Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Scotland Round-Up: March - April

In like a lamb, out like a lion. It’s one of those well worn local phrases that conveys the schizophrenic nature of Scotland’s weather in March. But, really, what kind of atmospheric state befits coming ‘in like a lamb’? As a one time hill-dwelling Highlander, I’ve seen lambs ‘coming in’ to this world and, rest assured, it's not pretty. Not pretty at all. Anyway, back to music matters. It’s almost April and that means the season of losing your self respect in a boggin’ field to a smattering of happy-to-be-there melody makers is quickly bearing down upon us. And, as you’ll quickly notice, this month’s round-up gravitates around Scottish festivals like an MP looking to bury bad news does a natural disaster.

The big story, of course, is the big T. Yep, days after our last Drowned in Scotland dispatch, the line up for this year’s T in the Park (TITP) was ceremoniously announced to slavering media types. Lurking beneath the headline triumvirate of Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay and Foofighters lies an intriguing undercard that offers up the corduroy-clad return of Pulp, Primal Scream in their Screamadelica smothered pomp and the boot-kicking, lip-pouting, hip-wiggling thrusts of Blondie. Sure, blasts from the past they may be, but TITP is a festival for scorching your liver while screeching your lungs off. Taste, as anyone who's been before will vouch, is not always top of the agenda. Much like non-educated delinquents, according to festival organiser Geoff Ellis

Continuing the TITP theme, Tennent’s have been inviting Scotland’s unsigned artists to stake their claim for a chance to play the T Break Stage at this year’s festival. As part of this year’s selection 'panel', I can’t honestly give you an objective take on this call for demo submissions. But I can confirm the artists who have already applied are proving unnervingly adept at hunting down the judges on social media networks and pleading their case. Rest assured, not even a vinegar drenched palony supper will swing our votes.

Anyway, the T Break stage offers up-and-coming bands the opportunity to play to a potentially huge audience, while raising their profile within the wider Scottish music industry. Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro and We Were Promised Jetpacks have all graced the T Break stage at one time – each going on to greater things. The submission process seems fairly easy – you should plonk your tuneage here before 11 April – and you can rest assured (because it’s been drummed into us by the lovely ladies in the T Break PR office) the judges will wrap their lugs around every entry before casting their decision. The selected 16 bands will be announced in May and will play the TITP festival on Saturday 9 June and Sunday 10 June. And, hey, if you don’t make the cut at least you know who to blame, right?

OK, moving on from that shameless plug. Another festival, slightly less gargantuan than TITP but no less worthy, was announced this month. The rather quaint sounding Doune The Rabbit Hole festival is returning to the enchanting pastures of Doune Castle in Stirlingshire. For three days the castle plays host to a healthy sprawl of Scottish melody makers, long and short in both tooth and style, including The Vaselines, BMX Bandits, James Yorkston, Dam Mantle, Conquering Animal Sound and many more tasty tunesmiths. If you’re getting the impression it’s one of those fancy-shmancy Boutique type affairs where tangerine-tinted girls wear 6-inch stilettos while attempting to negotiate a field full of cowpat, fear not. For this delightful little soiree will cost you at most 58 of your finest pounds and at the least 18 quid. Not a bad bang for yer buck, I'm sure you'll agree.

Next up, it’s an all-smiles-in-the-end-report on the stooshy around Withered Hand’s South By Southwest (SXSW) visa. In short, Dan Wilson – aka Withered Hand – was entrenched in battle with the USA immigration control about whether his melody-merchantry was of sufficient quality to play in the land of the free (or is that the brave? I can never remember). Admittedly, the visions of dour-pussed visa control officers mulling over Dan’s whimsical folk-pop conjures up a grin or two, but what on earth they were doing questioning the validity of a musician’s work – especially one who has been selected by SXSW and vouched for by Creative Scotland – is, frankly, baffling. Anyway, after a plea or two in the ears of the right people, it all ended as jubilantly as an Enid Blyton escapade, with our maligned hero swathing his way through the tabloid-conjured red tape to touch down in Texas with moments to spare - huzzah. To get more of a feel for the whole SXSW shenanigans, here’s a very watchable video diary from the sweat-soaked Detour boys…

For our final festival fling of the month, we move to matters of a more naval gazing disposition. Edinburgh-based industry bods Born To Be Wide have revealed details of their forthcoming Wide Days event. On 7 April, Wide Days will host a programme of panels, workshops and showcases in venues around Edinburgh, covering a range of topics like ‘Music in Films’ and ‘Not Just SXSW’ as well as more practical elements like ‘How To Write A Killer Biog’ and 'Music Making Money'. Olaf Furniss, a key Wide Days curator, says: “Last year’s Wide Days proved that it is possible to host a successful event which brings together industry veterans and those working at grassroots level. This year we plan to build on that success with a programme combining the experience of both the old and the new music business.”

