Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Bringing in the bells with... Hector Bizerk

Growing in confidence and stature was the name of the game for Hector Bizerk during 2014 as more and more people are being switched on to their unique and thoroughly Glaswegian brand of hip-hop.  For Audrey and Louie it's been coming a long time, but this year say them hit mainstream consciousness courtesy of a SAY Award shortlisted album, and gave them the space to experiment and expand their art with their latest EP's.

With 2015 peeking over the horizon, I caught up with Louie from the band to chat about the year that was 2014 for Hector Bizerk.

How has 2014 been for Hector Bizerk?

We've had a rare-tare to be honest Neil.

We were invited to headline some festivals in Scotland and Ireland, played some shows in US, played with some of our hero's Public Enemy, De La Soul and even played at The Barrowland with The Libertines too.  We won a SAMA and were top ten nominated in SAY Award too!  We also released The Fish That Never Swam  EP to a sold out Art School in September, and collaborated with visual artist Pearl Kinnear and film makers Andrew Mackenzie on The Bird That Never Flew.  Liz Lochhead also covered one of my songs Party at A&E  which was unreal to hear The Makar doing some of my rhymes.  To quote the immortal words of Muhatma Ghandi.. "Fuckin' yass!"

How have the band progressed and changed from this time last year?

I think our sound has evolved naturally with the addition of Davey Calder on percussion and synth.  He came in to replace wee Jen and we've written a full album of material since he has been in the band.  With him, Fraser and Audrey I genuinely believe the musicianship is outstanding and we are becoming a solid song writing unit.  We've taken some risks with each of the EP releases and I think it's important to write dangerous music.  I think our recordings and our live show have improved.

Louie, you and I chatted back in May about The SAY Awards.  Is it still as much of 'pinch yourself' feeling to have Nobody Seen Nothing  amidst the cream of Scottish music?

It definitely is something we are very proud of.  I think Stewart Henderson and the guys at SMIA have done an incredible job in showcasing the very best music in Scotland and for us to be included in their was something special.  I think that Young Fathers victory in the Mercury Prize also subsequently resulted in some great press for SAY Award too as most people think their debut album also won the SAY Award too.  That was fortuitous for the awards profile and I'm pleased about that.

You embarked this year on a series of four EP, with their titles taken from the famous Glasgow motto.  It's also been a massive year for Glasgow, and Scotland as a whole, culturally and politically.  The band are vocally passionate about the city, so how do you think 2014 has been for Glasgow?

I think our city has done itself proud hosting high profile music events like MTV EMA's, the sporting event that isn't quite the Olympics, and of course the fact our city never shat it in the referendum.  We have such a vibrant music community here in this city and I'm proud to be able to watch world class music in my hometown any night of the week!  That in itself is something special.

2014 has ended with the release of your EP The Bird That Never Flew,  the second in your series of four, and arguably your most ambitious project to date.  How does it feel to have the EP out?

Because we made it as a film, we're in a bit of a limbo with it as we need to protect it's exclusivity at the moment.  We've show it once so far at the premiere event at The Poetry Club.  It was absolutely sold out and everyone was quite overwhelmed by how beautiful it is.  I'm very proud of it and acknowledge the contributions of our talented friends Ian Henderson, Andrew Mackenzie and Pearl Kinnear.

What's been your favourite Hector Bizerk gig this year?

It's really difficult to chose man.  New York was amazing and our first festival appearance in Ireland was fucking nuts.  People were going mental.  I thought we'd never top that type of atmosphere then we headlined the Solus Tent at Wickerman the following night and it was even better!  Hectember was insane too!

What have you been listening to this year?

I've been listening to a lot of Pronto Mama; their latest EP is flawless.  I also really like Man of Moon from Edinburgh and of course lots of hip-hop.  As well as that the Arctic Monkeys album was off the scale. 

Audrey has been listening to lots of Ryan Adams, Alt J, and Galactic.

Fraser listens to lots of stuff we don't allow him to play en route to gigs such as Bon Jovi and Extreme.

What constitutes a Hector Bizerk Hogmanay?

Last year we played for Milk in Glasgow, and we actually missed the bells and got the count down wrong.  That was a bit embarrassing.  I ended up spraying champagne on a couple who were having an argument!  This year we are in the Highlands with Detour, sharing a bill with Prides, Fatherson Miaoux Miaoux and Pronto Mama.  That will be some carnage.

Lastly, thanks for chatting to us, enjoy New Year, and all the best for 2015.  What can we expect from you next year?

We have a small Glasgow headliner in Friday 20th February in Broadcast to launch the 3rd EP The Bell That Never Rang.  Then we will release the 4th and final EP in March, and a brand new album in September.  We have some plans to play overseas again too so we have a really exciting year ahead!

