Sunday, 30 September 2012

Battle Of The Bands - Round 6

Ding dong!  Round 6 of Battle Of The Bands was all over Twitter this afternoon, albeit slightly latter than originally planned!  David was foaming at the mouth and I was growling like a grizzly as we pitted our Scottish musical knowledge against each other Top Trumps style.

You should all know the rules by now, but if you don't... then here's a handy link to remind you.  Last time out it was the slimmest of victories for camp Scottish Fiction, with the help of the definitive article I, along with The State Broadcasters, edged victory with a superior Band Name Scrabble Score.  Missed that epic clash?  Then have a peak here and get up to date with what's been happening.

All up to date?  Good.  It's now time for Round 6 of Battle Of The Bands, where David has first pick this time.  His choice of band... The Dead Man's Waltz.

Formidable opponents I'm sure you'll agree. Which means of course that I had to pull out the stops to beat them, and helping me to do that is... Stanley Odd.

David choose Band Name Scrabble Score to kick things off, a wise choice on his part with a 'W' and 'Z' propping up his score to 30.  With Stanley Odd only scoring half of that, first blood in Round 6 went to David.

The next choice was SoundCloud Tracks.  Yay!  Stanley Odd have 28 tracks to The Dead Man's Waltz's 14, which ensured that things would go to the final statistic.

And it was a close a call as last round, as David picked Twitter Follow Ratio.  David and The Dead Man's Waltz pipped Stanley Odd and I with a superior Follow Ratio, 1.05 to 0.87.

So once again home advantage is crucial as David takes a slender one point lead into Round 7 which will be next week.  You can follow our banter and jousting on Twitter with #battleofthebandsround7 in a fortnight's time.  As always though the real focus is on the bands.

The Dead Man's Waltz are new to me, but David sold them as to me as Skye's answer to Beirut.  Which is a pretty good description!  Check out recent single Emmeline below.

Leading the way for Scottish hip-hop were my 6-piece Stanley Odd.  Their album 'Reject' dropped two weeks ago and is full of insightful lyrics and excellent beats.  Check out lead single from the album, 'Killergram'.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 26th September 2012

Another Scottish Fiction show, another live guest in the studio.  This week we welcomed Kyle Wood a.k.a. Lovers Turn To Monsters into the studio for some chat, tunes and live music.  A huge thanks to Kyle, who sounded excellent as always and choose tracks from So Many Animal Calls and Algernon Doll.  There's the introduction of a new feautre 'Re-Mixing It Up' where we play a remix track each week, and there's our Aye Tunes Friday Freebie which this week comes from Finn LeMarinel.  As well as all that there's new music from Withered Hand, Frightened Rabbit, Randolph's Leap and more!

Algernon Doll - Cut-throat Kid - As chosen by Lovers Turn To Monsters

Lovers Turn To Monsters - My Dad Doesn't Really Like My Interests, I can Only Imagine What He Think Of You - Live In Pulse 98.4 FM Studio
B. Fleischmann - Planes, Machines And King Kong - As chosen by Lovers Turn To Monsters

Lovers Turn To Monsters - The Lone Rangers - Live In Pulse 98.4 FM Studio
So Many Animal Calls - Broken Antlers - As chosen by Lovers Turn To Monsters

Lovers Turn To Monsters - Skeletor - Live In Pulse 98.4 FM Studio

Frightened Rabbit feat. Aidan Moffat - Wedding Gloves
Clean George IV - Cecilia
The State Broadcasters - Let's Make T-Shirts
Withered Hand - Inbetweens
The Japanese War Effort - Last Tram To Halfway

Rob St. John - Vanishing Points (Jonnie Common Remix) - Re-Mixing It Up

Randolph's Leap - Goodbye
Hiva Oa - Not In My Name
Flutes - Auld Archie
Siobhan Wilson - All Dressed Up

Finn LeMarinel - Places Known - Aye Tunes Friday Freebie

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

We're Only Here For The Banter - Randolph's Leap

Continuing with our Olive Grove Records lovefest, it's the turn of our favourite 8 piece band to join us for some banter!  Of course we mean Randolph's Leap, a band who we have been very pleased to see announcing good news in the form of recently signing to Fence Records.  You may remember that lead singer Adam Ross was on the Scottish Fiction radio show some time back, so here in written form is our chat from that session.

Hello, how are you?

Good thanks!

Would you mind telling us a little about your music and the band?

Well there's eight of us at the moment, and we get described as 'folk-pop'.  And we've kind of grown to an eight piece from starting out as just me on my own about five or six years ago.  When we play gigs and festivals

With eight of you in the band, I imagine there must be lots of different influences that you each bring to the mixing pot.  How easy is it to draw on those different influences when making music?

It's funny when we play gigs or go to festivals, it's very very rare that Gareth or Heather will both agree on a band.  Anything ambient or involving loop pedals, Gareth will write off very quickly, but that's the stuff that Heather is in to.  But there's enough of a sense of what's a good song and what's crap for us to be united.  When making music though it's a dictatorship!  Not really!  The words are usually written before the band hear it, but it would be wrong of me not to say the band at a huge amount to the final output.

What could we expect to see from a live show?

Well that's the funny thing.  The initial idea, and my justification for having an eight piece band, was that if one person couldn't make a gig it wouldn't matter as there'd be seven of us and we'll just do it differently.  But because they are all such good musicians, when someone isn't there you really notice!  Or at least I do!  So it is best when all eight of us are there, and we manage most gigs these days as an eight piece.  And it's quite full on, although we don't use electric guitars so it's maybe not as loud as other bands, but we always try make it about having fun.

What have you got planned for the rest of 2012?

