Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Editorial: The End?

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.

UtR is dead. Long live Radar.

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Monday, 29 March 2010

Newsbits: End o' Findo, Fanclub return, Astros freebie, Swimmer One album

Findo Gask
[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.

Got news for us? Let us know at utr.scotsman@gmail.com or tweet us @under_the_radar

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Friday, 26 March 2010

Radar recommends: 27 March - 2 April

We Were Promised Jetpacks
[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.


Words: Elaine Liddle, Nick Mitchell

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

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Thursday, 25 March 2010

Live review: RBRBR EP launch

RBRBR

The GRV, Edinburgh
Saturday 20 March 2010


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.

Any Color BlackThings 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.

RBRBROn 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.

Words: Craig Dickson

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

On the radar: Silver Columns

Silver Columns

Silver Columns - Cavalier


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.

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Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Where they are now: Super Adventure Club

Super Adventure ClubZombies 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.

Recorded by Laurie Irvine in their rehearsal space using his portable studio (described as looking like “something out of a sci-fi film”), the new album will be put out by Glasgow-based indie Armellodie Records, home to the likes of Le Reno Amps, Cuddly Shark and Kill The Captains.

“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.

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Monday, 22 March 2010

Newsbits: Last Battle sign deal, Wickerman acts revealed, NAO album released

The Last Battle

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.

Got news for us? Let us know at utr.scotsman@gmail.com or tweet us @under_the_radar

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Friday, 19 March 2010

Radar recommends: 20 - 26 March

Wounded Knee
[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

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

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