Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Album Review - Now Wakes The Sea - Bildungsroman

Bildungsroman  is the second release from Now Wakes The Sea via Mini50 Records, but follows on from a stream of sold out cassettes and CDr’s.  Now Wakes The Sea releases can be anything from synthy drones to off kilter pop songs, all bound by two sonic identities: Alan McCormack’s voice and the lo-fi nature of the recordings.  Although Mini50 debut, Fluoxetine Morning  and Bildungsroman  are both more graceful than their small run, self printed releases, to call them polished would be a stretch, and this is certainly not a bad thing.

Recorded straight to cassette, the first thing you notice about this album is how well it suits the band.  Admittedly recorded very well to cassette, the format gives the album a barrier of quality beyond which the band cannot pass, and it gives the release charm, especially given the almost haphazard nature of the album.

The album can be mostly broken into three main categories.  Infectious and odd pop tunes, ambient pieces and lo-fi ditties.  The real stand out tracks on the album are the pop tracks.  First single, Original Bone  is an irresistibly catchy gem that is put together with skill, through inventive sounds and interestingly placed bubbly synths and a guitar hook that on endless repeat would happily accompany any summer.  The Coast And The Shoreline  is similarly brilliant with strong verses, a psychedelic chorus and a charming guitar hook.

The first of the ambient interludes, Pictures Stay the Same,  is, again, well constructed and made up of interesting sounds that progress in a defined direction before giving way to a more trippy sampled word section.  The closer, Shining Bright O’er The Land And Sea  is not quite as successful in a stand alone composition, but acts as a nice breather to close the album.

The lo-fi ditties make up the bulk of the album.  These range from the circus-rock of early Wild Beasts on Prefab House  to the psychedelic and relatively static Sick Kids.  The strength of the songs throughout is clear, but one can’t help but feel this collection of great songs sit together slightly awkwardly.  An outside producer would bring these compositions together with a sense of focus and bind them, rather than push them apart with varying styles and productions.  Let’s not forget though, this was recorded at home by the band to cassette, and what they’ve managed to achieve goes far beyond most bedroom tape releases, and their potential, through recording and song writing, with two of this years catchiest tunes, is unquestionable.

- Ashley Leiper

Now Wakes The Sea - Bildungsroman  is out now via Mini50 Records and available to buy and download here.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Dear Lara - Scottish Fiction Session Videos

Continuing the long held tradition of solo singer-songwriters retreating to secluded locations, Dear Lara has a knack of crafting heartfelt lo-fi songs which bleed honesty. 

Below are videos for the tracks Book ClubPenny  and Girl In My Head  which were recorded at Pulse 98.4 FM as part of Dear Lara's Scottish Fiction Session.  To hear the full show, including interview, check out the Scottish Fiction Podcast for 22nd September 2014.

And check out this EXCLUSIVE video of Darkest Before Dawn  recorded for the Scottish Fiction blog.

Album Review - The Amazing Snakeheads - Amphetamine Ballads

The Amazing Snakeheads, the Glaswegian trio who have become known for energetic and exhilarating live shows, have managed to channel that same raw energy into their debut album Amphetamine Ballads.  The band have successfully set out to create a sinisterly seductive view of Glasgow, seen from an inner circle of characters, backstreets and walls dripping with grease.  Imagine Irvine Welsh’s picture of Scotland channelled through the gritty late night tales of Tom Waits.

The pace of Amphetamine Ballads  doesn’t let up as the band rip through the first few songs.  The playing is infused with punk ideologies.  Intricate playing tracked to perfection while slaving over takes is not the direction of The Snakeheads, instead aiming to recreate their live sound.  The fluidity of the tempos on display captures the live feel effortlessly, whilst giving the band a real sense of irresistibly sleazy groove.  The songs have strength in build-up through dissonance, structure and almost euphoric sense of release rather than crafted melodies, subtleties and intricacies.

While Nighttime  and Here It Comes Again  are relentless in their energy, the latter half of the album lets up slightly.  The introduction of Every Guy Wants To Be Her Baby  evokes a perversely erotic Twin Peaks aura with sax counter melodies over loose and laid back bed of drums and eerie synths.  This, of course, lets rip into a full band outpouring overflowing with charisma and effortless swagger.

The real gem comes in the form of Memories.  An unrelenting build up which lets out to the lines “take it by both bands, and shake it if it needs it”.  The Snakeheads then proceed to shake the song to an oddly euphoric and erotic repeated saxophone line.  This melody, along with the accompanying guitar line disintegrates into a dissonant rush of energy bringing the song to a close.

The final two songs, Heading for Heartbreak  and Tiger By The Tail  epitomise the album’s title.  Ballads at heart that almost shed a layer of skin and tease you with the idea of something deeper, but never quite delivering.  The sheer effortlessness with which this is accomplished, without ever letting go of their sordid charm.  These closing twelve minutes leaves you high and dry, teased with a taste, craving more from the trio that sound like they couldn’t give a shit if you do or not, which of course makes you want it more.

- Ashley Leiper

The Amazing Snakeheads - Amphetamine Ballads  is out now via Domino Records and is available in all good record shops and online here.