We are releasing an EP with Fence Records which will be new songs.  It's released on 7" and is called 'Hermit' and is out on October 26th with a launch gig at The Glad Cafe on the same night.  We've started recording a full album.

We've got a brand new CD out, 'Introducing... Randolph's Leap' which comes with a bonus EP.  And the CD is also coming out in Japan as well.

If it were all to end tomorrow, what would you say has been your greatest achievement?

We played a gig not too long ago at The Fruitmarket supporting King Creosote and The Pictish Trail, which was probably the most people we've played too.  There was hundreds of folk there which was a bit daunting.  And it was a good gig to be playing to that many people and supporting those guys, but more than that it was just really enjoyable!

 At Scottish Fiction we focus on new Scottish music, how do you as a band view the Scottish music 'community'?

I think it's really good.  It's a bit of a strange one, because people are very passionate and enthusiastic about Scottish music, purely because it's Scottish.  The recent SAY Awards
were a good example of that, a lot people got behind it, which I think was a really good thing.  And it's good and it's healthy.  But it was strange to have all those bands compared who are completely different to each other.  The common denominator there was that they were all based in Scotland.  But it's good to have that support and infrastructure there.

What other Scottish artists would you recommend to the Scottish Fiction readers?

The State Broadcasters, who are also on Olive Grove Records, we are big fans of.  A lot of the people who play in Randolph's Leap also play in other bands as well.  Heather plays violin for Kill The Waves, Gareth plays keyboards for BMX Bandits and Lenzie Moss, Fraser plays in Esperanza who are a ska band, and also Blocherstra. 

This interview is transcribed from the live show where Adam Ross of Randolp's Leap was our guest.  Listen back to this here

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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Doune The Rabbit Hole - Sunday Review

Bit of a delay with posting this for which I offer my humble apologies.  However, to steal the catchphrase of a famous Irish alcoholic beverage, good things comes to those who wait.  And that corny cliché was also true of Doune The Rabbit Hole, with some of the best bits of the weekend cropping up on Sunday.

There was some more scheduling problems, this time Olympic Swimmers who were scheduled to appear late morning / early afternoon on The Jaberwocky stage, didn't appear until much later on in the afternoon in The Baino stage.  Not entirely sure what the reason for this was, however it meant that I missed the band, as they were playing whilst I was escorting the tired and weary wife and kids home.

Before the drive back down the M80 though the four of us enjoyed The Second Hand Marching Band who crammed as much fun and instrumentation into their set as they did people onto the stage.  It was my first time seeing the band, and I wasn't disappointed in the slightest.

After a drive from Carron Forest Valley to Neilston and back, in what must be record time, I arrived back on site to catch the utterly brilliant Kid Canaveral who were playing the Tenement TV stage.  Again this is a first for me, having criminally never caught the cheeky Edinburgh gang before.  'You Only Went Out To Get Drunk Last Night' packs a powerful indie-pop punch, 'And Another Thing' finished off the set with a loud volley of drums and guitars, and littered throughout the set are new tracks.  From the sound of the new material their second album will be along a similar vein as 'Shouting At Wildlife', which is only a good thing in my opinion.

Afterwards I swing down to The Jaberwocky stage for bluesy-rock quartet Three Blind Wolves who were already doing their thing by the time I got there.  The band represented Scotland this year over in Austin, Texas for SXSW and as they sound much like a Scottish Black Keys, I can only imagine the locals took very well to them indeed!  They manage to keep a country feel going throughout their incredibly heavy set, sounding well honed and very loud!

The night, and the weekend was close to ending, but before the curtain fell on my Doune experience for another year, there was time to catch the other half of the late Arab Strap.  Having enjoyed Mr Moffat on Friday night, it was the turn of Malcolm Middleton to take to the Baino stage in his current guise of Human Don't Be Angry.  After what seems like an age, the band headed up by Middleton take the stage kicking things off with two instrument tracks, the second of which was the sublime 'HDBA Theme', which was a four minute electro treat.  Middleton, with help from the HDBA band, which includes De Rosa frontman Martin John Henry, brought to life the '80's electro influenced sounds of the album, which still remains one of my favourite releases of 2012.  the set was up there as a highlight of the festival, with the emphatically rousing 'Monologue: River', which builds momentum throughout as my pick of the set.  My only quibble?  The band were not on stage for nearly long enough.

And with that, my Doune The Rabbit Hole ended for another year.  Overall I enjoyed the festival, which is now in it's third year.  The scenery was breathtaking, the kids enjoyed themselves, there was a feel good vibe about the place, and much of the music was worth the price of a day ticket alone.  Musical highlights for me were The Phantom Band, TeenCanteen and Human Don't Be Angry, all of whom were outstanding.  There were, as I've mentioned already in Friday and Saturday's reviews, some down points, namely the lack of published set times, but with the passion that organiser Jamie Murray and his team display, hopefully the festival can pick up on this when it returns next year and continue to offer a quirky alternative to the mass marketed festivals.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 19th September 2012

On this show we were joined by Lloyd Meredith and Halina Rifai of Glasgow DIY label Olive Grove Records.  Lloyd and Halina were in good spirits and chatted about the label, their ethos, their rooster and Scottish music in general.  They picked some new exclusive tracks to play as well!

In the second half of the show we had music from the likes of Stanley Odd, Cancel The Astronauts, Rachel Sermanni and French Wives.  As always, check out the full playlist below and listen to the show again!

