Tuesday, 28 October 2014

EP Review - Conquering Animal Sound - Talking Shapes

The opening line from Talking Shapes,  the new EP from Conquering Animal Sound, is "Nothing intricate". This doesn't sound like much when written down, but if you've listened to anything by the Glasgow based electronic duo you'll know that not only are these lyrics oddly ironic as each track is built around a tightly constructed narrative, it is that the vocal style of Anneke Kampman is to split words out into extended syllable versions of themselves, with the effect of turning even the most innocuous phrase into a finely tuned instrument.  It makes the opening line a delicate and fragile cold sounding welcome.

Talking Shapes  is the group's first material since their pretty incredible second album On Floating Bodies  which was released last year.  The EP stands as a subtle departure for the band though, continuing the trajectory started with On Floating Bodies,  and is full of contradictions.  The opening track features deeply processed vocals towards it's middle section, with a striking similarity to that of the Swedish duo The Knife and Karin Andersson's not-quite-sure-if-it-is-her vocals.  The Next Day  is a strong start to the short collection.

When listening back to the duo's debut album Kammerspeil,  it is interesting to consider the route that they have taken since then.  HTR1A,  with it's almost anthemic "if you depict a bird/give it space to fly" moment, harkens more to the quieter and more confessional side of that debut album, where as Puskas  with it's deep saw bass rolls around sounding more like the best tracks On Floating Bodies,  as it flourishes in the background with a conchord of blips, beats and processed snare claps, almost acting as a sonic puzzle.  The best work of the group are tracks like this; the tracks that feel multidimensional in a non-cliched way, appearing as if you could reach out into space and pull the arrangement as if they were a 3D wire frame, mapping the subtle shifts in sound and structure.  For example, the move in Puskas  from the quiet brush of glass-like vocals to the tribal ending rhythm and defiant lyric "maybe I could be like you" feel like aural-illusions.  The closer you listen the more you hear but the less you understand.

The final track is easily the most ambitious track on the EP and maybe the most ambitious track they have released to date.  With definite movements it is also the fiercest the duo has sounded on record, almost seething with a dark energy and anger that truly surprises.  As I said before, this EP is built on contradiction - soft vocals matched with deep bass and acerbic lyrics (“this room’s the centre of the world / of the things you seek without looking” and “now make up your own scenario / trying to describe space”), but A Solid Door  sees the group focus on a structure that twists and meanders, never fully forming a track you can pin down.  It unfurls from a staggering rhythm section towards the angry vocal, and ends up for the last third an instrumental outro that once again is an illusion - giving the impression of an orchestrated improvisation.

The EP is a very strong collection of tracks and hopefully shines a light on where the group will go next with their future material.  It's not like other post-album EPs, where it feels like off cuts or leftover session tracks, but works as a cohesive set of songs, like all of the best EPs.

- Mark Shields

Conquering Animal Sound - Talking Shapes  is out now via Chemikal Undergound on 12" vinyl or download here, or from all good record shops and online music retailers.

Single Review - Scary People - Guided By The Blind

Power-packed, cool rock in small packages seems to be the new flavour of the month.  Just like other rising stars Royal Blood and Honeyblood, Scary People have created a worthy showcase for their strong sound with their latest single Guided by the Blind.

The track has an almost hypnotic quality: simple strumming and slick drum beats are the perfect vessel to carry the deep, confident vocal – the cadence of which brings me back to delights by Interpol or Grizzly Bear.  The steady sense of security we were sitting in is soon interrupted, as we knew it would be, as the noise escalates to a satisfyingly loud chorus.

Quiet little nicks and creeping bass signify that things are about to get fun – and sure enough this is set free into a nice instrumental, leaving ample time for some spirited air guitar or head bangs.  The track finishes loud and liberating; a real firecracker of a tune from a band that oozes energy, and make music was made for moving to.

- Maura Keane

Scary People - Guided By The Blind  is out now via RedRoom Recordings and can be downloaded here.

We're Only Here For The Banter - Aquafaux

This week for 'We're Only Here For The Banter' I caught up with Lois from Edinburgh based trio Aquafaux.  It's true that in the wake of CHVRCHES success; and indeed many more acts across the UK; that synths and '80's pop influences are in vogue, however from listening to the bands debut EP Spellbound  there's a feel that Aquafaux are not bandwagon jumpers.  Check out our chat to find out more.

Hello!  How the devil are you?

Hey Neil, we're great!  Thanks for playing our track See The Rain  on your radio show recently.

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

Well, basically Aquafaux are an electro synthpop band based in Edinburgh.  Memberwise we have Lois who sings, Sam who plays synth/guitar and Greg who plays bass/synth.  I suppose you could say we create electronic music that you can dance to.  We're really close friends, but have really different tastes in music.  I think that's what makes our music sound quite unique because we're influenced by different sounds.  To name a few of our influences I would probably say; Kavinsky, Vitalic, Com Truise, The Postal Service and Rilo Kiley.

