the land (or something). Other winners included As Darkness Falls (Best Newcomer), Promised Only Lies (Best Metal) and The LaFontaines (Best Live Act). Bronto Skylift bafflingly walked away with nada, but that’s that nature of open-vote awards for you.
SAMA organiser Richy Muirhead said: “The past seven months have been an amazing and great learning experience for myself. The music scene in Scotland is forever growing, and I hope everyone involved can now appreciate it more from this event. It's been a real blast, and I've already started brainstorming for next years festival.”
A heartfelt protest Remember the (often abysmal) vehicle for social change that was the protest song? We don't, but that's mainly because we were born in a time when Thatcher’s Conservatives crushed the voice of opposition. But up in Aberdeen a collective of local musicians do. To voice their disdain towards the City Square Project – a planned £50m facelift of Aberdeen’s city centre which includes the uprooting of Union Terrace Gardens (UTG) – 20 Aberdeen acts have come together to produce the ‘We heart UTG’ record. Encompassing a spectrum of genres from modern bluegrass to funky house, the download-only record can be acquired on a ‘pay what you like’ basis, with all proceeds going to the UTG campaign. To get your mitts on it, click here.
Scots bands put out for Haiti Four Scottish acts have donned their philanthropist capes and donated tracks to a Haiti benefit compilation. There Will Be Fireworks, Lions.Chase.Tigers, Farewell Singapore and Three Blind Wolves have forwarded cuts to New Jersey-based Dromedary Records for inclusion in the digitial-only release of Make The Load Lighter - Indie Rock for Haiti. All proceeds for the record will benefit the victims of the Haitian earthquake through an all-volunteer organisation called Vwa Ayiti (Voice Of Haiti). Label owner Al Crisafulli said of each band’s input: “It’s been great communicating with all four bands - this collection really has been a ton of fun, and it’s awesome to be able to do something quickly to raise money.” You can download the album here or, in a move which seems to be against the point of the record, you can listen to it here for free.
Selling out has never been so easy Last week’s announcement of ‘the best T in the Park line up ever’ resulted in the festival selling out in less time than it takes Inverness Caley Thistle to put four goals past Raith Rovers (less of that please - ed). Unable to resist a roll call of Eminem, Muse, Jay-Z and The Black Eyed ‘why don’t they split’ Peas, Scottish punters snapped up 85,000 tickets in 90 minutes. We’d like to think this record breaking frenzy was in some way aided by the inclusion of Dirty Projectors and Broken Social Scene but, let’s face it, we’d just be deluding ourselves. For the latest line-up news all you need to do is click here.
Chewing the festival cud In harder-than-it-looks news, chewing gum company Trident are seeking to exchange £30,000 for someone to visit 30 music festivals over 30 weeks. Taking in festivals around the globe, all you need to do is document the experience via Trident's festival website, through tweets, blogs, photos and videos, with reviews, gossip and celebrity interviews. Sounds easy, huh? Well, the challenge is actually getting the job, which will involve an online application, a face to face interview and, if you get that far, an all-day assessment in front of a panel that includes having to meet the insanely irritating George Lamb. See, told you it was tough. More info can be found here.
Twilights get a room The Twilight Sad get back to the campaign trail for last year's still-growing-on-us album Forget the Night Ahead by releasing new single 'The Room'. Rife with the usual clash of miserabilism and voluptuous arrangement, the track offers the added bonus of My Latest Novel's Laura McFarlance guesting on violin. And for you for your aural/visual enjoyment, you can watch the fancy new video of said track below: