Song, by Toad

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Rick Redbeard

red It seems ridiculous, but tomorrow’s Pale Imitation Festival gig is actually going to be the first time I have properly seen Rick Redbeard live.

Even more ridiculous when you think that I first became aware of his stuff on MySpace back in about 2006 or 2007.

And yet more so when you think that his debut album No Selfish Heart (buy here from Chemikal Underground) was in my top ten albums of the year last year.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, he only lives in Glasgow for crying out loud, not Singapore. But actually it’s not as bad as all that. I saw him play an open mic night years and years ago, and more recently a short set at a record fair as well.

But tomorrow night Rick Redbeard headlines our next Pale Imitation Festival gig, and I am immensely looking forward to it. Having happened across his early demos on MySpace years ago, I was a long time waiting for something formal to be released, but No Selfish Heart more than justified the wait.

Everyone whose music is dominated by vocals and acoustic guitar automatically gets tagged as folk or country or something like that, but I suppose Rick is basically just a singer-songwriter, however daft that term may be, with elements of all these things smooshed in there somewhere.

Most of those early MySpace demos made it onto his debut album, but I did actually notice one which did not: Dreams of the Trees. This has been rectified now, by Vancouver’s excellent Kingfisher Bluez label, who recently released it on 7″ vinyl. Like most of the reworkings, it’s fleshed out and cleaned up a little, but the core of the song is mostly unchanged, and it’s amazing.

As an extra treat there is a b-side which has been sitting on Rick’s Soundcloud page for quite a while now: a gorgeous, contemplative spoken-word track called Flow Like Unicorns. It’s beautiful. And I really hope he continues recording as Rick Redbeard despite the success of The Phantom Band (which he also fronts) because this stuff is just lovely.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow. Tickets are only a fiver, you should come down.

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Please Help Fund a New David Thomas Broughton Documentary

The Ambiguity of David Thomas Broughton (video pitch & teaser1) from Greg Butler on Vimeo.

If you are quick – i.e. take action today – there is a new documentary about David Thomas Broughton which is using Indiegogo to raise funds, and of course we would appreciate any contribution you can make. This isn’t one of those conditional plans, basically all money goes towards the making of the film, even if the stated goal isn’t reached so everything is valuable.

I am really looking forward to seeing this, however it turns out. Having watched David divide and delight audiences I am always interested in how people articulate what exactly it is they get from his performances. Personally, I love genuinely not knowing where he’s going next.

Even now that I know a lot of the songs in his set pretty well, as we’re getting ready to release a couple of his album in the fairly immediate future, I still never really know whether he’s going to sweep those lovely tunes up into some sort of tornado of layered loops and improvised noise, or whether he’ll just cut everything out and let the melody and his voice speak for themselves.

It always seems pretty improvised too, so I am not really sure even he knows where he is going, which for me just adds to the appeal.

David himself, however, is such a lovely, normal guy when you meet him. He’s even said to me that he’s not sure why people keep calling it strange, he just makes noises that he likes, but there’s a definite change to how he comes across the second he steps on stage.

He’s an interesting chap, and I am really looking forward to seeing this film.

And while we’re at it, I know you probably know about this already, but on the 22nd September we are releasing a collaborative album with David and the Juice Vocal Ensemble. You can pre-order it here, and the first single is below:

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Toadcast #303 – The Palercast

TAG So, a little over halfway through the Pale Imitation Festival, and here we are. There are still four gigs to go, with Rick Redbeard, LAW, eagleowl and PAWS headlining (tickets and full details here), and the gigs are only a fiver to get into, which in Edinburgh in August represents a monumental fucking bargain.

We also have a new single out on Song, by Toad Records, from David Thomas Broughton and Juice Vocal Ensemble‘s new collaborative album Sliding the Same Way which is now available for pre-order so I’ve popped that on the playlist as well, along with a Passion Pusher song from our first cassette release which is due in October or November or something like that.

Other than that, there are a couple of new Scottish singles, some live gig plugs and a couple of Song, by Toad recording alumni with some bits and pieces, so it’s all quite local music for local people this week. Phew. I am finding the Festival heavy going, I have to confess. Not that I’m not enjoying it, just that it does kind of wear you out, not least with all the drinking. Still, my Mum turns up on Sunday, so that should at least put the dampers on some of the worst carrying-on. Hopefully.