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

We are all involved.  Some of the songs initially start of as acoustic songs, which we then develop further by adding electric drums, and synths.  Regarding song writing and lyrics, the inspirations are quite generic.  See The Rain  is of course about the Scottish weather.  I mean what Scottish band hasn't written a song about the weather.  It rains so much in Scotland, it's hard not to write anything that doesn't involve your love life or the weather!

What could we expect to see from a live show?

Synthesisers, and electric drums that light up!  The boys in the band are totally obsessed with them.  We're real friendly, down to earth people, so I'm sure you would feel obliged to dance at our gigs.  Seriously who wouldn't want to dance to electronic beats and watch synthesisers glow in the dark?  We actually have a gig in Edinburgh, in December, so keep a look out on our Facebook page, as we will be confirming dates very soon.

Tell us about your latest EP Spellbound

Spellbound  is our first four track EP.  We actually recorded the tracks in my living room and Sam did all the technical bits like mixing, producing and mastering.  We worked pretty hard, and took ages to do.  We are all super happy with the outcome.  We feel that each song has its own sound, and shows a good variety of our bands style.  The EP will be available to buy online from Bandcamp very soon!

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

Well we are currently working on more tracks and hope to do a few more gigs around Scotland.  You never know what will happen in the future, we may release a full album.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Ah!  There is too many bands to name, but anything that sounds good like The Postal Service, Tiga, Factory Floor and Bright Eyes.  We're also all very excited to go and see Future Islands in November at the O2 ABC in Glasgow.  I totally love the singers dance moves, he is awesome!

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

There are two muffins in an oven.  One muffin turns to the other muffin and says, "Boy, it's hot in here".

The other muffin says, "OH MY GOD A TALKING MUFFIN!"

Check out more from Aquafaux

Facebook         Twitter          Website

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 27th October 2014

With new music from Casual Sex, John Knox Sex Club, Stanley Odd and Rustie, this week's show is a smorgasboard of delights, cruising genres and styles with scant regard for the usual boundaries. 

Our session guest on this week's show is Alan McCormack; better known as the man behind lo-fi, experimental pop band Now Wakes The Sea.  Find out the influences and background behind latest album Bildungsroman  as well as hear three stripped backed live tracks. 

Casual Sex - A Perfect Storm
Tetra - Tommy Lee Jones
CLASSIC TRACK - Cream - Sunshine Of Your Love
Now Wakes The Sea - Scottish Blood Reversal - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
Fuji Above The Lightning - Devil
Wartime Tapestry - Merge
RE-MIXING IT UP - Kid Canaveral - Skeletons (AlpineSkiChampion remix)
Now Wakes The Sea - Original Bone - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
Joan Colomo - Hort Mort - As chosen by Now Wakes The Sea
John Knox Sex Club - Minotaur
Shambles In A Husk - The TOWIE Effect
Min Diesel - Down On The Green
Sharptooth - Sister
VINYL PLAY - Camera Obscura - Desire Lines (Live at the Tron Theatre)
Now Wakes The Sea - The Shore & The Coastline - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
Sound Of Yell - Hitherto
CLASSIC TRACK - The Pastels - I'm Alright With You
Poor Frisco - Ghosts
Stanley Odd - Her Name Was Hip-Hop
Errant Boy - Dilate
Snide Rhythms - Acid Alliteration
Rustie - Velcro

Subscribe/listen to the podcast via iTunes.

Connect with us and submit any submissions via:
Facebook - www.facebook.com/thisisscottishfiction
Twitter - twitter.com/scotfiction984
E-mail - scottishfiction@mail.com

Monday, 27 October 2014

EXCLUSIVE - Chrissy Barnacle - Nightride - Scottish Fiction Session Track

Folk punk songstress Chrissy Barnacle has a unique way with lyrics, weaving what can appear on the surface whimsical stores, but which when scratched beneath tell tales of love, loss, life, relationships and everything in between.  Chrissy joined me on Scottish Fiction to chat about her music, influences, and play us some live music.

This track, Nightride,  was recorded at Pulse 98.4 FM as an exclusive session track for the Scottish Fiction blog.  To hear further session tracks and an interview listen back to the full show here.


Campfires In Winter Christmas Party

Like it or not Christmas is just around the corner, with the festive cheer poised to pounce as soon as the supermarkets sell out of pumpkins; and in some places even before!

Don't get me wrong, Christmas is, as the old adage goes, the most wonderful time of the year.  Yet there can seem amidst all the adverts and shopping a sickly feel of commercialism on cocaine.  So it's good when things come along that you genuinely have no problem spending money on, such as Christmas party gigs from one of Scotland's finest post-rock foursomes Campfires In Winter.

On Wednesday 17th December in the stunning surroundings of Glasgow's Sloans GrandBallroom, Campfires In Winter will host the first Campfires' Christmas Party with help from a few friends and some special guest collaborations.  Support comes from alternative popsters Friends In America and garage rock noise makers Deathcats.  And like all good Christmas parties the fun will continue into the evening with a heavy dose of drunken dancing, the tunes for which will be spun by the The Twilight Sad.