Jo Mango - Evermore - Chosen by Halina
Randolph's Leap - Weatherman - Chosen by Lloyd
Finn LeMarinel - Wrung - Chosen by Halina
Herman Dune - I Wish That I Could See You Soon - Chosen by Lloyd
Pensioner - Massive Ferguson - Chosen by Halina
The State Broadcasters - Tresspassers - Chosen by Lloyd

Stanley Odd - Marriage Counselling
Rachel Sermanni - Sea, Oh See
French Wives - Halloween
Cancel The Astronauts - Catch You If I Can
The Leg - Eagle To Saturn
Young Philadelphia - Federales
The Tide Inside - Melt Me
Olympic Swimmers - Where It Snows (Miaoux Miaoux Remix)
Bellow Below - Prins Olav
Katerwaul - February - Aye Tunes Friday Freebie

Monday, 17 September 2012

Scottish Fiction Presents Aye Tunes vs. Peenko: Blogtoberfest

Cast your mind back to 17th June 2012.  We had a jolly old time with our maiden gig, that we've been itching to do it again.  But this time... Well this time we've kicked things up a notch!

What happens when three Glasgow bloggers meet up for a pint?  They decide to put on gigs of course!

May we present to you the first Scottish Fiction Presents AyeTunes vs. Peenko, dubbed, 'Blogtoberfest'!

Together with Lloyd of Peenko and Jim of Aye Tunes it's our mission, and privilege, to bring you the finest Scottish live music on the last Saturday of each month at The Flying Duck

And to get us started we've bagged a indie-pop-tastic line up for our maiden gig on Saturday 27th October.

French Wives - With their debut album 'Dream Of The Inbetween' released to much acclaim earlier this year, we are chuffed to bits to have French Wives as our headliners.  Guaranteed to get you singing, dancing and clapping along.  Fun times!

Cancel The Astronauts - The Edinburgh five piece have just released their debut album 'Animal Love Match', one of 2012's finest and full of great hooks, melodies and rhythms.  We can't wait to hear them and you don't want to miss their feisty live performance. 

The Bad Books - Another Edinburgh lot, we're happy to welcome the four piece with open arms across the M8.  Their live sets are fantastic, although with no recorded releases yet you'll have to take our word for it!

We'd love to see you on Saturday 27th October from 7:30pm at The Flying Duck for all of this and more!  We'll be spinning some tunes in the bar beforehand from 7pm AND entry to the gig gains you FREE entry to The Flying Duck's club night 'Houndin The Streets'.

Tickets are £6 and are available online now here and also available on the door on the night.

See you there!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 12th September 2012

The latest Podcast features some cracking new music from the likes of Father Sculptor, Jo Mango, Stanley Odd, Crusades and much more!  We also have a AyeTunes Friday Freebies track from Edinburgh School For The Deaf.  Our Featured Artist this week is Teenage Fanclub and we have three tracks from them.  And our Classic Scottish Album is Franz Ferdinand's self titled debut..

Django Django - Wor
Algernon Doll - Cut-throat Kid
Hector Bizerk - Bury The Hatchet
Plastic Animals - Yellowcraig

Classic Scottish Album - Franz Ferdinand - Darts Of Pleasure - Franz Ferdinand

AyeTunes Friday Freebies - Edinburgh School For The Deaf - Of Scottish Blood And Sympathies

Jo Mango - Cordelia
The Barents Sea - I Am No One
King Creosote - The Right Form
Without Aeroplanes - Just So You're Warm
Father Sculptor - Dysmirror
Vigo Thieves - Forever
Stanley Odd - Killergram
Rick Redbeard - Now We're Dancing

Featured Artist
Teenage Fanclub - Everything Flows
Teenage Fanclub - Sparky's Dream
Teenage Fanclub - Baby Lee

The State Broadcasters - Where I Belong
Eugene Twist - It's Down To You
Behold, The Old Bear - Sweetpeas Lullaby
RM Hubbert feat. Emma Pollock - Half Light
The Girobabies - I Want Answers

Album Review - Stanley Odd - Reject

I've always struggled with UK hip-hop.  I think it's only fair that I'm honest about it, as I'm sure I'm far from the only one.  Having been brought up with the west coast drawls of Dre, Snoop and 2Pac, and as I've never really immersed myself deep into the roots of hip-hop, I suppose my natural association has always been to put hip-hop and American accents together in the same gangsta box.

There are of course always exceptions.  Scoobius Pip, Mike Skinner and Roots Manuva spring to mind as people who have captured my interest in their beats and lyrics despite not professing an American accent.  And now to that exceptions list I can add Stanley Odd, an Edinburgh based, 6-piece hip-hop group who release their second album 'Reject' via Circular Records on Monday 17th September.

Opener 'THIS IS STANLEY ODD' reads a bit like a manifesto for the band and the album.  Lead MC Dave Hook a.k.a. Solareye delivers a manifesto bemoaning the state of the country, while the chorus is the repeated taunting refrain "do I have to spell it out for you?" delivered by the smooth vocals of Veronika.

'Antiheroics' is a fantastic piece of music with loops, bass drops and beats keeping things sonically ticking over while Solareye delivers a political rap to rival some of the best.  From addressing the BNP to the ConDem coalition, from the independence referendum to the lack of youth interest in politics, nothing escapes the glare of Dave's eye.  The track contains some extremely witty and clever rhymes, name checking political parties and MP's to great effect.  It also contains one of the best and most insightful lines I've heard in a long time in any genre of music; "putting an X in the box says you're watching back".

And I think that's the great thing about the Scottish hip-hop community.  As hip-hop has always been able to do, with it's largely vocal based output, bands such as Stanley Odd can address the mic with real songs about serious issues, such as in 'Antiheroics' and 'Marriage Counselling', and also the less appealing side of society, such as in 'Will The Last One Out Please Turn Out The Light' and 'Carry Me Home'.  There's no expectation to create flower metaphor for love, no desire to hear idiosyncratic stories of boy meets girl, instead a captive ear ready to hear what many are thinking but not a lot are saying.