Bringing in the bells with... Algernon Doll

From humble beginnings Ewan Grant's Algernon Doll moniker has grown into a fully flegded three piece band with full on noise, and a respected DIY punk ethos.  Omphalic  was nudged into second spot on our Top 20 Scottish Albums of 2014 only by the mighty Twilight Sad, and the band have spent the latter part of 2014 over in the States recording with Shellac guitarist Steve Albini.

With 2015 peeking over the horizon, I caught up with Ewan from the band to chat about the year that was 2014 for Algernon Doll.

Hey guys, thanks for joining us for an end of year chat.  How has 2014 been for Algernon Doll?

It's been great fun.  We've added our new best friend, OJ, on the drums and subsequently become a much better live band.  We've gained a lot of support too.

How have the band progressed and changed from this time last year?

We're much more of a band now.  Writing new songs with OJ and Wull has lead to better dynamics in songs and jams.  We've changed what we do again and it's now more of a garage punk thing which I'm happy about.

Omphalic  was one of Scottish Fiction's favourite albums of 2014.  How do you feel about that body of work 6 months down the line?

To be honest, I'm bored to death of it!  That doesn't mean I'm not appreciative of all the support it's gotten and continues to get.  I think it's just because I wrote those songs a year or more ago.  I look back on the whole process with fond memories though and see it as a good document of my music at that time.

2014 has ended with the band over in Chicago recording your fourth album with the legendary Steve Albini.  How does it feel to be working with Steve?

It was pretty surreal for the first day or so but he's just a punk, albeit a very famous punk!  He's actually a genius too.  Watching him work is an experience I'll take a lot from and I think we've all grown as musicians from his honest 'get it right' approach.  I'm very excited about this record.

What's been your favourite Algernon Doll gig this year?

The fundraiser at Broadcast in November meant a lot to me as it showed how much people cared about this band and how they wanted to help.  It was also super fun with aw the crowd surfing!

What have you been listening to this year?

Recently I've been listening to a lot of old US punk bands like The Wipers, Didjits, Naked Raygun and a lot of Sleater Kinney as they are brilliant.

What constitutes an Algernon Doll Hogmanay?

For me, a night in with the dug and watching Only An Excuse!

Lastly, thanks for chatting to us, enjoy New Year, and all the best for 2015.  What can we expect from you next year?

Thank you for all the support!  Hopefully someone will put this record out in the US as well as at home.  We have some more US plans and non-stop touring!

Bringing in the bells with... Machines In Heaven

It's been a great year for Glasgow synth warriors Machines In Heaven, who have released an album and an EP, played some outstanding gigs, and perhaps best of all performed in session for Scottish Fiction back in November (living the dream!)

With 2015 peeking over the horizon, I caught up with Greg Hurst from the band to chat about the year that was 2014 for Machines In Heaven.

Hey guys, thanks for joining us for an end of year chat.  How has 2014 been for Machines In Heaven?

Thank you for all your support this year and your excellent radio show!  2014 has been the best year yet we reckon.  London gigs, Red Bull studio recordings, our biggest and best shows yet, as well as releasing a total of 15 songs across an LP and an EP.  Mission accomplished!

How have the band progressed and changed from this time last year?

Well we're down to a three-piece after Graham left early in the year. Initially it was a daunting task re-jigging the live show for three, but we put a lot of work in meaning we're now tighter and more flexible (oo-er).  And logistics are a LOT easier with the three of us!

Musically we think we've come far.  We've refined our basic ethos as well as the way we work.  We don't write together in the first instance, we just bring ideas we like to the band, and give the others free reign to do what they want with them.  We think this approach creates a varied and unpredictable sound, like on our last EP.  We're also using less guitars - all three of us play synths on a couple of songs - but the guitars are definitely NOT going away.  We're using more vocals too, but not necessarily songs and lyrics; for example Edge of the Middle  and Voodoo Mechanics   from the new EP use vocals as a texture or effect.

bordersbreakdown  was one of Scottish Fiction's favourite albums of 2014.  How do you feel about that body of work 10 months down the line?

Thanks for all your kind words about it :)

As we've  said before, that was a very long time in the making and your relationship to it changes when you've been intimate with it for three years (i.e. you get sick of it!).  Having said that, bordersbreakdown  and The Eternal Now  are still our no-brainer set closers, and I still think Mumbo JingoParliament Is Made Of Rice Paper  and Metropolis  are some of the best work I've produced.  So we still love it, even if we don't listen to it so much any more.  It's also kind of the template for everything else:  Edge of the Middle  and Holy Particles  were written while we were still finishing the album, and are similar in structure and feel.

2014 has ended with the release of your new EP Hindu Milk,  a noted shift in the sound of the band.  How much does Hindu Milk  represent where your music is heading into 2015?

We've all got slightly different ideas about that, but we'll definitely finish another LP in the first half of next year.  We've already written a lot of tracks for it.  We want to continue, but develop, our varied sound (desperately trying to avoid that word 'eclectic'), so that we'll have two or three catchier songs on there but also some dark, experimental, longer tracks.  We basically want to make an incoherent LP that still makes sense.

What's been your favourite Machines In Heaven gig this year?

We've actually been playing all our best gigs in the last few months: The Red Bull stage at Electric Fields, the Synth stage at Simple Things, and supporting Daedelus in Edinburgh are probably our favourites so far.

What have you been listening to this year?

Caribou, Lorde (still!), Liars, Juan Maclean, FKA Twigs, Rustie, Kiesza and of course the inescapable Taylor Swift.  Was also just introduced to The War On Drugs by a friend actually, which I love too; just to get a guitar act in there!

What constitutes a Machines In Heaven Hogmanay?

No idea!  We've been too busy to think about it.  It'll be a last-minute two-day party, and we'll all probably meet up at 9am on 1st January in a scuzzy West-end dive...

Lastly, thanks for chatting to us, enjoy New Year, and all the best for 2015.  What can we expect from you next year?

Thanks, and the same to you!  Definitely a new LP, almost certainly some European gigs, a small tour of England, and hopefully some big festivals.  And the continuing rise of the Machines.  BOW DOWN FEEBLE HUMANS!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Single Review - C Duncan - For

Composer and recording artist C Duncan is the latest addition to the independent Brighton-based label FatCat Records.  A string of positive reviews and music featured on the BBC have brought the young Glaswegian to the fore in recent times.

For,  a debut single, was actually written more than two years ago.  That said, it could have been written twenty years ago, or even twenty years in the future, such is its immutable nature.  The structure is simple.  A slow-paced, clapping rhythm echoes similarities to Paul Giovanni’s Willows Song.  A hypnotic primary vocal enkindles warmth and a reverberant backing vocal accompaniment creates distance.  A weaving stringed-loop is methodical and uncomplicated.  Equally effortless is the cover of the sing le – a subtle street view rendered in colour pencil emblazoned with Charles Rennie Mackintosh-esque text. Beige is the predominant colour here and mirrors the pace and tone of the music.

There is an aural metronomy and purity to Duncan’s sound – a measuring of time that harbours all the elements of a song without overcomplicating matters.  Equally compelling is his ability to transport the audience to another setting entirely.  In the depths of mid-winter For  rewinds the listener back to a breezy summer afternoon and heralds the entrance of a bright singer songwriter who fosters an otherworldly blend of folk and choral structure to simple effect.

- Andrew Kidd

C Duncan - For  is out via FatCat Records and is available to download for free here.

Scottish Fiction Top 20 Albums of 2014

What a year of music 2014 has been.  Unleashing new albums from stalwards like Mogwai, The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks.  Serving up blistering debuts from Honeyblood, Machines In Heaven, and Poor Things.  And seeing Young Fathers pick up the Mercury Prize.  All in all it's never been harder to whittle down our list of favourite albums to just twenty.

Which is why this paragraph is an honourable mention to some of the albums just missing out on our list.  All are equally worth your further investigation, so please check out; Fat Goth - One Hundred Percent Suave,  The Phantom Band - Strange Friend,  Now Wakes The Sea - Bildungsroman,  The Amazing Snakeheads - Amphetatmine Ballads,  King Creosote - From Scotland With Love,  The Son(s) - The Things I Love Are Not At Home,  Stanley Odd - A Thing Brand New,  and Deathcats - All Hail Deathcats.

As has become tradition at Scottish Fiction, our end of year radio show/podcast, unveiled our top 20 Scottish albums in reverse order, playing a track from each.  It's well worth a listen and you can do so right here.  For those who want to just get the skinny on what the full list was, then look no further as below is our Top 20 Scottish Albums of 2014. 

 20. Fatherson - I Am An Island  [A Modern Way]

Buy  ||  Full Review

19. Turning Plates - The Shouting Cave

Buy  ||  Full Review

18. Call To Mind - The Winter Is White  [Olive Grove Records]


17. Owl John - Owl John  [Atlantic Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

16. We Were Promised Jetpacks - Unravelling  [FatCat Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

15. Bastard Mountain - Farewell, Bastard Mountain  [Song, By Toad Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

14. Mogwai - Rave Tapes  [Rock Action Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

13. Remember Remember - Forgetting The Present  [Rock Action Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

12. PAWS -Youth Culture Forever  [FatCat Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

11. Jonnie Common - Trapped In Amber  [Song, By Toad Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

10. Poor Things - Poor Things  [Saraseto Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review  ||  Track by track

9. Withered Hand - New Gods  [Fortuna Pop!]

Buy  ||  Full Review

8. Randolph's Leap - I Can't Dance To This Music Anymore  [Lost Map]


7. Beerjacket - Darling Darkness

Buy  ||  Full Review

6. Young Fathers - DEAD  [Big Dada]


5. Machines In Heaven - bordersbreakdown  [Hotgem Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

4. Honeyblood - Honeyblood  [FatCat Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

3. Andrew Pearson & Lovers Turn To Monsters - Everything We Miss  [Common Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review  ||  Track by track