To help make the Christmas party special each ticket comes with a hand signed Christmas card, and gig goers will be greeted with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie on arrival.  And if that isn't enough how about a brass band playing Christmas songs, as well as a photo booth as well.  Photo booths and mulled wine... I predict some messy photos!

Tickets are on sale now at the early bird price of £10 at www.campfiresinwinter.bigcartel.com

Album Review - Broken Records - Weights & Pulleys

Broken Records new album Weights & Pulleys  is definitely more of the same from the Edinburgh based band.  The album has many of the same themes and carries on the same sound as 2010's Let Me Come Home.  Cynics may find a real sense of irony in the fact that a band called Broken Records can be referred to as 'repetitive', however, when the same band are producing albums of this quality, those cynics are easy to ignore.

Broken Records must be getting fed up of being compared to Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire (although why would they?) but it’s a really unavoidable comparison. The second track on the album, Winterless Son,  has a clear Springsteen influence running through it.  With its bouncy rhythm and catchy melodies, it has already proved to be a real crowd pleaser at the band's live shows.

The bands rhythm section gets another chance to flourish on So Long, So Late  where a captivating bass line and thunderous drums carry the song to a rousing climax.  Album standout Nothing Doubtful  shows how diverse the band is with haunting vocals combined with the trumpet which are beautiful to listen to and a far cry from the albums previous tracks.

Weights & Pulleys  is a well rounded album, that, in the same vein as bands such as This Will Destroy You and Sigur Ros, has the ability to make everything you are doing seem a lot more significant.  A solid album that further proves everything we already knew about Broken Records when it comes to their quality songwriting, excellent musicianship and unbreakable consistency.

- Stuart Thompson

Broken Records - Weights & Pulleys  is out now via J Sharp Records and can be downloaded via all good online music retails, or purchased on CD or vinyl in all good record shops, or you can buy direct from the band here.

EP Review - Foreignfox - We Float Like Sinking Ships

Oh Foreignfox, where have you and your melancholic vocals and soulful guitar vibes been hiding?  Whether stranger or friend the band's debut EP We Float Like Sinking Ships  welcomes you in like an old long lost  acquaintance. 

On opening track Quiet at Home,  with delicate and mellow strings, all the while luring you in with front man Johnny Watt’s deliciously ripe, Scottish accent; which is neither over egged or disguised; bring the spark out in the vocals and light up each track.  And spark, this track certainly does.  Erupting in full punk, rock style the guitars rip up and explode changing the whole dimension of the song in just one second.

opens with promise of light, teasing us with tones of merriment, courtesy of the crashing cymbals and remarks of having one too many; "How drunk must I be to think my liver, just spoke to me".  Despite the jovial intro, the track begins to unravel and demonstrates the opposing connotations from it’s title and instead, highlights a tale of domestic abuse in a relationship.  "I hope to God, I don’t do something wrong…  He says it gives him extra confidence, to go home and slap her about."  The extremity of the lyrics are matched equally by the dominating yet beautifully urgent guitar notes and accompanying drums, as Foreignfox demand you to take cover.

As the EP builds momentum we reach the quintessential acoustic number.  The Truth About Sex  explores the painful experience of infidelity.  Exploiting a raw episode, Foreignfox fling this secret out in the open for everyone to hear, much like Watt describes, "I’ll split my head open, I’ll put it back together."  Letting the venom of thoughts spill out, clearing his mind, and putting himself back together.

As I listen to Yoghurt  I realise the EP has unfolded to a critical stage and I’m now right in the underbelly of Foreignfox.  Revealing a personal and harrowing time of his life clearly does not come easy to Watt as his voice is wounded with anguish and genuine sadness as he recalls the memory.  Done so with elegance, he paints a painful picture of his helpless state and fearful thoughts.  The lyrics don’t require much from the listener, you don’t have to strip it down and analyse the words to understand where he was when he wrote this, it’s written in the truest and simplest form.  Well, they are Scottish after all.  The simplicity of the lyrics match somewhat perfectly with the accompanying instruments.  By listening to this track you can tell he hasn’t written this song to fit with a genre, or because the subject alone would make a great song but because he had to write about a significant occurrence such as this in his life, and as he states, "They said just write about what you know."  And I’m glad he did.  Laced with soul, Watt’s vocals intertwine with the hazy guitars and smashing drums and produce an exhilarating and graceful track.

Melodious guitar rifts rise up with energy and are met with the upbeat rhythmic of drums as the Dunfermline four piece close their debut EP on a high.  We Float Like Sinking Ships  doesn’t abandon the sincerity and pain of the previous track but links up, making reference to the suffering and the past but through the bouncing rhythm of the beat, you can hear a glimmer of hope and optimism.  I don’t know if it’s the fiery Scottish accent, the dominating backing vocals creeping up my spine or the volume on my earphones but I’m filled with equal measures of musical euphoria and misery.  Either way, I’m just glad Foreignfox are no longer hiding.