Now, before the DiS subs hack away at this column like some sort of sleep deprived, amphetamine-swizzing hairdresser recently ditched by her deadbeat boyfriend after he salami-dipped her ex-best mate, there’s just enough room to tell you about Jonnie Common’s excellent new Deskjob project. Essentially, Jonnie – a renowned ditty-designer with an ear for a tune – has coerced ten of Scotland’s finest acts to hand over stripped down versions of their musical wares to have his wicked, electronically-stimulated way with them. The result is a rather nifty, ear-pleasing record that you can get your hands on here. And, if you’re in Glasgow on 6 April you can witness nine of the ten acts ply their Common-infused trade at the skinny-fitting Captain’s Rest. To top it all off, we've got a little taster of the album to get your pulse running...


There's some tasty treats amongst Scotland's myriad musical sweatboxes this month. Here's a quick round up of five of the best...

Dead Boy Robotics, Vasquez,Enfant Bastard, Esperi - Sunday 27 March , The Store, Edinburgh

The live return of Edinburgh’s premium electro-hipsters Dead Boy Robotic is made even more titillating by the inclusion of Lady North’s pneumatic-whacking skinsman on drums.

Deerhunter – Monday 28 March, Oran Mor, Glasgow

Bradley Cox and his understated, ethereal arrangements will no doubt haunt Oran Mor’s hallowed coves. Expect tickets to be at a premium - in fact [quickly checks venue] they're already sold out. Sorry.

Meursault, Conquering Animal Sound, Jonnie Common – Saturday 2 April, Limbo @ Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

A new look Meursault take to the ever impressive Limbo stage alongside gorgeous bleep-mongers Conquering Animal Sound. Most definitely gig of the month.

Haddowfest – Sat 2 & Sun 3 April, Various venues, Edinburgh

Sure, the ‘main’ draw of this festival may be Johnny Borrell’s curiously Young Guns-modelled Razorlight, but there’s myriad local treasures to ease you through the pain.

Lone Pigeon,Pictish Trail – 15 April, Blue Lamp, Aberdeen

Much revered Scottish luminaries Gordon Anderson and Johnny Lynch make a sizeable dent on the Aberdeen gig scene this month.



With a career that’s already spanned ten years, including stints supporting Jurassic 5 and Amy Winehouse, it seems a little strange to be ‘Introducing…’ Profisee. But for Edinburgh MC Nike Oruh (AKA Profisee) timing is everything. Lyrically, Oruh has always outgunned the competition, reeling off engorging, spiritually conscious yarns that push far beyond limp schoolyard tokenisms. But it’s in the beats where his work is finding fresh thrust; new EP, Logan’s Run, is a driving charge of electronically scarred hip-hop that hurtles into the ear canals like an inter-galactic meteor shower. Behind this tumultuous sonic backdrop, Oruh’s enlightened tones offer the kind of rhyme-coining wisdom that's matured from years of battle, transforming Logan’s Run in to an invigorating slab of genre-crossing sound. After a decade of graft, Profisee has just about seen it all. Now, finally, success is almost in his grasp.

Logan’s Run is released on 28 March through Phuturelabs. You can check it out in its entirety here.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Left With Pictures - In Time

It’s easy to see why most bands approach their second longplayer with a note of trepidation. Having a lifetime to write album number one then a matter of months to produce the subsequent musical goods is a galling proposition. Add to it the very real prospect of an attention-bereft fanbase having already moved on to the latest fad and that sophomore offering begins to look like a monumental challenge. No wonder so many artists combust at the second hurdle.

Perhaps anticipating this career-erasing proposition, Left With Pictures have approached the follow up to 2009’s Beyond Our Means with an unusual twist. In Time may bear hallmarks of an archetypal album – 12 tracks, 45 minutes long, available in a range of formats – but its contents were composed in a much more unique manner. Over the course of 2010, the London quintet set about writing, recording and producing one full song (with accompanying video) a month and releasing it via Gideon Coe’s radio show on 6Music. In Time is the fruit of that labour.