2. Algernon Doll -Omphalic  [Struggletown Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

1. The Twilight Sad - Nodoby Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave  [FatCat Records]

Buy  ||  Full Review

A worthy winner, and a list full of great music I'm sure you'll agree.  Or maybe you don't.  Such is the nature of lists.  For most of the albums on the list you'll find a link to a full review courtesy of Scottish Fiction, plus a link to buy the album if you don't already own it.  Go on treat yourself.  And below you can hear a track from each album on our Top 20 Scottish Album podcast.

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 29th December 2014 - Top 20 Scottish Albums

hat a year of music 2014 has been.  Unleashing new albums from stalwards like Mogwai, The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks.  Serving up blistering debuts from Honeyblood, Machines In Heaven, and Poor Things.  And seeing Young Fathers pick up the Mercury Prize.  All in all it's never been harder to whittle down our list of favourite albums to just twenty.

But I've managed it, and that's what this podcast runs down in reverse order.  As has become tradition at Scottish Fiction, our end of year radio show/podcast, unveils our top 20 Scottish albums from the year we are saying goodbye to.  I'll play a track from each album, so during the next two hours you can expect to hear from PAWS, Remember Remember, Jonnie Common, Beerjacket and more.  Who will be number one?  Well you'll just have to listen and find out.  Or you can sneak a peak at our blog post here.  Either way, look back on another excellent year for Scottish music, and enjoy the show!

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Campfires In Winter - Scottish Fiction Session Videos

rafting together ear splitting post-rock noise with catchy pop melodies is a tough ask but that's exactly what Campfires In Winter do with aplomb.  The band have grown in self-assured confidence in 2014 with the release of the single We'll Exist,  and a focus on shaping their debut album.  They popped in for a session ahead of their Christmas show, and played some stripped back versions of their tracks.

Below are videos for the tracks We'll Exist,  a brand new song Janus  and White Lights  which were recorded at Pulse 98.4 as part of Campfires In Winter's Scottish Fiction Session.  To hear the full show, including interview, check out the Scottish Fiction Podcast for 14th December 2014.

Monday, 22 December 2014

INTERVIEW: Vladimir - The year that was...

As I walk into Gorbals Sound to meet Vladimir, the four piece have just finished their weekend of recording laying down their next single In My Head,  which will be due out in February/March of next year.  The studio complex on Pollockshaw Road has seen the likes of Glasvegas, BMX Bandits, and CHVRCHES through it's door, and boasts one of Scotland's best mix of digital and analogue recording set ups.  For Vladimir, it's been a weekend also spent in the company of former Soup Dragons and Teenage Fanclub drummer Paul Quinn.

"When we first walked in, I kind of went 'woah are we in the right place?'" laughs lead singer Ross Murray as I ask how the weekend's recording has been.  "It's been amazing.  We're kind of having to pinch ourselves and ask how have we ended up in here!" 

Hailing from Dundee, the band have had an eventful 2014; touring with The Twilight Sad, playing with The Fall,  and playing festivals such as T in the Park, Wickerman and Tramlines.  Yet they've only released the one single Smoke Eyes, complete with B-side cover of the club anthem Born Slippy.  That's something the band are looking to put right with the new single.

"It is a massive massive song", says Ross of new single In My Head.  "We are really determined to put out a great single" explains bassist Josh Gray.  "It'll be more poppy, more catchy and have more energy" he goes on.  The band seem confident that their road earned energy and tightness will translate well onto record, with some of the credit for this going to producer Paul Quinn.

"We've learned a lot" explains guitarist Peter Mackenzie.  "We've always wrote songs thinking of them being played live, but Paul's made us think about writing songs to go on record.  He's been really hands on with it."  This bodes well for the band as they look to make 2015 the year that they'll record their debut album.

If 2015 is the year the band record their debut album, then 2014 has been the year they've took their brand of bleak rock on the road.  The band played a headline tour of 8 dates across Scotland, which was a big step up for the band.  I asked Ross how the band have progressed due to this.  "We've been on the road loads, which we've never really done before, and you know staying overnights after gigs as well.  The gigs started off small and have got bigger and bigger."

As well as their own tour the band have hit festivals across Scotland; playing the T-Break Stage at T in the Pack, also GoNorth and Wickerman.  Again, as Ross explains, it was a learning experience.  "Festivals taught us a lot as well, because you don't get your usual sound checks and you've just got to be on it"  Outside of the Scottish festival circuit the band have also played Sheffield's Tramlines Festival and the Artrock New Blood Festival in London.  How was the experience of playing these festivals I ask?