- Melaine McKinley

Foreignfox - We Float Like Sinking Ships  is now and can be purchased from the bands Bandcamp page.

Album Review - The Sea Kings - Woke In The Devil's Arms

Woke in the Devil’s Arms,  the debut album by Glaswegian four piece The Sea Kings combines an array of musical genres and lyrical subject matter with a delightfully sinister edge, making it stand out amongst a lot of the alternative receiving plaudits in the UK just now.

The album produces a wonderfully aggressive introduction.  Title track and opener Woke in the Devil’s Arms  is full of thrashing guitars and powerfully raw vocals.  This creates an essential impact that is required to grip the listener from the word go.  Although the instrumentation of the song is definitely more rock than country, the lyrics give hints to the folkish style of the band and so the two key genres which are found throughout the album are also evident on this opener, reassuring us of what we can expect to find throughout. 

However The Sea Kings do have a couple of surprises up their sleeve, as seen in the following track. Moonlit Range  which begins much more gently and the harmonies on display give it a very different feel.  The guitars and piano used here also produce a completely separate vibe from the opener. 

The most successful song on the album comes in the form of the upbeat Bible John.  Opening with the downright macabre lyric, "The mark I made, on my arm with a razor blade, says get me out of here" shows the band's dark side.  It isn’t really surprising when you consider that this song is really about a famous Scottish serial killer who picked up girls in the famous Barrowlands Ballroom before murdering them.  The combination of jaunty guitars and dark content is very reminiscent of The Smiths, as are the vocals on this track, which may be intended or just a happy coincidence.  Either way it is a stand out track on the album.

Have You Not Hurt Me Enough?  provides quite a sensual moment on the album.  As the title of the song suggests, it is a tale of heartbreak, sung with emotional vocals and lyrics.  The first part of the song contains very sultry guitars, but the tempo picks up as the song goes on.  The piano that comes in at the chorus is also an interesting addition to the song, and certainly encourages the feeling of passion that is on display.  This is further enhanced by the influx of electric guitars and pounding drums at the very end of the song.  This crescendo leads towards a cathartic finish, making this track one of the more epic moments on the album.

We are, yet again, greeted by something new on the next track Is Paris Burning?.  The introduction of classical strings adds a new dimension to what has proceeded, and although in this instance the strings are discordant, they are still enchanting in their shrillness.  They are used briefly here just as an introduction before the track falls into a folky little number.  Another change in tempo follows in the form of Church and State.  It starts off with a very slow, sexy, jazz style.  The bass and the piano giving the verses a quality that would not seem completely out of place in a smoky salon in the 1920’s.  The chorus however does not follow suit and is very much carrying on the folk rock feel felt in many of the previous tracks.

The final song on the album, Across the Coals  provides the albums darkest moment, which is some feat consider the inclusion of a song about Bible John.  The subject matter is about the death of a girl, and more widely about death in general.  It is littered with haunting lyrics, such as "every day is like a wake and every house is like a morgue" and "how many souls are dragged across the coals".   The guitars at the start here are also laced with melancholy, fitting perfectly with these evocative words.  Again, sharp strings are featured here towards the end, creating a cacophony of sound that helps add to the morbid, yet highly emotional tone of the albums closer.  A build-up of drums at the end helps to finish the album off in a beautiful way, and I personally think this last song is The Sea Kings crowning moment.

Overall this album is both emotional and exuberant in almost equal parts.  Not every song is a triumph and not every song fits with the general tone, but perfection is perhaps asking too much, and the mixture of styles is not always a bad thing.  For the most part Woke in the Devil’s Arms  provides the listener with an innovative, yet traditional set of songs that would please lovers of both folk and rock alike.

- Gillian Parfey

The Sea Kings - Woke In The Devil's Arms  is out now via Iffy Folk Records.  You can buy the album here.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Single Review - Alansmithee (feat. Marklar) - Checking Out

Rain drops.  Cosy interior.  The mood is set.  Progressively, the dashing voices fill your head.  Now you are floating, relaxed and careless.  It is as if you are dreaming or hallucinating, you can't tell the difference by now.  That's what Alansmithee is all about.

Hailing from Livingston, the band comprise four lo-fi geniuses.  Their music is a game of sounds and colours that is both refreshing and surreal.  We are transported by the atmospheric feel of their songs and seduced by their melancholic melodies.

It revisits the origins of alternative music and undeniably draws its inspirations from bands such as Joy Division and Velvet Underground.  But Alansmithee have a unique personality and an usual subtle charm.

In collaboration with the off-the-wall Marklar, Checking Out is an alternative trip to the meanders of your mind.  Ingeniously written, its psychedelic tones and echo voices will leave you breathless.  It starts slowly, carefully, then it intensifies.  It becomes powerful to the point of being completely captivating, thanks to the smooth pace and distorted sound of the guitar.