Now, as many a marketing department will attest, the piecemeal approach to presenting a product will (in the very best marketing speak) maximise customer desire, leaving the manipulated masses slavering for more. But that only works if the product’s actually desirable. Give your audience something it doesn’t want and you’ll fail. No amount of floral window dressing or quick-quipping slogans can change that – a lesson Left With Pictures would have done well to heed.

Admittedly, In Time’s creation certainly piques interest, but its contents are far from rousing. The arable-pop ensemble seem to have addressed the criticisms of Beyond Our Means – a solid chamber-pop showing that lacked any real chomp – by honing in on the presentation rather than the execution. Instead of producing a thrilling follow up of glossy indie jaunts, they’ve crafted an inoffensive offering that drifts along as a translucent daydream, blissful in its own sense of nothingness.

‘Constantly’ serves up the first taste of the record’s banality. The tender, creeping piano strikes give way to a rising wash of plucked banjo and mourning strings while Stuart Barter unleashes a haunting, misanthropic warble. It’s a choral affair, and one that’s rich with instrumental textures, but there’s no underlying spark, no neck-bruising grab of the collar that demands attention. Instead, the cut’s gauche, celestial blowing is helium balloon-like in sound: momentarily cute, but all too easy to let go and forget about.

The driftwood accumulates the deeper you wade. 'October Waits’s a capella waltz reclines as the bellowing of a barbershop quartet lost deep in Robin Hood-era Sherwood Forest. ‘Go, Simon, Go!’ is equally reliant on retrograde swooning; working the initial cool jazz beat into an airy Ooberman-like haze that finds Barter purring “don’t give up you’re almost there, there’s one more night away from home, and then your mother comforts you”. Such honey-smothered odes to love may work for wet-eared school boys. They don’t here.

Given the iterative blueprint, In Time’s disparate, schizophrenic nature should be its main stumbling block. But this lack of melodic flow almost proves its redeemer. Beside 'Ropes’'s stomach-acid gargle of cute synths and strings sits the buoyant pop spectacle of ‘June’, an infectious, tumbling rollick that – aided by Toby Knowles’ acrobatic tenor – has the curious edge of Wild Beasts doused in sunshine and high on valium. Likewise, the delicate, candle-burning canticle of ‘River Avon’ bears absolutely no resemblance to ‘The Ideas of March’s giddy, medieval swell, yet it's all the more remarkable for it.

Despite these momentary stays of execution, In Time mostly courses with an insipidity that scythes down its ambitions as both a listenable piece of work and a musical project. Sure, once in a while, fleeting slithers of song may lodge their way into the ear canals, but these are rare occurrences on a record lacking sharpness or direction. As a concept and a marketing trick, one tune a month may prove an attractive hook on which to hang a range of unpolished ideas. As an album, In Time proves the result is much less appealing.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

What I've been listening to this week...

Yes, I know it’s Saturday and this is supposed to be a Sunday thing, but, hey, it’s a ‘blog’ so the rules I make up, I can just as easily break up, right? Anyway, it’s been a busy ol’ week and the start of next week is equally as hectic with gigs and work, so it’s probably best to get this out of the way today rather than completely forget about it tomorrow.

Last night I thought my eardrums were about to implode, so brutal was the rumbling bass at the Lucky Me soiree. It was a good night; really interesting to see how club culture has progressed (and volumised) since I was a young 'un. Today, I’m just happy to be able to hear music never mind write about it. Still, I’ll give it my best shot in the hour or so I have spare this morning before we go off to shoot a child (with a camera, not a gun).

Explosions in the Sky (EITS)

The new EITS record, as anyone who’s read my swooning tweets will affirm, is an album I’m basking in at the present. I’m a little surprised by how much I’m enjoying these instrumental blowings; previously I’ve been non-plussed by EITS’s slow-building endeavours. But Take Care, Take Care, Take Care seems to hone their sound into a tightly knitted 46 minutes of growling post-rock. Album swansong, Let Me Back In, is a particular pleasure.