Toadcast #303 – The Palercast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #303 – The Palercast

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01. Neon Waltz – Bare Wood Aisles (00.17)
02. Broken Records – So Long, So Late (06.37)
03. David Thomas Broughton & Juice Vocal Ensemble – In Service (12.41)
04. Numbers Are Futile – Justice is Light (and Blood) (18.37)
05. Sharron Kraus – When Father Hanged the Children (22.45)
06. Samantha Crain – Paint (30.50)
07. Sex Hands – Gay Marriage (36.07)
08. Ian Humberstone – House on the Hill (43.55)
09. PAWS – Poor Old Christopher Robin (Tape Demo) (46.11)
10. Passion Pusher – BLT (54.06)
11. eagleowl – Too Late in the Day (1.02.34)

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Kitchen Disco – Massive Pale Imitation Thanks

cake We are ploughing through the shows at a frightening rate, but the Pale Imitation Festival still has four fantastic lineups coming your way before the end of August, with headline slots from Rick Redbeard (this Thursday), LAW (Saturday), eagleowl and PAWS (next week – full lineup details here).

The Pale Imitation Festival is mostly about the bands, I suppose, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Partly, we are trying to celebrate the quality of the music scene in Scotland when so many tourists are in town, and partly we just like music and aren’t going to stop doing things just because it’s August.

And to that end, the tireless and fantastic work of Tallah and Malcolm from Kitchen Disco has been absolutely brilliant. As well as DJing before, inbetween and after the bands every single night of the festival, they’ve brought fantastic free cakes and terrible puns along each time as well. ‘Jonnie Common Shogun Choux Buns – what’s inside? IT’S A SECRET!’ for example.

Alright, you have to know Jonnie’s stuff pretty well to get that one, but the gin and lemon cake they made at my request for the same night is a little more obvious. And the cakes themselves have been completely delicious.

As much of a music nazi as I am, I am at least aware that my own music taste is really not best for DJing. Not that it’s all morose of course, but a lot of it is and I have no real capacity to judge what other people want to hear because, well honestly, I just don’t fucking care.

Kitchen Disco, on the other hand, seem to have played all sorts of stuff which I love – the stuff most appropriate for people actually enjoying themselves – as well as all sorts of excellent stuff which I don’t really know. The music has been fucking excellent, frankly, and for that, their good cheer, the cakes and their sheer stamina I owe them a massive thank you. Hooray!

Find Kitchen Disco on FacebookInstagramTwitter - Tumblr.

Also, they start every single night with this. Heroes!

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Plastic Animals

Plastic Animals – Floating from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

I know tonight at the Queen’s Hall is mostly being discussed in terms of being the last ever Meursault show, but of course opening for them are another Song, by Toad band: Plastic Animals.

I always thought of Plastic Animals as a band with real potential, but it was recording with them for the second Song, by Toad Split 12″ when I decided I really wanted to release their music more formally. I am not sure what it was about those tunes. They are shoegazey, but not that nasty. There’s a dreamy thrum to them too, which I love. I love the drum sound, and even the minimal layering that we did worked really well. It just sounded like proper music despite being recorded live in our living room.

Since then, they’ve been working on their debut full-length album, and there are only one or two bits and pieces left to get down before the mixing can start. I’ve not really heard much of it because I try not to over-saturate myself with our new albums before they are finished, mostly to avoid becoming too attached to rough mixes, but also to make sure I don’t use up all my sense of excitement before the finished product is actually in my hands.

It’s always a bit of a risk, inviting a band to record an album for you without having much idea what the material is like, but their show at the Pleasance Sessions last year was fucking great. Shoegazey, yes, but getting krauty as fucking in moments too, and a handful of new songs which gave me that ‘Oh fucking YESSS!’ feeling you get when you hear something new and fantastic.

And tonight, for what I think is the first time, they’ll be playing the Queen’s Hall. I am really, really excited to see it.

Plastic Animals – Pizarnik from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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Sharptooth

sharptooth I didn’t know about Sharptooth, I have to confess, before this year’s Pale Imitation Festival. I asked PAWS who else they would like on the bill for their festival-closing slot, and they recommended Sharptooth and Halfrican. Sharptooth couldn’t make that particular date, but they did happen to be around for the show last Saturday with The Yawns and alansmithee, so we took the opportunity to get them on the bill somewhere else instead.

And you know what? They were fucking ace. Really early-nineties-sounding, they remind me in some ways of a slightly more hypnotic and less jagged North American War – a band whose demise I still lament. They share a sort of flat delivery, and the constant possibility that they’re going to thrash the shit out of everything any second now.

It’s not as languid as the other two bands with whom they shared a stage, perhaps not as aggressive as other guitar bands who like their distortion, so I would maybe say that there’s a sort of cold defiance to this stuff. It’s all shattered from time to time, like the deranged screech in the middle of Invidia, or the brief squalls of frenetic guitar which boil over occasionally, such as three quarters of the way through Bonnie Blaze, and that means that as brief as these moments are there’s always the threat of something exploding from somewhere to slap you round the head, which makes the generally deadpan delivery all the more menacing.