It praises a certain freedom, a bold lightness but, “It's alright,” as the spellbinding voices whisper to you...

Alansmithee is a band that everyone must definitely check out.

Alexandra Andréoli

Alansmithee (feat. Marklar) - Checking Out is out now on via Flowers in the Dustbin and is available to download for free here.

EP Review - Pronto Mama - Niche Market

Pronto Mama are a relaxed and cheerful band who play incredibly lively music.  Their sound is an energetic and tasty ballade that will put you in a good mood and fill your heart with the innocence you lost a while ago.

Goose Step, the first song of Niche Market, sets the tone of the EP.  It has good rhythm, a melodic and joyful character, with a pop aftertaste that does not prevent the band from bringing out a certain rock side.

Remission is the soft touch of this EP, a colourful and hearty melody, which, thanks to the sounds of trombone and trumpet, wraps 4 minutes of intense and passionate music.  With this song, Pronto Mama warms the heart and will definitely be your love at first listen.

Rubber holds a groovy and indie-rock tune which creates the perfect anthem.  Well thought out and brilliantly put together, the instrumental and the voices constitute a powerful combination.

Surrogate Mama and You're Only Human testify of the capacity of Pronto Mama to be present on all fronts.  More energetic and punchier, they are both a mix of indie, rock, alternative and folk music.

Polyrhythmic is the strength of this six piece collective, who are in complete harmony with their instruments.

Alexandra Andréoli

Pronto Mama - Niche Market is out now on Instinctive Racoon Records and is available on download and CD format here.

The band play what is set to be their last Glasgow headline show at the Old Hairdressers on Friday 7th November 2014.  Get tickets here.

Album Review - PAWS - Youth Culture Forever

Compared with their first opus, Cokefloat, which was praised for its true punk-rock vibes, Youth Culture Forever, PAWS' second album, is a more mature approach to life and its drama.

For starters, Erreur Humaine is a reflection on the previous conflicted feelings expressed in Cokefloat.  It provokes anxiety and portrays an unwillingness to enter adulthood, which ultimately sets the mood for the entire album.  After all, what does Youth Culture Forever mean, if not nostalgia?

Tongues is probably one of the catchiest songs of the album and has one of the most cheerful rhythms.  It tends towards the pop-rock side of their repertoire which is quite refreshing.  Later on, you will find the same nonchalant spirit in Owls Talons Clenching My Heart.

By contrast, Someone New expresses a restless bitterness.  Here, the insistent rumble of guitars reminds us of their original music and their punk-indie-rock spirit.  Give Up has the same juvenile side, with its claim that “it's unfair” and is definitely an anthem to youth and rebellion.

Alone is a melancholic heartfelt cry that really makes you feel alone.  YCF in the same painful manner, is quite special too.  Here, no rumble, just the naked sound of guitar and a hoarse voice to accurately reflect the powerful lyrics.

By skilfully using their musical strengths in An Honest Romance, PAWS have found the perfect balance between punk, rock and pop music.  The lyrics and the rhythm combined together with the mix of musical genres offer a brilliant and harmonious sound overall.  Hence, the importance of being – sometimes – earnest in music.

Narcissist, Let's All Let Go and Great Bear are three songs of pure emotion and raw music.  They are vibrant, unexpected and sow confusion but in an effective way.  They bring out a sort of animal-like touch in this album and make you want to break loose and knock down some walls.

Finally, with War Cry, the band ends the album on both an absorbing and alienating vibe.  This battle hymn lasts for almost 12 minutes, but it is not a simple tune.  It is a full-fledged story, a feeling in itself.  PAWS prove once again that they master the art of quiet and loud, of pain and relief. They prove that no genre is a burden and every resource provided needs to be used.

With album number two, PAWS are undeniably leaving their mark on alternative music history.

- Alexandra Andréoli

PAWS - Youth Culture Forever is out now on FatCat Records and is available on download, CD and limited edition vinyl here. The band are currently on tour in the USA, with a series of concerts in New York.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

INTERVIEW: Johnny Lynch - Lost Map: One Year On

For someone with his fingers in so many creative pies, Johnny Lynch; a.k.a The Pictish Trail, a.k.a. head honcho at Lost Map Records; is one laid back man.  It's over a year since Lynch, along with the active members of the 'Fence Collective' splintered from the Fife based label of over 15 years, and struck out on their own trail.  It's for this reason that I'm chatting with Lynch; him holed up in Stirling following a show at the Marcobert Arts Centre, me in a cosy yet glitchy radio studio on Glasgow's Southside.

"It was really good yeah" opines Johnny as I ask him how the previous night's antics had gone down.  "The crowd was lovely and the set went down really well.  And it was a beautiful venue as well"  The gig was part of Stirling's Fringe and was a Lost Map showcase, where The Pictish Trail and members of the label played stripped down acoustic sets.  Was that gig then designed specifically to mark one year of Lost Map as a label?