This Monday I finally get round to seeing Bradford Cox in live action. I'm a bit excited. Annoyingly, Su has already had the pleasure; although this was back in Atlanta where he letched over her every move while she was shooting . It’s a bit weird thinking of Cox as a sexually charged man, really. Kinda creepy. Anyway, in preparation for Monday night's Glasgow jaunt, I’ve been re-listening to Deerhunter's most recent release, the excellent Halcyon Digest. This cut, He Would Have Laughed – a song written in tribute to Jay Retread – is the zenith on a record of mountainous highs. Monday can’t come soon enough.


In my bid to keep fit and deter the mood altering effects of a highly stressful day job, I’ve been running the 2.5 mile journey home (almost) every working day. Bizarrely, the maniacal sound of Deerhoof is a perfect soundtrack for this new found penchant for pavement pounding. I’m fairly certain it’s something to do with their dedication to ebb-flow rhythms. The band’s acerbic lunges are harmonised by slow-creeping woozes, meaning my lungs are given some much needed respite while negotiating the ridiculous amounts of hills found in inner-city Edinburgh. Seriously, someone needs to flatten this place out.

Over the Wall

Nick [Mitchell – Raith supporting Radar Editor] made a very good point during last night's Over the Wall (OTW) show: they’re a band that’s impossible to dislike. I’ve always been intrigued by the working of OTW, there’s definitely more of an artsy edge to the duo’s work than their cabaret-styled on-stage demeanours suggest. Also, they’ve produced a zippy little track called ‘Thurso’, which as well as being their most recognisable number, is also the name of my hometown. I’ve never really fathomed the connection, but I’m sure the ‘look how far we’ve come’ musing resonates with many an ex-pat northerner.

J Masics

I never could get into the new Kurt Vile LP that everyone’s licking their lips over. But, in an odd throw up of the books (or records, I suppose), I’m all over J Masics’s Several Shades Of Why. It’s very simple stuff, built around an acoustic guitar and Masics’ rich baritone, but these tortured reveries hit me harder than any of the stops Vile pulls out. Definitely more a Sunday morning soundrack than a pre-club curtain-raiser, though.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

What I was listening to... 15 years (or so) ago

Well, seeing as I missed the deadline for ‘What I listened to last week’, I think I’ll try and make up for it with a ‘What I was listening to 15 years (or so) ago’. Before even checking out some of my musical predilections as a floppy haired youth, I already know my ‘adult’ music tastebuds will shiver at the thought of having to endure some of the bands I used to listen to regularly. So, this blog will attempt to focus on the stuff that isn’t absolutely appalling but had a pretty big impact on my musical likings today. Let the cringing commence.

The Stone Roses
My god I was obsessed with this band when I was a kid. Ian Brown was the coolest man alive; Mani was the best bass player, like, ever; John Squire was the WITHOUT DOUBT the most amazing guitar player in the universe; and noone pummeled skins like Reni. Phew, how wrong was I? Listening back, I’m not sure what I was thinking. Firstly, Ian Brown, apart from transpiring to be a bit of a cock, is beyond awful – to think I used to defend THAT voice. As for the music, well it’s flat, lifeless and just very, very stale. No amount of Jackson Pollock painting can hide that. But, hey, at least I was right about one thing. That boy Reni – some drummer.

Pearl Jam
Right, admitting this makes me a little disgusted with myself. Eddie Vedder’s pious, godlier-than-thou attitude these days makes my stomach gargle. But, Vitalogy was one of the first CDs I ever owned and on hearing it again it’s actually pretty good. Sure, it’s wallowingly self-indulgent but it still feels pretty raw and immediate to me; I specifically like the build that runs throughout this track. Time has not exactly been good for my relationship with Eddie Vedder, but maybe , at my age, it’s best to put these grudges behind me.

Even now, I still love Suede. It’s impossible not to. I’m not sure Su entirely gets it, but Bret Anderson was a beautiful man. Oddly, although it’s only been 20ish years, Stay Together is decidedly vintage in sound. Actually, I never realized just how daydreamy it came across. It’s definitely not something I associated with Suede at the time. To me they were the polar opposite of the braggard Britpop schtick floating about; they were dark, moody, sensitive. But, now, it seems there was a definite hint of ambition in those moonlit laments. Not that that puts me off them, of course - Dog Man Star is still a codeine-cut classic.