Recent single 'Killergram' has a fantastic choral hook and a booming bassline line, while Solareye tackles a subject fans of hip-hop will be all too familiar with; violence and self bravado.  Mocking the 'hard man' attitude, that leaves many "stumbling into A&E, pissed off" whilst showing brutal honesty admitting that for, perhaps too long, he was just the same.  It's no wonder the track was put out as a single, it's catchy, insightful and one of the highlights of the album.

'Join The Club' has a laid back vibe, smooth and slightly jazzy, basically like the old school west coast hip-hop I was raised on, while name-checking no less than 53 different bars and clubs across Scotland (see how many you can spot!)  Stanley Odd don't shy away from addressing the Scottish love/hate relationship with alcohol, and while 'Join The Club' celebrates a good night out, next track 'Carry Me Home' examines the terrible affliction that too many Scots suffer from with alcohol.  The name alone alludes to the inebriated state of being unable to walk home, and there's plenty of lines that many of us could (and maybe should) relate to.

'Get Out Ma Headspace' is another track some might be familiar with, released as a free single earlier this year.  Bemoaning the innate and mundane, amidst a musical smorgasboard of bleeps, loops, blips, hooks and drops.  Another favourite line contained here; "I use my headspace for my than a hat rack".  Wonderful stuff.

'The Counsellor's Waiting Room', which could be straight of a Serge Gainsbourg album, segues into album highlight 'Marriage Counselling'.   It's a great concept, Scotland (Caledonia) and the UK (Britannia) stuck in a marriage counsellor's office talking, or more aptly arguing, about the love/hate relationship.  Unless you've been living in a cave the relevance to Scottish and UK politics is clear, and Solareye presents a very well balanced outline of the most prominent arguments on both sides.

Overall this album should convert those who, maybe like myself, have never dug deeper into the genre of hip-hop.  Some people will simple not be able to look past the Scottish accent, which I suppose is their choice but also their loss.  In 'Reject' Stanley Odd have an album which rivals the beats, rhymes and hooks of anyone operating in the genre of hip-hop right now.  And further to that they are not afraid to mix in other genres too, and hold up a truthful mirror in many respects.  This album contains many moments of brilliance for those willing to listen.

Stanley Odd - 'Reject' is out on Monday 17th September via Circular Records.  You can pre-order the album right now on their Big Cartel page, and the album will be available digitally and in good record stores.

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Album Review - The State Broadcasters - Ghosts We Must Carry

The State Broadcasters return on Monday 17th September with their second album 'Ghosts We Must Carry'.  Having taken their time to ensure the quality of the sounds; crafting a continuity throughout; and also that the release was one they were happy with, 'Ghosts We Must Carry' comes after a two and a half year wait since début 'The Ship And The Iceberg'.   And boy is it worth that wait.

Album opener 'The Only Way Home' strums in with a melancholy feel, before lead singer Graeme Black's warm vocals come in, tinged with emotion as he sings "a phone call we'll never forget, delivers the news".  The track then changes into a trombone and cello led instrumental which swells and grows towards a drone-y ending.

The next two tracks are singles 'Trespassers' and 'Kittiwake', both of which have been available to download for free ahead of the album's full release.  'Trespassers' combines Graeme's and harpist Gill Fleetwood's voices beautifully, with sweet piano playing providing a jovial melody underneath.  The effect is to create a dreamy Sunday morning feel (appropriate perhaps as I kick back on Sunday morning writing this review!) and with sentimental lyrics such as "I try to imagine a landscape without you", 'Trespassers is an album highlight.

'Kittiwake' tackles the same subject of loss, yet in a slower, more traditional sounding manner.  It's the kind of song which almost feels as though it belongs in a simpler era.  The music, consisting mainly of piano, trombone, harp, acoustic guitar, cello and accordion, weaves melodies in and out, and the lack of drums means everything seems that little bit more laid back.  This is a common feel to the album, making it perfect music for when one just wants to retreat back from the fast paced nature of the 21st century for a while.  In 'Kittiwake' is the most obvious reference to the common theme running through the album's lyrics; "you were only 42 when I lost you.  I'm so lonely."  When Graeme and Gill joined us in the studio recently I asked about the name of the album, being informed that it referred both to the people who have passed whose influence and memories we carry on in our lives, but also to situations and moments of regret.  It's a feeling to which almost everyone can relate to, and the outward emotion of the album is something which creates a bond between record and listener.

Gill takes over vocals on the hazy, dreamy 'The Only One' before the crackling sound of an old record playing eases us into another album highlight, 'Takeshi'.  That lo-fi sound remains throughout, with the constant crackle and a simple duet with Graeme and Gill's voices completely at ease with one another.  The instrumentation again is gloriously relaxed and heartfelt, the occasional dulcet tones of the trombone underneath the plinking on the piano.

'Where I Belong' begins with gentle humming and a bright acoustic guitar.  In a way it's similar to earlier tracks, the style of music doesn't often stray from the folk based multi-instrumental fare, yet it's become a real favourite of mine over the past few weeks.  There's a hint of redemption in the words of this track, and with opening lines, "these old songs, they do no wrong" it's clear that by reminiscing the 'ghosts' aren't as difficult to carry.

Whilst I say the style of music doesn't vary much, there is actually a whole raft of things going on in each track and the album as a whole.  The tag 'inde-folk' is an easy one to apply to The State Broadcasters, yet it's not the whole story by any means.  There's elements of soft jazz, Americana, classical, traditional, and good old fashioned rock and roll all within this album, made possible of course by the vast array of instruments the 6 piece employ.