It was more obvious live than on the recordings, but I particularly enjoyed drumming on Saturday as well. They can be ominous too, but there’s a thumping roll to them which offsets the thrum of the guitar fantastically well.  So thanks for the recommendation, PAWS. This was ace. There are only three songs up on Soundcloud at the moment, and I am not entirely sure what the band’s plans are (I probably asked, but there was a lot of beer involved) but they sounded fantastic and I am really looking forward to seeing what else they get up to.

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New release: David Thomas Broughton & Juice – Sliding the Same Way

dtbj Well well, it’s time to formally announce a new album here at Song, by Toad Records. Sliding the Same Way is a collaboration between David Thomas Broughton – who you hopefully know from our latest Split 12″ release – and the Juice Vocal Ensemble, and it is absolutely fucking lovely – pre-order one here.

It’s another semi-improvised album on the label, and makes me kind of wonder how many of my favourite albums are also semi-improvised, if only anyone would tell me. This one was recorded in Otley when David was back over from North Korea for a while, so perhaps a slightly more intriguing set of logistical hurdles than our usual ones, but if the album was at all rushed or uncertain you’d never know it.

I don’t know much about Juice until I heard this album, but holy shit what they’ve done here is beautiful. Whilst they embrace David’s experimentalism a lot of the time, their presence and the need to work together seems to have curtailed some of his more meandersome instincts, and when all four voices decide that it is time for the gorgeous stuff to break through the effect is absolutely stunning.

This album has everything on it which made me want to work with David in the first place, most obviously that incredible ability to make ostensibly small shifts in mood which can take you from weird to confrontational to playful to heart-breaking and right back again in the blink of a an eye. Just as you steel yourself for something abrasively strange to happen, you get something layered, melodic and beautiful. And just before it all gets too heavy, brief, almost throwaway little ditties like Woodwork crop up.

I know his use of an acoustic gets David rather oddly labelled as a folk musician, but some of the group singing on this album is really quite folky at times, particularly on tunes like the aforementioned Woodwork and the lovely Yorkshire Fog which follows. But in general this album is a lush collection of ballads which embrace the strange and the lovely in equal measure.

It’s amazing how much depth Juice add to this as well. It’s so lush, and their contributions are so varied from song to song, that you can forget you’re listening to an album which is almost entirely a capella. It feels like a band album, almost, with the fullness and versatility of sound they and David create between them.

Sliding the Same Way will be released on CD and download on the 22nd September, but in the meanwhile enjoy the free song above. It’s bloody gorgeous. You’re welcome.

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The Leg

leg The Leg are headlining tonight’s Pale Imitation Festival gig at Henry’s, so I thought I might as well tell you about how they slowly but surely became one of my favourite bands, because it wasn’t something that happened overnight.

As I first started to get into local music Bart from eagleowl and Neil from Meursault always used to insist that it was The Leg who were the best band in Edinburgh, not any of the newer ones I was so excited about at the time.

I genuinely didn’t get it at first. It basically just seemed like deliberately obscure mentalism to me, honestly. I did try though, given the people who kept insisting that they were great, and I am not sure what changed, but as they prepared to release An Eagle to Saturn a few years ago I remember hearing Twitching Stick and absolutely loving it.

I don’t know what the difference was, either in me or in the band, but it’s not exactly like they had suddenly become more digestible. Twitching Stick is great, but it might not be the first thing you’d play to a Leg newbie as the easiest song for them to get into, but for whatever reason I suddenly heard something in the music that I absolutely loved.

From that point on, I was sold. I don’t know what changed in my head but I suddenly saw that thing that Neil and Bart had been going on about. We released An Eagle to Saturn on Song, by Toad Records and subsequently released not only their next one as well – 2013′s Oozing a Crepuscular Light – but also their previous one, which we included in the label’s fifth anniversary box set in January this year.

I remember this happening with Tom Waits, too. I never liked his more avant-garde stuff when I first heard it, and I always thought Bone Machine was actually just a bad album. It took ten years, starting with the accessible early troubadour years, moving through Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs a few years later onto the more theatricl stuff like The Black Rider a couple of years after that, only to eventually get to the stage where I finally realised that Bone Machine is, in fact, as brilliant as everything that went before it if not better.

The same sort of happened with The Leg. After the penny finally dropped we released not only An Eagle to Saturn, but also Oozing a Crepuscular Light last year, which is bordering on being an album of show-tunes. Deranged, hooting, terrifying show-tunes maybe, but by The Leg’s standards it is absolutely full of pop music. Lionlicker, for example, might be a bit lyrically odd, but the music itself certainly isn’t scary.