The Bluetones
My best mate’s boyfriend rips me for this every single time I see him. To be honest, I’m not sure what the deal is with the lack of Bluetones love. They were alright for their time. Aye, Mark Morris was a bit of an effete, cardigan-adorner in those girl-shagging, Chris Evans wanking, Loaded days, but that was part of the charm, wasn’t it? Anyway, in retrospect, The Bluetones were really a bit blah. Nothing to hate, nothing to love. Merely fodder for a generation of kids who actually bought Theaudience records. Talking of which, fuck I hate Sophie Ellis Baxtor.

The Prodigy
To a 15-year-old living in the north of Scotland Music For a Jilted Generation sounded like the apocalypse. I remember hearing this track on an old Vox giveaway tape and immediately being hooked. At the time I had to order the record from my local record shop and ended up checking every week to see if it had arrived (the internet seemed an awfully long way away then). When it finally did, I think my mother just about combusted with what was coming out of my room. It felt a bit rebellious; still does. So, why, oh why, did they follow it up with the abomination that was Firestarter?

I actually reviewed Supergrass about three years ago for Drowned In Sound, with my best mate in tow. We both came away thinking it was ‘alright’ (pardon the pun) but it was about time Supergrass called it a day, especially as Gaz’s once bulbous thatch was thinning faster than a supermodel in a sweatshop. But, at the time, Supergrass were a buoyant alternative to the stoically faced Mancunian bands doing the rounds; they had more hooks than a deep sea trawler and produced videos that clicked with the MTV masses. Today, it’s not something I’d immediately clutch out for were my CD collection to fall into obvlivion, but there’s still a shot of youthful adrenaline coursing through their early work that’s impossible to shake off.

Super Furry Animals
The fact they’re still producing the goods, makes me feel pretty good inside. I actually got into Super Furries quite late. Intrigued by the infectious Herman Loves Pauline, Revolver was my first SFA purchase, which was quickly followed up by psychedelic wash that was Guerrilla. Even now I’m surprised by how thickly textured and progressive the tracks sound. It’s probably a little too over the top to compare them, generationally, to the Beach Boys, but much of SFA’s 90s work certainly had a ring of Brain Wilson to it.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

What I was listening to last week

Last week’s music listening was pretty much dominated by the return of Battles. I know Tyondai’s departure has probably diluted the excitement surrounding their re-arrival, but Battles were all about John Stanier’s apoplectic percussion for me. Seeing them live at the Liquid Room a couple of years ago, standing right above Stanier while he pummelled his skins into an abrasive rumpus,still ranks as one of my favourite ever shows.

This new track, Ice Cream, is a poppier cut than anything on Mirrored’s discordant kaleidoscope. That, surprisingly, is no bad thing. Splintering complex African rhythms against summer skating Hammond organ, Ice Cream is a giddy, rambunctious sprawl that plays out as the most infectious and accessible ditty Battles have ever produced. Worth the wait? For sure.

On the flip side. I’ve been listening to the new Left With Pictures record In Time. It is, to my ears, an aural abomination. Admittedly, I absolutely loathe the guy’s voice – it sits somewhere between operatic tenor and polished pop pleading. But the honeyed indie-pop that gloops underneath his grating intone is, somehow, even more repulsive. I, quite honestly, have no idea where to start with the review without giving it an absolute kicking. Which is, most probably, what I’ll be giving it.

I’ve also been checking out Jamie xx’s remix of last year’s brilliant Gil Scott Heron record, I’m New Here. The reviews for (the lazily titled) We’re New Here have been overwhelmingly positive, but so far the record feels like a sloppy rehash. I guess repetitive listening is required to appreciate the production-desk wizardry of xx, but so far it’s a bland, insipid mix of the captivating original. To save you the tedium of the xx’s lifeless reinterpretation, here’s the rhythmically monstrous original of New York Is Killing Me.

10 New York Is Killing Me by IKI

I haven’t really taken The Roots very seriously in years. Much of that is due to the crushing disappointment of How I Got Over. For some reason I just couldn’t get into the record. It never felt like The Roots and I’m certain I was down to the bottomless well of artists who ‘featured’ throughout . But, in my younger days, when I was exploring Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, De La Soul, Q-Tip and the like, The Roots’ Things Fall Apart was barely off my minidisc player (oh yes!). It was a genius record that pushed beyond Hip Hop’s tokenisms, both intellectually and instrumentally. Pushing an infectious rhythm and loose-lipped rhymes, this cut, The Next Movement, is a sublime barometer of the record’s treasures.