The album closes out with three tracks maintaining the high quality of the album.  'The Writing's On The Wall' sneaks in some drums for the first time, and reminds us of the therapeutic powers that a loved one can have; "when I'm feeling this bad, I need to feel your love".  It's a rather upbeat and up-tempo track, and a stonking love song, amongst an album more focused on the melancholy.  'This Old Table' has a drone-y undertone of the harmonium beneath lo-fi vocals.  It's haunting, eerie and un-mistakeningly beautiful.  With no real melody to back the vocals, it's the lyrics and the power of song writing which is brought to the fore, laying bare the trauma's and tragedies of the writer.  The events are never described in full, yet again reverting back to the album title, it's clear that there's personal loss felt within this track.

The album ends with a rather down-tempo track about New Year, creatively entitled 'New Year's Day', a short, sweet and waltzy lament about the desire to call ones loved one amidst the frenzy of New Year.

'Ghosts We Must Carry' will not appeal to everyone that's for sure.  It's the kind of album which requires the listener to suspend themselves from everyday life for 40 minutes, and use the music to do a little self-reflection of their own.  But for those who do, the rewards are bountiful.  The State Broadcasters have crafted an album full of folk/American/traditional musical influences which broads with real human emotion.  I imagine in the writing process there's been a lot poured into these songs, and by doing so the band have given us a lot to enjoy.

The State Broadcasters - 'Ghosts We Must Carry' is out on Monday 17th September via Olive Grove Records.  You can pre-order the album right now on their Bandcamp.

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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Battle Of The Bands - Round 5

Aaaaaaaand we are back!  Over the past month both David of Kowalskiy and I have been skiving off on holiday*, meaning it's round 5 of our Battle Of The Bands has been brewing nicely in the background.  Round 4 saw David take a one point lead over us, having recruited We Are The Physics who wipe the floor with my choice, Michael Cassidy.  Fear not Mr Cassidy, I shall avenge thee!

* Huge congratulations to David and his finance who got engaged on their holiday!

I was back in the driving seat with first pick in Round 5, and I plan to use that advantage to even up the scores overall.  As always, should you need a quick reminder of the rules look no further.

Joining the Scottish Fiction camp this week are The State Broadcasters fresh from their live session on the show, and with a brand new album about to drop on Monday.  The six piece band have been plying their musical trade for 8 years now, and with a mighty Scrabble score of 28 and an impressive 13 tracks nestled on their SoundCloud page I've got every reason to be confident.  My chosen categories then as you may have guessed are; SoundCloud Tracks, Years Since Formation and Band Name Scrabble Score.  The real test is though how they measure up against Kowalskiy's choice.

Cor blimey!  Another band with a new album out on Monday, it's Cancel The Astronauts!  And it's now time to tot up the scores and to the victor giveth the spoils!

SoundCloud Tracks - David get's off to a good start as Cancel The Astronauts have a career spanning 28 tracks on their SoundCloud page, which pretty much wipes the floor with The State Broadcasters 13.  So much for that one...  1-0 to Kowalskiy.

Years Since Formation - Huzzah!  They may have 28 tracks on their SoundCloud page, but they've been accumulated over 5 years, compared with the 8 years my choice The State Broadcasters have been plugging away for.  1-1 with all to play for.

Band Name Scrabble Score - And it's down to the wire!  It's a close one, but the cunning use of the definitive article means The State Broadcasters pip Cancel The Astronauts on the Scrabble board with 28 points to 26.  2-1 to Scottish Fiction, and victory!

Which as I intended, bring the Battle Of The Bands series back to 3-3.  There'll be the chance for one of us to retake the lead in a fortnights time with Round 6.  Until then, here's why David and I chose our respective artists.

The State Broadcasters were recently live in the Pulse studio on our Scottish Fiction radio show, and coupled with sneak preview listens of their forthcoming album 'Ghosts We Must Carry', I've grown rather fond of them.  Their gentle indie-folk has the means to warm the cockles of hearts and minds, and I highly recommend you buy their album when it's released via Olive Grove Records on Monday.  Head on over to their Bandcamp page where you can do so, and also pick up some free stuff, including 'Kittiwake' which is streaming below.

Also with a new album out on Monday is Cancel The Astronauts.  'Animal Love Match' is a fabulous record, so much so that I've said so right here.  Sadly their launch night for the album, due to be held at Sneaky Pete's has had to be cancelled, however we may have some exciting news relating to live shows and the band coming very soon (I've said too much!).  Check out 'Making Dynamite' from the album below.

We're Only Here For The Banter - Jo Mango

Confession time.  Until Jo Mango joined the Olive Grove Records roster earlier this year, I had never heard of the Glasgow songstress.  Having now had the pleasure of acquainting myself with Jo's music, most recently her new single 'Cordelia', I am very happy to admit I was missing out big time!  Jo is on the cusp of releasing her new album, 'Murmuration' on Olive Grove Records, and we caught up with her for some banter.

Hello, how are you?

Hello! I am just grand thanks.

It's the question everyone hates, but could you tell us a little bit about your music and your influences?