"For our bands it's not really been that much of an issue, because Dundee has never really felt like a musical home town.  So we've always kinda felt wherever we are playing it's like going away" answers Peter.  "We're actually quite familiar with Sheffield anyway" points out drummer Sam Taylor.  Indeed the band have recorded down in Sheffield previously.  "Going down south it's not really a lot different, you just do the same thing.  Every time we've gigged we've took it in our stride."

Perhaps one of the biggest things to happen this year was the invitation to support The Twilight Sad on their run of gigs playing Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters,  which saw the band play Leeds, London, Manchester and Bristol back in April/May.  It was a big jump for the band, but they took it in their stride

"Those guys have been touring for years, so we learned a lot from them.  Things like how they conduct themselves and the day to day managing of the band.  They gave us tips, and it's improved us as a band as well."  I asked the band how touring with The Twilight Sad was, expecting to hear some rock and roll tales of debauchery.  It was the more practical things though that Ross and the rest of the band focused on.  "They were great with us.  I mean we knew them before the tour, but they were fantastic.  Let us use their dressing room, told us if we needed anything just to ask.  And we did go on nights out with them as well!"

Overall the year has seen the band progress a lot.  They have garnered more attention and press, from national outlets such as NME, and have also developed personally too.  "We've grew a bit as well, off stage stuff, and grew up a bit too" explains Ross.  "It's because we've been in each others company doing this [playing and media stuff]" interjects Josh.  "Touring also teaches you to know when people need their own space as well.  We've matured a lot, you know we still go out to have fun but we're learned not to piss people off as much!"

With personal highlights for the band including The Sad tour, meeting Mark E Smith, and playing to a packed T-Break stage at T in the Park, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they are looking forward to winding down for Christmas.  No such attitude just yet though as the band finished 2014 in style making their bow on the main stage of Glasgow's ABC venue, again in support of The Twilight Sad, on Friday 19th December. 

Before we part ways into the crisp Glasgow night, I ask how they plan to celebrate after the gig.  There's some smiles and laughs as they answer.  "We'll probably have a wee party after the gig" answers Ross.  I suspect the phrase 'wee' might just be underselling the celebrations a tad.  It's been a fantastic year, but you get the feeling that this is only the beginning.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Album Review - John Knox Sex Club - Oh Wow Must Be The Devil

The latest LP release from John Knox Sex Club, Oh Wow Must Be The Devil,  sees a chaotic and charming return to form since Blud Rins Cauld  (2010) and Raise Ravens  (2011).  Always a welcome force in the Scottish live music scene, fans have waited with breath baited and nerves on 'stretched to breaking' tenterhooks for an album based on the five songs which make up Oh Wow Must Be the Devil.

For a band who set out as a 'live thing', they are doing all they unintentionally can to debunk the myth.  With some special recordings from the past and a short time out before a reformation, this collection of folk/punk dictats, some lengthy in their telling and caustic in delivery, does perfecting shambolism in the way which only JKSC know.

Minotaur  sets the mood with a determined marching drum beat laying the foundations for distorting guitar and increasingly frantic violin, each building the mood and crashing against the now familiar chanting, despairing wonderful vocals we have become accustomed to from Sean Cumming.

Hard Days  is an absolute epic of track.  A wall of sound at the start lulls us into a false sense of security, and the familiar trademark from JKSC will prevail.  However as the vocal less sound builds and then drops completely, we are introduced to a mantra of "hard days to come, there’ll be hard days to come…" painting a bleak backdrop which would fit snugly over any Cormac McCarthy tale.  A haunting violin adds to the uneasiness, and a sense of foreboding ensues as a gothic choral chant and call and response vocal has us desperately anticipating the next part of the journey.  A true derelict gem of a song.

A Song in Sleep
  is a melodic interlude, lyrics nonetheless desolate and uplifting at the same time "barbed wire to stop, stop me jumping."  An engaging lead guitar riff and a soft pleading vocal prepare us nicely for a gradual resolve to distortion and a fadeout mantras musings of both lips and kissing.  And all along the stringed chaos builds in the background.

Animals  is where JKSC are most at home.  This is the trademark sound and wonderful it is too.  With most definite acknowledgements to Scottish counterparts The Twilight Sad and The Phantom Band, this is folk/punk at its absolute peak.  Utterly compelling from start to finish.

Ashes  starts as an offbeat drum experiment where guitar sounds appear to be placed randomly and without direction, and in such perfection too.  The almost traditional folk violin jars against loose structure created, and appears as a lotus flower in a blank landscape.  Again Sean’s vocals are haunting and beautiful and stark and engaging.

The five tracks which make up this offering provide us with a perfect representation of where John Knox Sex Club are today, and also confirms their purpose and 'live' band credentials belie an ability to write and record some wonderful landscapes and tunes.  And today, they are in a very good place.