"No not really" answers Johnny.  "It's strange because we announced the new label at the Green Man Festival last year (August 14th 2013), and I found myself down there again this year, so that was kind of fitting.  We are planning however to mark the year with a new feature on our website, as well as some new music and a video from our Howlin' Fling festival."  I'm also assured that Johnny, and fellow label organisers Kate Canaveral and Malcolm Jack, are making plans for Lost Map's second year.

In some ways Lost Map is a continuation of what Fence Records was in its latter years.  Lost Map's roster includes Kid Canaveral, eagleowl, Monoganon, Seamus Fogarty, Rozi Plain, and of course The Pictish Trail.  The label also continues the tradition of hosting its own secluded festivals and gigs, as well as a love for unusual releases.  Where Johnny has looked to differentiate from Fence is the latter's perceived tendency to veer towards singer-songwriters. 

"I mean I've no problem with singer-songwriters, it's what I do myself.  But I felt that by signing Tuff Love, we were really staking a claim that Lost Map isn't purely for bearded songwriters."

Tuff Love, the fuzzy three-piece championed by the likes of Ally McCrae and Jen Long, were the first 'new' act to Lost Map, who hadn't been associated with Fence before.  Lost Map approached the band and offered to work with them, essentially pushing the band and their music out to the wider public, a plan which has seen debut EP Junk  released earlier this year as well as numerous gigs across the UK.

Other notable releases seen on Lost Map this year have been a re-release of eagleowl's album This Silent YearF A M I L Y  by Monoganon; which had been planned for release on Fence; and the debut album from indie-folk prodigies Randolph's Leap.  I ask how Lost Map came to release Clumsy Knot,  an album which has been eagerly awaited by local music fans for some time now.

"Well I had been in talks with Randolph's Leap for a while about putting out an album.  We released Hermit  on Fence, and I just think that Adam [Ross - lead singer of RL] is a really special songwriter.  It just pours out of him and he's a really exciting guy to be involved with."

Another new act to be signed to the Lost Map roster are Insect Heroes, whose album Apocalypso  was released earlier this month.  Having known George Thomas, the man behind Insect Heroes, for a number of years. Johnny felt that Lost Map could give Apocalypso  the release it deserved.  "When I first heard the album [Apocalypso  was self released in 2013] I thought 'Oh my God, this is amazing!'  It's pop music that is really fun, and George was doing it all himself, which I know can be really daunting and exhausting.  So when we signed the band to the label, I felt that re-releasing the album on vinyl was a good introduction to their music.  Plus it's kind of an endorsement to have your music released on vinyl.  I mean there's still an audience who want a tangible product.  As an artist having your album out on vinyl is a good expression of your music.  It pays the artist respect I think."

The label have also continued Fence's love of the physical product, with all releases thus far being granted a vinyl release, plus a continuation of the Postcard singles, as well as the elusive Lost Cat Cassettes. 

"They are secret cassettes, which are not listed on our website" enthuses Johnny.  "We've done three Lost Cat's [with eagleowl & Woodpigeon, Monoganon, and Monogan and WeGoda] and they are great because there's a sense of discovery with them.  We don't list them on the site and they are only available in actual record shops, meaning they are harder to get.  There's maybe a sense of achievement if you find one, which I think is important for the appreciation of music.  Not that it's incredibly difficult to find them mind you!"  Each Lost Cat tape contains exclusive tracks from Lost Map artists, and, highlighting Johnny's sense of fun and word play, the artwork is a genuine lost cat poster. 

"Yeah we just took some posters off the street to use as art work" laughs Johnny.  "Actually I've secretly been kidnapping cats, just so their owners will put up posters which we can then steal!  What happened to the cats?  Oh we used them as food at the Howlin' Fling.  It's the secret life of a record label boss; kidnapping and killing cats!

As we talk, and uncontrollably laugh, it's clear why Johnny Lynch is able to run Lost Map as a close knit family rather than an ‘at distance’ label.  Johnny exudes confidence and warmth, laughing throughout our chat, and giving out the sense that he genuinely loves the music and artists he's so closely involved with.  I ask him if that sense of community is an important ethos to the label.

"One of the things I've tried to do is to be as involved with the music as much as each artist wants me to be.  I will make suggestions and changes, but I've already got 100% belief in all the releases already."  I ask if Johnny had a sense of where he wanted the label to go when he started to which he verbally shrugs his shoulders.  "There were no set plans; however I wanted to work with people that I like, and with music that I like.  I'm chuffed with how it's gone, and it's largely due to trusting my gut."

That sense of community seeps beyond the label collective and into the fans as well, with events such as Howlin' Fling on the label's spiritual home of the Isle of Eigg developing a sense of togetherness and showcasing all the label's wares at the same time.  It's an ethos which Johnny is keen to pass onto the bands, and has seen Randolph's Leap host their inaugural I Can't Dance ToThis Music event, while Kid Canaveral's Baubles now rolls into its fifth year.  Elsewhere eagleowl host a night branded Irregular Owl Movements, further showcasing the lack of taking things too seriously at Lost Map.