Of course!  My music is mainly acoustic and figures strange wee instruments that I've picked up from around the world - including my favourites the kalimba, the omnichord and the Indian harmonium.  I play the good old guitar and piano too, but I believe every song is different and deserves for me to think long and hard about whether the sound of a guitar does it justice.  If it doesn’t, then I find something else to play.  When I started writing this latest album, I lost my voice completely for a number of weeks due to vocal nodules, and had to go through speech therapy to get it back.  This combined with my doctor flatmate being on the nightshift a lot while I wrote the album, meant that I developed a kind of very quiet, night-time hushed vocal style.  A lot of people say it’s a child-like voice, so I guess I’ll go with that.  I like to try and keep it as pure or as real sounding as I can.  I love beautifully considered, well-crafted and understated music, like Vashti Bunyan's, in whose band I'm lucky enough to play.  Vashti and the crazy mad journey she took me on over the past few years when we were on tour together has been a huge influence on me.  Not necessarily so much on the music directly, but all those experiences, all the different music I got to hear all over the world, and that fact that she introduced me to Adem, who produced and recorded my latest album...  These are all the things that fed in to the evolution of my sound today.  Influences on the sound of the album are really varied, and won’t really give you any clue as to what it sounds like!  But along the way I remember us talking about Linda Perhacs’ ‘Parrallelograms’, Gaelic psalm singing, Indonesian Gamelan music, ‘Englar og Darar’ by Olof Arnalds, minimalist musics, and many other disparate things.

What's your song writing process like?

It’s very slow!!!  I go through what I call my ‘eating phase’ where I just spend as much time as I can reading, listening, going to the movies, looking at art, people-watching, thinking, learning.  Then it’s a lengthy distillation process of the ideas that have inspired me while I was ‘eating’.  I love making connections between things.  That’s what I find exciting.  So I connect together these things and my personal experiences and focus on lyrics that have lots and lots of layers of meaning.  Then I find the sound that contributes to that – which might be a specific instrument, or it might be a production idea.  And the song folds out of this core of connected ideas and layers of meaning.  But an awful lot of work goes in to each song.

What could we expect to see from a live show?

Ummm…  I make quite a terrible face when I sing…  so there’s that!  I hope it’s a bit intriguing to watch.  Not because we’re very dynamic or move around a lot, but because all four of us in the band are multi-instrumentalists, and we have a tiny orchestra of different instruments that we combine and play in constantly differing ways.  It’s often a very pin-drop kind of a quiet experience…  it’s hard to get to the bar for a beer without making too much sound.  We really are quite quiet and some of the sounds are so subtle it’s easy to miss them.  Ooh, and we have a really good merch table these days!  Lots of exciting objects relating to the songs.

If it were all to end tomorrow, what would you say has been your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement as a musician I would say was playing the show we played with Vashti in 2007 at the Carnegie Hall in New York.  David Byrne was curating a show called ‘Welcome to Dreamland’, and he invited us along with Devendra Banhart, Coco Rosie, Vetiver and Adem to play a collaborative show together.  We sang a song with him too.  That was absolutely unbelievable and I’m not sure if it could be topped… even if it weren’t all to end tomorrow!  It’s such a legendary venue; it was an incredible crowd; the music, the rehearsals, the city, were all really inspiring.  And my whole family made it over to the USA to watch it too.  It was a very proud moment.

What have you got planned for the rest of 2012?

Oooh lots!  This month I have a launch party for the first single from the new album (23rd Sept at the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow) and I’m really busy hand-making a whole host of different things for that exciting merch table I was telling you about.  In October the second single comes out and I’m making a music video ready for that and working on a choral version of the first single as a B-Side for it.  Then on the 5th of November the album is released – Murmuration – which is out on Olive Grove Records.  I’ll be doing a short tour for that – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, London so far.  And then I’ve got a couple of exciting Christmas shows in December in London and Glasgow.   I’m also finishing off a wee concept-EP to come out next year, and working on a remix album too.  Other than that…  I’ve started teaching on a new Masters in Songwriting at the University of the West of Scotland, which takes in students in a couple of weeks.  So I’ll be getting to work with them on all kinds of exciting albums and performance projects.  I’m going to be busy aren’t I?!

At Scottish Fiction we focus on new Scottish music, how do you as a band view the Scottish music 'community'?

I think the Scottish music community is as generous, friendly and supportive as a music community I have ever experienced.  I feel so fortunate that I live and work in Glasgow, where there is such a camaraderie between artists and a feeling of togetherness, rather than an atmosphere of competition, which I definitely feel elsewhere.   I think there have been a few unfortunate changes in the influence of some of the bigger movers in parts of the industry, which has disadvantaged some grassroots endeavours and made it harder to succeed for smaller bands sometimes.  But the internet can be a marvelous counterbalance to that.

What other Scottish artists would you recommend to the Scottish Fiction readers?

My fellow band-member in the Vashti Bunyan band – Gareth Dickson – makes beautiful albums of guitar music and writes gorgeous songs.  I don’t know why he’s not more widely appreciated as a Scottish artist.  I've just discovered ‘Muscles of Joy’, and I do love ‘Body Parts’, the new(ish) collaboration between Jill from Sparrow And The Workshop and Jenny of Strike The Colours.  I can’t forget my former label mates Admiral Fallow – but I’m sure you all know about them already – and Open Swimmer.  Technically they are part Australian and about to depart back for Australia.  But they’re getting a mention anyway.

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

Here's one that elicited a groan, courtesy of Milton Jones’ twitter feed recently.  But I think it's cute:

“I missed the dawn chorus this morning. RT please.”

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Monday, 10 September 2012

Doune The Rabbit Hole - Saturday Review

You can generally judge the hip-ness of a festival crowd by the band names worn on t-shirts.  And having spotted Pavement, Moldy Peaches, and Neu! by Saturday morning I knew I was in good company at Doune The Rabbit Hole!

The music on stage was just as hip, as Saturday begun with a montage of performances from Neu! Reekie!, an Edinburgh avant-garde poetry and musical group on the Baino stage.  First up was the poetry of Michael Pederson backed by Craig Finnie on guitar, and the enthusiastic, if not unwelcome, empty beer can percussion of a muddied dread locked reveller.  Craig Finnie stayed on to provide a short acoustic set, although at one point became engaged in a battle of wills with the beer can drummer.