- Bobby Motherwell

John Knox Sex Club - Oh Wow Must Be The Devil  is out now via Instinctive Racoon and can be downloaded via all good online music retailers or purchased on vinyl here.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Single Review - The Amazing Snakeheads - Can't Let You Go

Following the release of their debut album Amphetamine Ballads  in April this year, The Amazing Snakeheads return with a fresh line up with frontman Dale Barclay as the only remaining member from the original band.  However, the change in personnel doesn’t seem to have caused any lasting damage to this band, but perhaps enhanced the erratic phenomena that trickles from their music.

Teasing, jovial guitar strings waltz in unassumingly as we’re introduced to Can’t Let You Go.  The introduction of Dale Barclay’s vocals are met somewhat perfectly with the volatile thrashing of cymbals and rich guitar notes and with that, the invigorating strangeness of The Amazing Snakeheads has fully polluted your mind, wondering what you’ve let yourself in for.

The hysteria contained within Can’t Let You Go  builds steadily as the four piece produce lazy but merrily teasing tones before all erupts and you’re firmly in the depths of hazy, punk-garage eccentricity.  Barclay’s beautifully husky vocals contain howls of conviction, authenticity and plenty of I-couldn’t-give-a-fuck-attitude.

The exceedingly infectious and aggressive guitar and cymbals produce a storm of grunge ecstasy and unadulterated nonsense.

- Melanie McKinlay 

The Amazing Snakeheads - Can't Let You Go  is out now via Domino Records on 7" vinyl or download and can be purchased here.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Good Pack Glasgow Edition

hristmas eh?  Seems like at this time of year there's a clutter of artists doing covers of Christmas classics, or putting out their own festive tinged numbers (both of which we heartly endorse here at Scottish Fiction).  In a kind-of Charlie Brown moment though, six Scottish artists have banded together with The Good Pack to remind us all what this time of year should be about.

My home city of Glasgow has a great music heritage, but sadly suffers from intense poverty in some areas, and the rise in foodbank use and numbers is a symptom of this.  The Good Pack is an organisation that bundles up 'packs' of music and offers them out at a fair price with proceeds going to a chosen charity.  The Glasgow Edition sees six artists make their albums/EPs available for a minimum of $6 (approximately £3.81) with 40% of proceeds going to Glasgow Northwest and Southeast Foodbanks to support Glasgow's hungry over Christmas.

The albums/EPs are:

Three Blind Wolves - Sing Hallelujah For The Old Machine
Algernon Doll - Omphalic
Pronto Mama - Niche Market
Poor Things - Poor Things
Carson Wells - Wonder Kid
BAD LUCK - Between Dog & Wolf

If you don't own these collections already then you're in for some great music with your donation.  Even if you already own all or some of the albums/EPs, hopefully worthy cause will prompt you to pick them up again.

Head along to The Good Pack website to donate and download.

We're Only Here For The Banter - Kinbrae

The latest music act to join the micro label Common Records, Kinbrae are twin brothers Andrew and Michael Truscott who play a variety of brass, guitar and percussion to create a unique blend of accessible ambient and classical music.  The pair have just released their album Coastal Erosion  via Common Records so I caught up with them to find out more.

Hello!  How the devil are you?

Very well!  Enjoying unseasonably warm weather up here on the Isle of Coll.  Although this weekend the weather has started to turn – ferries being cancelled etc.

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

Our music is probably best described as melancholic instrumental music primarily made up of simple piano melodies with accompanying brass scores.  We also incorporate subtle use of percussion, strings, synths, found sounds and field recordings.

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

We usually build material around simple ideas, usually a repeating piano/brass melody.

What could we expect to see from a live show?

The live show is pretty different from the material on record.  For one, we use electric guitar, something that doesn’t feature on the album as well as the usual piano and brass focal point.  You can expect more drones, loops and each member changing instrumentation quite a bit throughout the live show.  We try to change the line up of musicians from time to time as well.  Hopefully we’ll be incorporating visuals into our live show soon as well.

Tell us about your album Coastal Erosion.

The album I guess has quite a nostalgic feel to it, as it is about our childhood growing up in the small village of Wormit in North East Fife.  The record was mostly recorded in my flat in Glasgow and my grandparents' old, empty house in Newport on Tay.  Field recordings are the sounds from the area we grew up – River Tay, trains crossing the Tay Rail Bridge, wind, and wildlife.

What else have you got planned for the rest of 2014 and into 2015?

Playing at Ambient Festival in Cologne, Germany in January

What are you listening to at the moment?

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Atomos
Kiasmos – Kiasmos
Grouper – Ruins
Brian Eno & Harold Budd – Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror
Alvvays – Alvvays
Jon Hopkins – Asleep Versions

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

A man walks into a bar with a sausage roll under his arm:  “A pint of Guiness for me and the sausage roll,” he says to the barman.  “I’m sorry sir,” replies the barman, “we don’t serve food in here.”