I’m slowly becoming obsessed with Ducktails. There’s a hair-tingling element to his acidic washes that reminds me of Su’s home town. At times it’s like the sound of waves rolling at the shore; equally tranquil and breathy. I probably just need a holiday, but this is luscious.

Ducktails - Hamilton Road by azabalegui

Saturday, 12 March 2011

My photographic ineptitude...

Over the last six months I've been slowly getting to grips with using a camera. Much of this interest, admittedly, has stemmed from my wife being a professional photographer who was rather embarrassed by my total lack of ability with an SLR. But, it's definitely developing into a bit of a hobby.

In half a year, I've learned about the exposure triangle, depth of field, rule of thirds, post-production, textures, horizons and all other sorts of photography-related details that I never thought I'd know, or even care, about. I'm no where near Su's standards, and never will be, but I do have an added advantage of being critiqued and trained by a pro - which has definitely helped.

I'm also quite fortunate to be able to select from a range of professional lenses and bodies. We've talked about getting me an 'all rounder' lens but having gotten used to the big boy lenses I think I'd struggle to love it. I'm really a bit spoiled for choice.

Anyway, from time to time I'm going to start posting some of my favourite pictures on this blog. I know it's not music related but the blog could probably benefit a little from an added dash of my personality.

First up then, is a few pictures I took on a day trip to the coastal villages of Fife. It's an extraordinarily beautiful area of Scotland, blessed with some of the most breath-taking coastlines. I'm pretty sure it won't be long before me and Su make another trek beyond the Forth.

Sure, they're not great. But it's a start. You can see more of my photographic ineptitude on Flickr...

Found - Factorycraft

As an approach to making music, adopting the element of surprise produces some unwieldy results. On one hand, trouncing the expectations of the waiting masses, much like Thom Yorke’s sonic-shifting vagabonds in the early Noughties, can pay critical and commercial dividends, while developing an unprecedented sense of career autonomy. But, in a slightly sweatier, more nervous palm sits the likes of the Klaxons, whose mournful attempts at regeneration fell headlong into an abyss marked 'obliteration'.

The trick, so it seems, is to master the art of malleability; to sop up the sound of your surrounding environment without saturating it with try-hardy pastiche. Some bands get it. Some don’t. Either way, it’s difficult to oppose even the blindest stab at musical reinvigoration. After all, is there any more odious sight than a weather-weary rock star regurgitating album after album of three-chord ditties like Britpop never went away?

Over the past five years, Edinburgh based music/art collective Found have proved able purveyors of a curveball or two. Admittedly, their defining revelatory moment came from a more cultured pursuit than pure music – last year’s BAFTA-awarding winning sound project, Cybraphon, was a post-modernistic triumph that had high-brow art critics slavering like spaniels over a tin of Pedigree Chum. But Found’s penchant for glitchy melodies has brought its own occassions of eardrum-prickling bewilderment, particularly during 2007’s bleeping folk-sprawl, This Mess We Keep Reshaping.

Now residing in Glasgow’s Chemikal Underground stable, Found’s experimental meandering infuses album number three, Factorycraft. But rather than a zig-zagging, space-age ascent into the unknown, the trio of Ziggy Campbell, Kev Sim and Tommy Perman - newly culled from the five piece of old - have reverted to more basal sounds, rotating around wiry guitars, drum machines and Campbell’s laconic drawl. It’s as close to flat-out indie rock as Found have ever gotten. And, for a band so willing to take a progressive musical stance, it’s a bold, almost radical, move - but one that pays off.

What Factorycraft lacks in electro-contorting gimmicks, it more than makes up for in storytelling. The record’s threadbare structure pushes Campbell’s fuggy accounts of doomed relationships and dead-end towns to the fore, revealing a flair for magnifying the minutiae of life in Scotland's backwaters. His monotonal brogue is instantly arresting; the sparse guitar twinges running through opening number ‘Anti-Climb Paint’ creates a platform on which Campbell eases out deliciously introverted couplets like “my love comes staggered / dug-eared and haggard”.

This overt self-scything recalls Arab Strap’s more distressing moments and, in the quivering cold-hearted blows of ‘You’re No Vinvent Gallo’ and gut-wrenching farewell ‘Blendbetter’, definite strains of Messers Moffat and Middleton exist. But, Factorycraft isn’t built on the recycled remains of Scottish bands past. The record’s inner-working is a panoramic sweep that goes beyond local pastures: ’I’ll Wake With a Seismic Head No More’s nocturnal bass and matadorial guitar is pure Wire in aura, while ‘Machine Age Dancing’ breaks into sporadic ticks of mammoth Phil Spector-styled orchestration.