The real highlight though, and I suspect the reason why the tent was full, was TeenCanteen.  The all girl four piece, minus drummer Deborah who was replaced temporarily by the lone male, were a breath of fresh air and treated the eager crowd to some lovely sunshine pop straight from the 1960's.  Their all female harmonies made songs like 'One More Night', 'You're So Analogue' and 'How We Met (Cherry Pie)' sparkle in the dreicht Scottish afternoon.  Ones to watch, and a highlight of the weekend for me.

And from there it was into the afternoon to entertain the sproglets, as we took a walk far out to the edge of the festival site and to the Carron Valley Reservoir.  The view from sitting on the reservoir wall is spectacular and again just reinforces the unique nature of a festival like Doune The Rabbit Hole.

As well as many arts and crafts stalls on offer, there was a few boutique food stalls offering a fine selection of food.  I'm always a fan of real food at festivals, so the choice between pigeon wraps, rabbit stew, brisket and pulled pork was well received.  However one minor quibble from Mrs Scottish Fiction was the selection for picky eaters, i.e. children, wasn't great.  It was at this point that I wandered back into the main area to catch Withered Hand.

At least I would have, had I know what time he was on at (see Friday's review).  Instead I was able to enjoy the manic indie folk styling that is King Creosote.  The rain eased up just in time for his set, which was filled with plenty of classics.  Kenny's band are in full flow and look like they are thoroughly enjoying squeezing onto the Jaberwocky stage, as do the kids who are bouncing around the crowd.  The band end with a rapturous emphatic rendition of 'Happy Song', to which I find myself bouncing gleefully along to, with a 6 year old girl on my shoulders too!

And from there it's onwards to the Inspire tent, to witness Sparrow & The Workshop mesmerise the crowd with a fine performance.  Everything about their performance, from the powerful vocals, to the pounding drums and chunky bass lines screams this is a band on top form.  The tent is packed, and getting busier as the set progresses, the air hangs humid and sweaty, and the dark outside is rivalled only by the dark nature of some of Sparrow's lyrics.

I wish that Saturday's review could end on that positive note, however sadly following Sparrow & The Workshop's set, some local police offers took to the stage, informing us that a local Alzheimer's sufferer had gone missing in the area.  It was a sad tinge which hung over the festival the following day as police and local services searched for him.  Sadly I never found out what happened, so if anyone knows, please comment and let me know. 

Sunday's review will follow soon!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Scottish Fiction August 2012 EP

The latest Scottish Fiction FREE monthly EP is, as you might notice, a tad late.  Apologies for that, the tolls of work, study and play have hit me hard.  It's also because of this that we have to announce that August's EP is the penultamite one, meaning our very last FREE EP will come at the end of this month.  Hold back those tears though because September's EP is an Olive Grove Records special, something we are very excited about!

So onto this month's EP, which sees us showcase a track from Drunk Mule, Algernon Doll, Vcheka and 7of7.  We're particularly pleased with these four tracks, and hopefully you will be too and be inspired to check out a little more about each of the artists.  So get downloading, and enjoy your freshest batch of free music.

Drunk Mule
Algernon Doll

Friday, 7 September 2012

We're Only Here For The Banter - The Son(s)

The Son(s) a.k.a. Karl, is an example of getting your head down and making bloody good music.  Not one to adopt the infuriating spam that can clog up Twitter and Facebook feeds, instead The Son(s) lets the music do the talking.  And boy should you listen.  Recent album 'Leviathan' was filled with sensational tracks, mixing folk/Americana/dream-pop with ease.  Read our review of that album here.  But haud the bus.  Before you go, have a read at what The Son(s) had to say when we asked him some questions.

Hello, how are you?

Good, good. Foo's yer Doos?

It's the question everyone hates, but could you tell us a little bit about your music and your influences?

Sure.  We make music for decrepit waltzers, old broken down bumper cars and dilapidated music halls.  Our music is influenced by other music.  By beer, whisky and by the odd things that people do or say everyday.  I love Grizzly Bear and harmony music.  Dougal likes the Cocteau Twins and plays in a Van Halen/Phil Collins tribute band, so he brings those influences to bear.  Calum likes Hare Krishna and sings like Gerard Love from Teenage Fanclub.

What's your song writing process like?

Well usually one of us will bring in a song and the other two will either contribute or not.  Usually it's me who brings in the song and the other two don't tend to contribute.

What could we expect to see from a live show?

Expect Jessie J.

If it were all to end tomorrow, what would you say has been your greatest achievement?

My replica Saturn V and launch tower made from plastic bottles and packing tape of course!

What have you got planned for the second half of 2012?

I'd like to play some music live.  Currently, unsuccessfully, hunting band.

At Scottish Fiction we focus on new Scottish music, how do you as a band view the Scottish music 'community'?

It's plain to see that at this moment there are a great many more highly creative musicians and songwriters than a country this size should have any right to produce.  There are also a great many enthusiastic and supportive writers, blogs/bloggers and labels here.  Together that's a great combination and it means that it's possible for Scottish based musicians have a platform for their music which used to be only open to you if you moved to London.

What other Scottish artists would you recommend to the Scottish Fiction readers?

I don't see Eugene Twist getting much attention and yet he should.  Withered Hand (does he count?) he should count as almost every song he writes is a jewel.  Meursault, eagleowl, Randolph's Leap, Call To Mind, King Post Kitsch, Pronto Mama, Monoganon, State Broadcasters, Jo Mango, Ambulances, Drunk Mule, Evil Hand/Bottle of Steven, Adam Stafford, almost all the Chemikal Underground and Fence Records stuff.  There's too much good music being made to write a comprehensive list.  Really, just dive in!  There's very little poor music around.