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Monday, 15 December 2014

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 15th December 2014

Scottish Fiction gets Christmassy on this week's show as some Christmas tunes both old and new slip into the playlist along side new music from Errors, Collapsible Mountains, Turtle and Vasquez.  T'is the season and all that. 

Keeping things festive are my session guests Campfires In Winter, who joined me in the studio for a stripped back session ahead of their Christmas gig at Sloans on Wednesday 17th December.  The band played three tracks, including a never before heard exclusive, and chatted about their plans for an album next year.

Belle and Sebastian - The Party Line
The Son(s) - Christmas Song
Broken Records - My Beer Drunk Soul Is Sadder Than All The Dead Christmas Trees In The World
Campfires In Winter - We'll Exist - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studios
Collapsible Mountains - Hope
COVER LOVER - Randolph's Leap - One More Sleep 'til Christmas
Now Wakes The Sea - Bear
Errors - Lease Of Life
Campfires In Winter - Janus - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studios
Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers - Believe In Yourself - As chosen by Campfires In Winter
Lady North - Monster Wants A Kiss
Vasquez - Thumbmusic
RE-MIXING IT UP - The Phantom Band - Women of Ghent (Miaoux Miaoux Remix)
Turtle - Lavender
Campfires In Winter - White Lights - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studios
Deathcats - Sprint
Ballboy - Merry Christmas To The Drunks, Merry Christmas To The Lovers
Das McManus - Not My Words
Honeyblood - Biro
CLASSIC TRACK - Travis - Driftwood
Frightened Rabbit - It's Christmas So We'll Stop

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Scottish Fiction - 14th December 2014 by Scottish Fiction on Mixcloud

EP Review - Machines In Heaven - Hindu Milk

Dynamic Glaswegian trio Machines In Heaven produce the kind of music that my experimental electro-dance loving self finds incredibly satisfying.  Their new EP Hindu Milk  is a cacophony of beautiful sounds, created courtesy of Davey Gwynne (production, guitar, synth, vocals), Greg Hurst (production, synths) and Connor Reid (production, guitar, synths).

The record gets down to business immediately with opener Edge Of The Middle.  Random ambient bleeps make way for surging guitar and intense melody, always with that killer beat.  This has already got me nodding my head and wanting to get the lights out and up dancing on my bedroom floor.

The light, glistening intro to the next track, the eponymous Hindu Milk,  is built up gently and magically.  I’m shaking my head in wonder now, as crunchy beats and electronically angelic vocals transcend the song to another level.  These guys know what they’re doing.  This is what electronic music should be: transformative, infectious and full of surprises.

You know you’re onto something good when you feel like you don’t even want to listen to the next song – I was inclined to save it up for later as a treat.  Voodoo Mechanics  doesn’t disappoint.  Packed with sassy guitar and sprinkled with kooky bloops, the strength of the synth carries it through to when the beat drops, releasing a whole world of chaotically organised sounds.  Another inducer of the head-shake, this one has the power to possess.

Feel Slow  is one of the band’ most popular tracks, and with a melody as captivating and beats as atmospheric as this, I can see why.  Just like in the way that composers of classical music tell a story with their music, so do the best makers of electro.  The drama created by the music alone is amazing, and it’s heightened by emotive vocals on top.

Sweetly picked strings are the foundation of the last song Holy Particles.  An altogether more chilled out vibe is offered here, and I must give the band kudos for apt song titles, as little chunks of heaven is what this track conjures.  This ambling sound gives way to a euphoric amalgam that escalates angelically.  A stream of sound that becomes almost mind-achingly reminiscent of infinity and space and the unknown.

The trio have hit the nail on the head with their own name too; these are the kinds of sounds I would be happy to hear in paradise.  Once you’ve heard their music there is no going back…

- Maura Keane

Machines In Heaven - Hindu Milk  is out now via Hot Gem Records and available to download via all good online music retailers.

Catch them live at Broadcast in Glasgow on the 17th December.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Album Review - The Xcerts - There Is Only You

Having released their second album Scatterbrain way back in 2010, it feels like we’ve been waiting an absolute age for the return of Aberdeen’s finest noise makers, The Xcerts.

Alas, the wait is finally over and the trio are back with a brand spanking new bunch of tunes, collectively known as There Is Only You.  The hype around its release was definitely high but not many could’ve anticipated the sheer raw yet perfectly polished nature of the album.  This is what happens when pure emotion meets great production.  More specifically, the astounding efforts of old pan Dave Eringa and new pal Paul Steel, the other half of frontman Murray's short lived side project, Cold Crows Dead.