By moving in to relative orthodoxy, Found seem to have honed their experimental nous. Where once they would digress, here their ideas have a greater sense of cultivation. At times, the gamble doesn’t always come off – ‘Lowlandness’ is a heel-dragging bore, plodding along to a grind of stale, tepid rhythms with less pulse than a necrophiliac’s love interest. But, album highlight ‘Every Hour That Passes’ reinforces the band’s knack for nimble, genre-crossing cuts, penduluming between heart-swelling lament and calypso-blushed lollop.

As a band with a remit for pushing boundaries, Found are in strangely familiar territory. Sure, it may sound like a disarming shunt in direction, but Factorycraft challenges the notion that progress revolves around a spewing of effects-board wizardry. Much like kindred spirits The Beta Band once did, this is a band plugging the gap between pop finesse and esoteric art school gristle without reverting to gimmicks or cliché. And, for Found, that’s very little to be surprised about.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Scotland round-up: February - March

Another month, another Radiohead record, and another music-orientated dispatch from north of the border.

With the annual South by South West showcase (better known as the wholly incorrect acronym SXSW) only weeks away, there's a string of Scottish acts attempting to bankroll their transatlantic trek via all manner of elaborate schemes.

Cuddle-pop quartet Kid Canaveral will be tugging on heart and purse strings like Bob Geldof in a stray dogs home as they ply their gooey melodic trade at SXSW fundraisers across the Central Belt at the tail-end of the month (Glasgow, 24 Feb and Edinburgh, 26 Feb). And not content with merely battering paying punters into submission, ceaseless noise mongers Bronto Skylift have created some rather spangly T-shirts that deserve to hear the clink of your pennies jingling in their pockets.

Many more tartan-clad tunesmiths intend on making merry at this year’s sweltering Texan cess-pit. Yet of the 22 acts originally penned in, only 17 remain, with further casualties expected before the curtain rises on 16 March. So, is it really worth it? After all, SXSW's spotlight is hogged by 2,000 other acts all making pleading eyes at the same gaggle of arm-pit seeping, gak-hoovering A&R types. Maybe not, then, but it'd be folly for any artist to sneer at such a potentially career-escalating opportunity. Perhaps there's a more pertinent question to ask in such situations: can local bands afford to pass on such high-profile window displays?

Moving back to Scottish shores, our virile young music makers are having their backs slapped at this month’s Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMAs). Billed as a showcase of the best Scottish alternative artists, the new music commending shindig is happening at Glasgow’s Classic Grand on Friday (25 February). On the face of it, the SAMAs look like your typical preordained gong-a-thon. But, unusually, these awards are to be decided by the adorably subjective public – a sure fire way to up the entertainment stakes. By now, the voting has closed, but the results are worth keeping an eye on, if only to confirm how out of touch we hacks really are.

Talking of being utterly out of touch, Channel 4 has just screened its latest instalment of the Sound From The Cities series – a late night take on music scenes across the land. This time it honed in on the aural delights of Edinburgh. Now, in recent years the Capital’s streets have been jangling to the likes of Meursault, Broken Records and Found. So what did the producers do? They reeled out the musical 'skills' of KT Tunstall, John Fratelli and someone called Kristina Cox, while speaking to a selection of Scottish music dignitaries from anywhere but Auld Reekie (Edwyn Collins excluding - although he's really an honourary Glaswegian).

Over the years, Edinburgh's music scene has had more kicks to the balls than a groin-cup tester working overtime in an East-Asian sweatshop. Sounds From The Cities should have offered an informed account of the challenges posed by over eager property developers, apathetic audiences and the overbearing shadow of its M8 rival. Instead, the nation tuned in to banal chat over Scotland’s pre-supposed London paranoia, a recap of the pre-2005 'glory days' and teeth-grating kilt gags by one half of the UK’s worst comedy duo since Hale and Pace (Hello Matthew Horne). Frankly, all this abominable show proved was that, as a platform for new music, TV is very nearly dead.

