Monday, 24 November 2014

Album Review - Turning Plates - The Shouting Cave

or children born today, or indeed within the last 15 years, the world in which they will grow up in is incredibly connected, instant and open.  Through the evolution of the Internet, information can be obtained freely at the touch of a finger, and shared with fellow humans on the other side of the world with ease, however obtusely secrecy is swiftly becoming a concept of the past.  In terms of day to day life it is undeniable the Internet has enriched human society, but in terms of our evolution as a species, the web is in it's infancy and no one can really know what this man-made behemoth has done, or will do, to human beings long term.

In the words of Turning Plates, "the Internet is the purest reflection of humanity, a world built entirely of our own thoughts, emotions and desire".  The concept forms the basis of their debut album This Shouting Cave,  the title itself perhaps a nod to the concept of social media where users shout into the vast emptiness of the Internet in the hope of being 'Liked', 'Retweeted' or 'Blogged'.

Opening with the appropriately named Avatar  the band begin on the journey of telling individual stories within this grander scheme.  The track gently meanders along until the three minute mark where with a few strums of the acoustic guitar it bursts into life.  Havoc  opens with vigorous plucking which soon are keeping time with piano and trombone in a wonderfully orchestrated piece.  There are hints of Danish alt-rock band Mew at play in this track, particularly in lead singer Duncan Sutherland's vocals.  "They came guns a-blazing" he sings, aptly describing the effect this track has two songs into the album.

Things take a different turn into A Hymn For Our Quickening,  a clarinet led track which soon layers and evolves into a aural extravaganza.  The depth and complexity of the music is no surprise, with no fewer than five music degrees between the band and strong roots in classical music.  Contemporary links are not buried beneath this though, with influences such as Sigur Ros, Radiohead and Mogwai all fleeting in and out of the music.  Next track Animals  opens a darker vein with a sulking feel thanks to the drum beat and reticent bass line.  "Ideas are soft, and we are coarse, we are just animals" yells Sutherland, reminding us not to elevate ourselves too high, before a truly stunning violin laden outro, leads into the first single Falling LivesFalling Lives  continues with a darker mood, thanks to the echoing drum beat and the uneasy static beneath the track throughout.  The influence of Mogwai can be felt here, with the band allowing the song to continue with patience, not rushing or allowing the momentum to wilt.

Wild Roots  acts as a natural break in the album's flow, allowing the solemness of Falling Lives  to wash away before the more fast paced Evil Man  takes over.   Witches  follows, and again to my ear reminds me of Mew.  The track evokes notions of Macbeth style 'hubble bubble' with it's eerie piano.  The album, as discussed already, is interconnected and thematic but each track on it is capable of standing on it's own.  However, taken individually Evil Man  and Witches  are the weakest of the tracks out of the eleven.

Rare Air  picks up the baton with emphatic effect.  A spirit lifting, rousing, heart swell kind of track; the cello and violin joining in harmony amidst the many climaxes on offer here.  The track is a real highlight, showcasing exactly why Turning Plates were granted money from Creative Scotland to release this album.  This is music that NEEDS to be heard.

Penultimate track The Human Isle  seems to describe the interconnected nature of human beings via the Internet, joined across networks, a sea of ideas and dreams.  The mood of the track however, with it's dark cello and piano, suggest that this is not necessarily a good thing and invites us to ponder just what The Human Isle is, before leading out to the sound of lapping waves.  The waves are joined by a forceful gale and foreboding piano as album closer Things Grow  draws a line under the bands musing on our online world.  "Things grow legs and run wild" chants Sutherland, over and over before the track explodes into the kind of multi-instrument jam one imagines orchestras must have when the conductor isn't looking. 

Things do indeed grow legs, and with the intense quality on offer over the course of The Shouting Cave  one can only hope that Turning Plates are one of those things.  Their music deserves to run wild.

- Neil Wilson

Turning Plates - The Shouting Cave  is out now an available on CD here.

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