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

A woman gets on a bus with her baby.  The bus driver says: ''Ugh, that's the ugliest baby I've ever seen!'' The woman walks to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming.  She says to a man next to her: ''The driver just insulted me!''  The man says: ''You go up there and give hum a piece of your mind.  Go on, I'll hold your monkey for you.''

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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 29th August 2012

On the last Scottish Fiction radio show we welcomed Graeme and Gill from The State Broadcasters into the studio for a live session.  And what a delight that was!  The duo were happy to chat about the band and their music, choose some tracks to play and also played some live songs.  As well as this I also looked back at Doune The Rabbit Hole, and played some new music from Kill The Waves, The Pictish Trail and The Deadline Shakes.  Enjoy!

Human Don't Be Angry - Monologue: River
Aidan John Moffat - Wall Song
The Deadline Shakes - Sweeten The Deal
The Pictish Trail - Not To Be
The Machine Room - Dreaming Of Mario

Clem Snide - African Friend - As chosen by The State Broadcasters

The State Broadcasters - Trespassers (Live in Pulse 98.4 studio)

Rachel Unthank & The Winterset - Sea Song - As chosen by The State Broadcasters

The State Broadcasters - Takeshi (Live in Pulse 98.4 studio)

Vic Chesnutt - When I Ran Off And Left Her - As chosen by The State Broadcasters

The State Broadcasters - Where I Belong (Live in Pulse 98.4 studio)

Django Django - Hail Bop
PAWS - Clementine
Homeward James - Seedy Circus
Louie - Stoichkov
Sacred Paws - Just Kids
The Phantom Band - Mr. Natural

Doune The Rabbit Hole - Friday Review

Back for it's third year, Doune The Rabbit Hole took place over the weekend of 24th to 26th August, with the DTRH team nestled into their new home.  And what a home it was, the picturesque Carron Forrest Valley, with it's views of Scottish hills, the glorious reservoir and the trees of the forest, adorned with decorations creating the illusion of a magical faraway forest.

Having had a fun time last year, my wife and I decided we'd take the kids along for the full weekend this year, and whilst I'd be on reviewing duties, they could enjoy the family based activities that the festival had to offer.  This included pottery, wood carving, story telling, and plenty more.

Arriving within the site to a pre-pitched tent (like the kind husband I am I drove up earlier to set up camp whilst the kids were in school), it was obvious we had descended into a slightly different beast of festival.  Gone were the vast 'quality' burger stalls that blight the culinary landscapes of bigger festivals, absent were the fairground rides whose music act like a buzz kill for the actual performing artists, and missing were the huge snaking queues to get in, get parked, or get your tent up.

Yet for these benefits there's a pay off.  At times things seemed to lack to organisation that one normally associates with larger events.  There wasn't much security, although granted there wasn't really a need for it, and certain things which were advertised didn't appear to happen.  I suppose this kind of spontaneity and care-free attitude added to the laid back approach of the festival itself, and I do know from speaking with festival organiser Jamie Murray that a helluva lot of effort, passion, and organisation did go into the festival, so it would be extremely unfair to criticise DTRH too much for this.  That said however, I can't over look the decision not to publish stage times (until late Sunday afternoon, some of which were wrong anyway).  Honestly, the idea of "time is an illusion, festival time doubly so" sounds interesting and fun in principle, but when you've got two kids to cater too, plus you want to see specific bands, for enjoyment as well as reviewing, it simply didn't work. 

However all that aside let's move onto the music eh?  If you were paying attention you'll have seen I tipped Behold, The Old Bear as 'ones to see', however sadly I missed them.  What I didn't miss though were SAY Award winners Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat.  Backed by their talented band, the duo proceeded to wow the crowd with tracks from their album 'Everything's Getting Older', playing songs almost in the album running order.  As I stood with my wife and two children a small part of me couldn't help but chuckle during 'Cages', where Moffat returns from a mundane shopping trip with his family, lamenting "freedom's over rated anyway".  Whereas later during 'Glasgow's Jubilee', the filth ridden tail of sex and infidelity a small part of me wondered if I should be covering the kids ears!  However, that would have deprived them of the glorious sounds of tracks such as 'The Cooper Top', '(If You) Keep Me In Your Heart' and 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' all of which were sung and played with passion and beauty.  Despite this, part of me was a little disappointed.  For me the greatest strength of Wells & Moffat live is the intimacy they effortlessly create.  The warmth of the piano and trumpet wraps the audience up, and the deep truthfulness of the lyrics hits home.  This was lost somewhat by the openness of the Jaberwocky stage, and the general movement that a festival brings.  This isn't to say the Wells & Moffat in any way underperformed, I just feel that their set doesn't suit festivals.

The next band however had no such worries.  No strangers to festival stages were Glasgow's The Phantom Band.  The band really made the Jaberwocky stage their own, and genuinely looked like they were having a ball of a time, with the bassist sporting a blonde Marilyn wig, and lead singer Rick joked about Avril Lavinge and Chad Krueger.  Their four vocals across the front, and three guitars plus bass really create a full, loud, deep sound.  The band treated the receptive crowd to songs off their latest album 'The Wants' such as 'A Glamour' and 'Mr Natural'.  The Phantom Band also revelled in creating little quirky electronic sounds to layer their set, like kids playing with electronic toys.  Their closer, old favourite, 'Crocodile' was one of the best moments of the festival and a great way to finish the evening.

And at that it was off to sleep in a tent and wait to start all over again tomorrow...