"It brings fans together" states Johnny.  "Ideally I'd like all our artists to curate their own events and build things outside of just their recorded music, whether that's live or online.  Each act will express themselves differently, but I feel it gives the artists a lot more involvement" 

Unwittingly that may have been an insight into why Fence fell apart, however it's clear that with Lost Map, despite professing otherwise, there's a clear plan ahead for Johnny and the team.  Build each act up, encourage them to take on board other duties, and in a way help them learn the way that Johnny himself learned at Fence.  It's certainly worked for him, as this year's reissue of Secret Soundz Vol 1 & 2  on Moshi Moshi Records shows.  It's important to remember that whilst running a label, Lynch is still a writing, performing and touring artist in his own right, and the "seal of approval" from Moshi gave him a self-admitted confidence boost.

"I was chuffed when they took the record on board, and it's also interesting to see how they do things, which is completely different from Lost Map."  Is there another Pictish Trail album in the works I ask?  "I'm currently working on the next record.  I've got lots of ideas, and Moshi are very supportive.”

So what lies ahead for Lost Map?  Well as you'll guess of course there's things under wraps that can't yet be disclosed, but Johnny confirms there's a few records lined up for 2015, and that the plan remains to work with the artists on the roster already.  More of the same seemingly, although don't write out anything just yet.

"If an amazing record comes our way, then yeah we'll look at it.  But if not, we'll stick with what we have, getting our artists more involved and hopefully a lot more aware of their surroundings too."

- Neil Wilson
For more about Lost Map, and to buy any of their releases check out lostmap.com

Lost Map celebrated its first year anniversary on 14th August 2014, and has released material from Randolph's Leap, Monoganon, eagleowl, Insect Heroes, Tuff Love, Seamus Fogarty and Kid Canaveral.  To celebrate the label have unveiled Clumps, a new section on their website which promises a mix of podcasts, photos, gossip and other stuff.  Clumps kicks off with Lost Map label sampler, and a short film; by The Forest Of Black; about the legendary Howlin' Fling festival.

Album Review - Insect Heroes - Apocalypso

Apocalypso  is the latest release from the Lost Map label, and their first debut album proper.  Insect Heroes set the tone for their album with the introduction.  What at first sounds like seagulls on a distant beach reveals itself to be hawking synths, which is then playfully followed with the lines "welcome to the modern age, welcome to the end of days."  The band are almost a snapshot of current pop coming out of Scotland: lo-fi, undeniably quirky, a melodic nod to the '60's, a hard pull to the beach and a heavy dose of charm.  The songs on offer here are so sun stroked that it feels almost wrong to be released in October.

The voice and general tone of the album sits in a similar territory to label operator, The Pictish Trail, although the overall production is a lot more electronic and playful, whilst still being cleverly put together in terms of arrangements and melodies.  The vocals are, in places, hushed in a similar way to Yusuf Azak, with the songs displaying the infectious summery pop of Now Wakes The Sea.  The band draws on a variety of influences and manages to bring them together to a coherent sonic imprint.  Animal Collective, at their most Beach Boys, are a clear influence, there are elements of Americana, with Spacesuit  sounding like a lo-fi pop take on Kurt Vile and there are even nods to carnival music beyond the album’s title, although more in its general upbeat and feel good tone rather than musically.

The lyrics are mostly ridiculous and brilliant alongside the music.  The chorus for Fabulous  is four repetitions of the line "tonight I’m fooking fabulous"  while Beautiful World  lists a number of things that are beautiful before exclaiming "I’m so happy I could die" with this format making up the entire song.  This simplistic take adds towards the charming naivety and innocence of the album, suggest that Insect Heroes are not trying to be anything other than themselves.

There are two well placed quieter and slightly more intimate moments on the album, Marionette  and Wooden Heart,  that, along with brief interlude Insect Heroes Theme  and wind down Good Night,  help to break the album out ensuring all the optimism doesn’t get fatiguing.  The consistently upbeat and optimistic feel throughout the album is endlessly endearing and makes this a hugely revisitable listen which, due to its quirky nature in terms of instrumentation and production, uncovers more on every listen, all while the melodies are engrained in your brain.  If only this was released in May, it would have been the perfect soundtrack to the summer.

- Ashley Leiper

Insect Heroes - Apocalypso  is out now via Lost Map Records and can be purchased on CD and vinyl here.

We're Only Here For The Banter - Tetra

Popping up on Bar Bloc's Ensemble  compilation last month is a good way to catch the attention of music fans.  Since then this week's 'banter' guests Tetra have released their eponymous debut EP and launched it with a gig at Bar Bloc.  Time to find out more.

Hello, how the devil are you?

We're great thanks, yourself?

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

I guess you could say we're an alternative rock band with some electronic elements but when people ask us that question we usually just look at each other in bemusement and shrug our shoulders!  As far as influences, we all have different favourites with the common threads being bands like Battles, MGMT, Everything Everything and Radiohead.  Jordan does have quite an unhealthy obsession with Haim though and Lynas is usually singing some soul, funk or jazz song that he's discovered that week.