Perhaps pre-empting the goggle-box’s slow demise, the boys behind Detour Scotland – a forward thinking music promotion crew – have set up shop on You Tube with their own video channel. Over the past year Detour’s star has steadily risen, thanks mainly to a series of live shows set outside your typical four-walled affair and Detour henchman Ally McCrae’s recent appointment as Scotland’s disc-spinning maestro on Radio 1's airwaves. In the coming weeks, the guys plan on posting a video a day to the site, with entertaining snippets of local tunesmiths like Alex Kapranos, Young Fathers and Ariels Up already aired. To give you a flavour of what’s in store, check out this porcelain-primed acoustic offering from Bronto Skylift:

With Record Store Day just about in sight (16 April), Kevin Buckle, the owner of Avalanche Records -Scotland’s best known independent music retailer - has penned a few paragraphs on the challenges facing local record shops today. The post, perfectly entitled ‘Hardcorewillneverdiebutrecordshopswill?’, chews over whether bands and labels have a responsibility to support their nearest vinyl shack. Intriguingly, it also reveals some customers are taking iPhone snaps of albums they hear in store so they can bypass paying for them at the counter. Tsk, kids today - where do they get off? Anyway, Kevin's musings make for an intriguing read that’s not as one sided as you might think. Let’s hope for his sake people don’t just take note, but take action.

Finally, anyone left salivating over last month’s Homegame teaser may be in for a bitter blow. After less than five seconds (or so it seemed) of being in the public domain, tickets for this year’s Fence Collective soiree in May were snapped up and swallowed whole like those little white balls you get in Hungry Hippos. Still, never mind, this month saw the announcement of a few more musical jamborees to glug yer Buckie and stroke yer beards at. The unfortunately titled Stag ‘n’ Dagger has another stab (sorry) at the multi-venue festival thing on 21 May, while the Inverness-situated goNorth festival runs from 9-10 June and will be used as a kickstart for the goNorth Festival Tour (which you can read a little more about here). Of course, the daddy of all Scottish Festivals, T in the Park, is still to announce its Balado line up for this year's festivities. Expect more on that bound to be polarising topic next month.


Gig-wise, it’s looking fairly rosy in Scotland over the next month, with an oceanic swell of worthwhile live shows happening across the country. To help navigate you through this smorgasbord of tuneage, here’s five to look out for…

Penguins Kill Polar Bears, Your Neighbour The Liar, Aviation For Kids, Tiny Little Robots - Sat 26 February, Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh.

Post-rocking bombast from Arctically-titled headliners with splashes of angular indie-shapes thrown in from a sprightly local undercard.

John Knox Sex Club - Sun 27 February, Captain’s Rest, Glasgow.

Probably the most engaging live band in Scotland, on stage John Knox Sex Club make the tender, arable numbers of last year's mesmerising Blud Rins Cauld LP sound like the wounded craw of a feral highland beast. Astonishing stuff, not to be missed.

Les Savy Fav - Tues 1 March, The Tunnels, Aberdeen.

With his penchant for stripping off and stage diving, it’s impossible not enjoy Tim Harrington’s maniacal histrionics. As for the music, well it’s Les Savy Fav. Need I say more?

Paws, Mondegreen, Male Pattern Band, Lady North - Fri 4 March, Captain’s Rest, Glasgow.

Very probably gig of the month. The Glasgow PodcART-curated show features four of the country’s most ear-blistering hopes for 2011. Best pack a protective mask - your face is sure to get melted.

Phantom Band - 17 March, Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh.

Riding high on the wave of effusive praise that met album number two, The Wants, Phantom Band will be looking to prove all that fancy-pants production can transpose its way on to the stage.


It’s amazing how often wonky, off-tune guitars and unsynchronised time signatures congeal as solid bars of tuneful gold. Armed with both abstract intentions and indie-pop sensibilities, Glasgow trio Mondegreen seem to have perfected this alchemic craft. Definite echoes of Pavement permeate their spasmodic lo-fi rancour, but below the restless fuzz-box jerking lies the same acute rhythms and inventive concords that make Field Music so listenable. Already occupying a soft spot in the heart of Chemikal Underground’s Stewart Henderson (so he says right here), their feverous debut EP exudes the sort of cloying, gnarly aesthetic the ex-Delgados man proudly turned out in his younger days. With a debut LP already in the making and the promise of wider reaching live excursions, Mondegreen are a band primed and prepared to make a sizeable mark.

Mondegreen play Glasgow’s Captain’s Rest on Friday 4 March. You can download their debut EP, Headless, for free here