And funnily enough, once we’d arrived at a position where the band were releasing music which was as accessible as anything they’ve ever done, I went back to What Happened to the Shrunken Tina Turner, an album they released before we started working with them. It’s a ferocious, snarling beast of an album and I think the first recorded work of theirs I ever listened to. At the time I pretty much just turned it off immediately, and now it’s one of the go-to albums when people ask me about The Leg. In fact, when people about me ask about the whole label.

It’s got the aggression which a lot of metal seems to think it has, except because metal follows such a template it ends up just sounding a bit tame and formulaic to me. This album oozes menace and unhinged, terrifying intensity. It’s phenomenal. I just don’t understand how I didn’t get it the first time.

A bit like metal bands, though, deliberately ‘strange’ bands can end up sounding really tame and uninteresting to me, because oddness and confusion is a goal. The Leg just make music this way naturally. There’s nothing forced or deliberate about it, this is just the way it seems to spill out of them. Alright, they’re all phenomenal musicians so it’s not just random smashing, but there’s no sense of archness or artifice, they just make pop music and this is what it sounds like.

Where the band are going next I couldn’t tell you. There are a couple of sketches and demos up on their Soundcloud page which might offer a clue, but with guys like this I tend not to look too closely. Why worry. They will tell me when they are ready with their next thing, and if they want us to release it they will say so and I will be fucking delighted to do so. But with this band I really think the best way is just to sit back and wait and see where they decide to go, and worry about what it is afterwards.

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Now Wakes the Sea

nwts Continuing with our profiles of Pale Imitation Festival bands, joining yesterday’s New Fabian Society on the bill with The Leg tomorrow (7th August) at Henry’s will be the fantastic Now Wakes the Sea.

Given my constant exhortations not to over-estimate bands on the basis of one or two songs, it’s sort of ironic that I find myself looking at the entire output of this band and thinking hang on a minute, they’ve three incredible albums, two EPs, an experimental cassette thingy and an entire re-recording of Hospice by Antlers.

It’s time to stop fucking about talking about potential here and start insisting what is patently true: these guys are without a shadow of a doubt one of the very best bands operating in Scotland at the moment. And by that I mean definitely top ten, possibly top five. This is not exaggerating for effect or careless use of hyperbola: looking at their output over the last three years or so, I can’t think of anyone who has bettered it.

It’s not radio pop, I suppose, and the use of noise and low vocal mixes probably puts it in a fairly small niche in terms of taste, but nevertheless in amongst the narcotic haze there are some really accessible pop songs.

Whilst their recorded material is brilliant, however – like the best lo-fi pop music slowly being strangled by the weight of its own intransigence - the live show is a bit less predictable. I’m not sure if it’s inconsistent personnel, predictable booking or a lack of will, but I haven’t seen the band all that determinedly out and about playing over the last few years.

I managed to put them on as a full band once, and it was ace, but they’ve appeared solo, and done entire sets of abstract noise too, so I think it can be a bit erratic. Who knows though. We have a full band set waiting for us tomorrow, and some of the finest songs I’ve heard in ages. So pretty much whatever the outcome I am highly looking forward to this.

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New Fabian Society

nfs Throughout August I shall mainly be blogging about bands we’ll be putting on at the Pale Imitation Festival.

The festival itself is pretty much a live extension of the blog, I suppose, with me basically just booking a bunch of bands I myself most want to see, and that’s basically what I do here with writing, really. Although with the Pale Imitation stuff I do make a specific effort to keep it local.

Anyhow, on Thursday we have our second gig of the festival, with The Leg, Now Wakes the Sea and New Fabian Society. Tickets can be bought here, and *cough* you should come.

The New Fabian Society released a handful of EPs up to about the middle of last year, but have been a little quiet since. In that scenario the best bet is usually that they’re working on their debut album, but you never know, they could just be being lazy. In any case, I’m really looking forward to seeing how they’ve progressed in the interim.

For a two-piece they make an absolutely furious fucking racket, these guys. The first time we put them on in Edinburgh they sounded not unlike a denser, more industrial version of Interpol actually. You know, the Interpol which Interpol could have become after Turn on the Bright Lights but didn’t.

This stuff is so much less stylised, though, and so much more intense, it has that proper ‘clean out your brain and singe your eyebrows’ quality to it, particularly live. They’ll be opening the show on Thursday and I think it will get people’s heads in the game nice and early – no talking at the bar, motherfuckers, unless you think you can talk over this!