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

Most of the time it starts with Lynas writing the chord progressions and structure of the song, recording it and emailing it to the rest of us and we take it into the studio and work on it from there, you'll often see Lynas freak out with joy and fall to the floor when he hears Jay's guitar part or Jordan's beat over it for the first time!

What could we expect to see from a live show?

A loud, fun, energetic and frantic show!  That's how it feels for us on stage anyway.

Tell us about your new EP Tetra.

It's our debut EP and it's been a long time coming to be honest!  Some of the tracks on it are around two years old so its great to finally have it out there.  It was recorded with Michael Butler at Bare Calf Studios and we had a lot of fun making it.  Also it's free to download so go have a listen!

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

We are playing a fundraiser gig in Broadcast on the 2nd of November for our friend who is doing a 6 day trek to Machu Picchu all in aid of Make-A-Wish Foundation, so that should be pretty cool!

We are also taking part in Kenny's Music Battle Of The Bands competition, which takes place in BOX on the 22nd of November so we are hoping to do well in that!

Apart from that we are just going to keep writing new stuff and look towards hopefully releasing some new material in early 2015!

What are you listening to at the moment?

Thundercat - Oh Sheit, It's X! (Brainfeeder)

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

A dyslexic man walks into a Bra.....

Check out more from Tetra

Facebook         Twitter          Website

Monday, 20 October 2014

Scottish Fiction Presents: Book Group, Behold The Old Bear, and Shambles Miller

It's been a while since the last Scottish Fiction Presents gig, but boy what a way to make a comeback!  I'm delighted to officially announce that on Thursday, 20th November at The Cellar on Queen Street, Glasgow the next Scottish Fiction Presents gig will take place. 

And topping our bill are the glorious Book Group, one of the finest Edinburgh bands plying their trade at the moment, with fuzzy guitars, a fulsome rhythm section all squeezed in with some infectious pop hooks.  Live, the band always provide an emphatic performance, bombing anthems out across the crowd.  Keep an eye out for megaphones and wandering frontmen!

Support comes from quirky alt-pop Behold, The Old Bear, fresh from their split cassette release via Scottish Fiction for Cassette Store Day, and everyone's favourite singer-songwriter; Shambles Miller.

Tickets are on sale NOW for those of you with an eye for a bargain as if you buy in advance online you'll get a ticket for the knock down price of £5 right here.  Otherwise, tickets are £6 on the door.

And for those with their social lives integrated to Facebook, go on and invite yourself.

See you there!

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 20th October 2014

This week's session guest on Scottish Fiction was Chrissy Barnacle who mixes folk and punk, with narrative lyrics which explore love, loss, life, relationships and everything in between.  During the course of the show you can enjoy three beautiful live tracks, as well as an alarming amount of chat about cannibal rats.

Included also in this week's show is new music from The Son(s), Felix Champion, IndianRedLopez, an excellent '90's dance cover from Vladimir as our 'Cover Lover' track, a 'Vinyl Play' from Conquering Animal Sound and a truly classic Mogwai track.  It's all good baby baby!

Felix Champion - These Four Walls
The Sea Kings - Woke In The Devil's Arms
The Insomniac Project - Parallels
Chrissy Barnacle - Hazelnuts - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
We Were Promised Jetpacks - Safety In Numbers
COVER LOVER - Vladimir - Born Slippy
The Amazing Snakeheads - Can't Let You Go
Chrissy Barnacle - Charmed - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
Laura Stevenson - Barnacles
The Son(s) - Death, With Castanets
Esperi - Seasons
VINYL PLAY - Conquering Animal Sound - Giant
Book Group - Here Is Too Near
Behold, The Old Bear - Seven Maybe Eight
Shambles Miller - Deadpool
Chrissy Barnacle - Bag Of Bones - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
CLASSIC TRACK - Mogwai - Mogwai Fear Satan
Aquafaux - See The Rain
IndianRedLopez - Commit

Subscribe/listen to the podcast via iTunes.

Connect with us and submit any submissions via:
Facebook - www.facebook.com/thisisscottishfiction
Twitter - twitter.com/scotfiction984
E-mail - scottishfiction@mail.com

Pinact - Scottish Fiction Session Videos

Glasgow's Pinact have all the ingredients to join the ranks of successful noisy two pieces.  They combine brassy punk rock, melodic pop sensibilities and a DIY ethos into a winning combination.  Guitarist and lead singer Corrie joined me on Scottish Fiction to chat and play some stripped down versions of the bands songs.

Below are videos for the tracks LimbsNovembore  and a cover of Weezer's Butterfly  which were recorded at Pulse 98.4 FM as part of Pinact's Scottish Fiction Session.  To hear the full show, including interview, check out the Scottish Fiction Podcast for 13th October 2014.

And check out this EXCLUSIVE video of Beginning Of The End  recorded for the Scottish Fiction blog.