After the short introduction, 2.12.12, which instantly reminds you of Murray and co’s power to evoke All Of The Feels through chord progression alone, it’s straight into Live Like This, a raw and raucous opener that washes over you with its shroud of thundering distortion.  Who knew blasting some fuzzed up noise pop could feel as cleansing and cathartic as this?

Shaking In The Water was the first we’d heard from the new album – the band had actually begun testing it out live towards the end of the Scatterbrain era.  Catchy as hell, it was the first indication we had that this new album would be a departure in sound from the previous two, embracing all the very best and most fun elements of pop music, whilst, lyrically, maintaining that dark, brooding approach.  The lesson here?  When self-loathing, why not just have a wee dance?

Now, Murray is rather adamant that the songs on this record are not directly inspired by his break-up earlier this year.  But with songs like Kick It, a loud, relentless ode to messy, drunken arguments and I Don’t Care, a slower, but just as powerful, song about impending relationship destruction, it’s quite hard to believe him.  Then there’s the small matter of the album’s title. You’re fooling no one, Murray.

After Kevin Costner, an impassioned ode to the actor, there’s a triple whammy of excellent ‘screw it, let’s dance’ songs.  Teenage Lust sees that unabashed embracing of pop, with infectious verses and a great sing-a-long chorus.  This is something the band have always had a talent for (Aberdeen 1987, anyone?) and on this record, it’s found in abundance.  Pop Song is, by no means, an exception, with its stadium sized drums and Baywatch-esque piano melodies, as Murray declares, “You haunt me like a pop song in my head.” Kids On Drugs is another slower-paced but hard-hitting number, with a huge chorus that could easily fill spaces ten times the size of the clubs they currently sell-out.

In the final tracks, things fade in volume and pace but grow, exponentially so, in sentimentality.  While She has all three members come together to deliver the bittersweet message that love is, indeed, blind, the closing title track sees Murray pour his heart out with just piano and strings.  However, it’s not long before the guitar, drums and bass are re-introduced for one final explosion of sound.  And, wow, is it a beautiful explosion.

If there was any shred of doubt that The Xcerts deserve to headline the kinds of large-scale venues in which they have supported the likes of Brand New, Twin Atlantic and, dare we say, even Biffy Clyro, There Is Only You has well and truly shattered it.  Having been together since their teens, this band are made for great things.  It’s only a matter of time before we see these become reality.

- Nina Glencross

The Xcerts - There Is Only You is out now via Raygun Music and is available on CD and limited edition picture disc here.  A deluxe version of the album (with two bonus tracks) can be downloaded from iTunes.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Randolph's Leap - Scottish Fiction Session Videos

Our latest session guest Adam Ross, is better know as the frontman of Glasgow based octet Randolph's Leap.  As well as being the band's lead singer, with his soft falsetto vocals, Adam serves as the band's chief lyricist, penning the whimiscal rhymes and playful wonderings which both amuse and probe audiences.  Joining me in the studio for a solo session, Adam played tracks from the band's album Clumsy Knot  which is out now on Lost Map Records.

Below are videos for the tracks WeathermanFoolishness Of Youth  and I Can't Dance To This Music Anymore  which were recorded at Pulse 98.4 as part of Randolph Leap's Scottish Fiction Session.  To hear the full show, including interview, check out the Scottish Fiction Podcast for 7th December 2014.

And check out this EXCLUSIVE video of Black and Blue  recorded for the Scottish Fiction blog.

Monday, 8 December 2014

EXCLUSIVE - Randolph's Leap - Black and Blue - Scottish Fiction Session Track

Our latest session guest Adam Ross, is better know as the frontman of Glasgow based octet Randolph's Leap.  As well as being the band's lead singer, with his soft falsetto vocals, Adam serves as the band's chief lyricist, penning the whimiscal rhymes and playful wonderings which both amuse and probe audiences.  Joining me in the studio for a solo session, Adam played tracks from the band's album Clumsy Knot  which is out now on Lost Map Records.

This track, Black and Blue  was recorded at Pulse 98.4 exclusively for the Scottish Fiction blog.  To hear further session tracks and an interview listen into the full show here.


Machines In Heaven - Scottish Fiction Session Videos

Taking influence from hip-hop, drum 'n' bass, post-rock, and electronica, Machines In Heaven whizz those styles round in a blender, along with their own passion and creativity, to produce incredibly layered and inventive music.  Fresh off the heels of acclaimed debut bordersbreakdown,  the three piece have just released new EP Hindu Milk,  and popped into the Scottish Fiction show to chat about the release and play some live tracks.

Below are videos for the tracks Edge Of The MiddleHindu Milk  and Feel Slowly  which were recorded at Pulse 98.4 FM as part of Machines In Heaven's Scottish Fiction Session.  To hear the full show, including interview, check out the Scottish Fiction Podcast for 1st December 2014.

And check out this EXCLUSIVE video of Taxpayers' Compass  recorded for the Scottish Fiction blog.