Single Review - Withered Hand - Black Tambourine

Black Tambourine  is the latest single to be drawn Withered Hand's wonderful album New Gods  released earlier this year.   [check out our review here]

Having already received fine praise from Scotland’s lyrical royalty King Creosote and Justin Currie, the pretender may not yet have ascended to the throne; however it is only a few short steps away on this form.  Dan Willson is a master of words, rhymes, melodies and hooks, and all are crammed to bursting into this pop gem.  Guesting on this single are Pam Berry (Black Tambourine) and Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines), each bringing their own indie influences to the song – including the name of the track in Berry’s case - but never overpowering the distinctive vision that is Willson's.

A short drum build cuts to a cry of “I’m older now, but I feel the same” and from there we are enveloped in warmth of vocals and guitar which swoops and glides, soaring and lifting all the way to, “Light me up with your smile!”

At which point we wonder, how did he know I was smiling?  Of course you were smiling, it is impossible not to.

- Bobby Motherwell

 Withered Hand - Black Tambourine  is out now via Slumberland Records / FortunaPOP! and is available from all good online music retailers.

Single Review - Broken Records - So Long, So Late

With album number three Weights and Pulleys  and Glastonbury now under their belt, Edinburgh’s six piece Broken Records can claim well and truly to have established themselves on the indie pop scene in Scotland.

So Long, So Late,  whilst refusing to follow the catchy formula applied to songs such as Revival  or Winterless Son,  delivers a consistency of form typical of the band, breaking down near the end to deliver the title chant before a wobble bass and drums delivers us to a memorable finish.

I love this song the more I listen to it, showcasing how far the band has come and a simplicity and unpredictability of form you would expect from a tight three piece band.

- Bobby Motherwell

Broken Records - So Long, So Late  is out now via J Sharp Records and is available from all good digital music retailers.

We're Only Here For The Banter - LYLO

With trippy pysch visuals and the expansive pop dripped music to boot, Glasgow trio LYLO are making all the right waves.  Their music creeps into your pysche, with it's infectious sense of fun.  Time for a Scottish Fiction Q&A!

Hello!  How the devil are you?

Hey, we're great thanks!  Hope you're keeping well.

It's the question everyone hates, but could illuminate our readers with a little bit about your music and your influences?

Our music's sound has always stemmed from whatever we're listening to or interested in at the time.  We're always aiming to progress our sound and keep it fresh.

What's your song-writing / creative process like?

It more or less always starts by one of us planting the seed, as in, one of us will have written a melody or groove and we'll jam on it and build it from there.  Mitch writes the lyrics on top of it and voila, we have a song.

What could we expect to see from a live show?

We like to consider ourselves a live band, it's where we can really focus our passion for music!  We love jamming and improvising when we can, just giving our set some flow.  We also feel the visual aspect of our show is important so we work with our good friend to create visuals and we try and use them as much as we can to make the show more of an experience.

What else have you got planned for the rest of 2014?

We have plans to get a 5 track EP out this year and hopefully get some light touring done as well.  Except from that, we'll just be working on new songs, making music videos and trying out new instruments.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Millionaire  by Kelis & Andre 3000

Thanks for speaking with us, would you care to share a joke with us?

Okay, here's our joke:  Whats the difference between a horrible, dirty bus station and a lobster with breast implants?

Ones a crusty bus station and the other is a busty crustacean.

Check out more from LYLO

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Scottish Fiction Podcast - 29th September 2014

Joining me on this week's show were two of Scotland's finest young songwriters, Andrew Pearson and Lovers Turn To Monsters.   Fresh from releasing their collaborative album Everything We Miss,  they chatted about the process of recording together and treated us to three live tracks.

And in order to sate the appetite for the best new Scottish music there's tracks from White, Jonnie Common and LYLO. Our usual features included too with a classic track from Camera Obscura, a Re-Mixing It Up track from Jo Mango via Carbs, a Cover Lover track from The Last Battle, and a vinyl play of a 2002 single from Idlewild.

Vasa - Not A Cop
Baren - Youth
LYLO - Forever, Spaced
Andrew Pearson & Lovers Turn To Monsters - "My Dad doesn't really like my interests, I can only imagine what he'd make of you" - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
RE-MIXING IT UP - Jo Mango - Kingdom (Carbs Remix)
blood blood - destiny stencil
Boygirlanimalcolour - Cable-tie
Deathcats - Comin' Up
Andrew Pearson & Lovers Turn To Monsters - Lavender - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
Marie Collins - Buddy Holly
CLASSIC TRACK - Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country
Gone Wishing - Hoist Your Head Into The Light
Behold, The Old Bear - Seven Maybe Eight
VINYL PLAY - Idlewild - Live In A Hiding Place
The Meanest Creature Ever Known - Knives - As chosen by Andrew Pearson
Andrew Pearson & Lovers Turn To Monsters - Jason Voorhees - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
Chrissy Barnacle - Nightride - As chosen by Lovers Turn To Monsters
Yusuf Azak - State Courage (Piano Version)
COVER LOVER - The Last Battle - You're The Best
White - Living Fiction
Jonnie Common - Shark

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Scottish Fiction - 29th September 2014 by Scottish Fiction on Mixcloud