There are some very, very good things happening in (mostly) Glasgow at the moment. Guitar music got lo-fi a few years ago, and now it’s not just lo-fi, it just doesn’t fucking care about anything and is prepared to tell you so aggressively and repeatedly.
Giving the impression that you’re bothering your arse even in the very slightest is anathema to this lot, it seems. Not that the music’s shite or that they can’t play or anything, but the whole aesthetic is just completely steeped in belligerent indifference.
Dune Witch Trials don’t have a lot of material, and although some of their tunes are outright hummable pop songs, they still have a fantastically throwaway feel to them – loose and rough, and energetic. The gents involved are actually part of Herbert Powell – apparently the best band in Glasgow at the moment, depending somewhat on who you ask, but these songs are structured a bit more in the classic pop tune vein, and I like them for that.
Drums, guitar, vocals – a riff, a quick solo, and over by the two-minute mark. Perfect.
As soon as I can I am going to start getting some of these guys through to Edinburgh to play. I’ve a lot of gigs already in the calendar, which I’ll have to work around, but in amongst this group of bands there are some real gems knocking around.
Alright, I know I usually complain about people going apeshit over bands with no more than a song or two on the internet, so this will necessarily be a brief post as I really know nothing about these guys at all.
I found out about them late last night by stalking Passion Pusher on Facebook. His stream is a pretty much constant source of incomprehensible rambling and awesome music, and around half past midnight he mentioned this lot.
They’re from Aberdeen, they have one single song on Soundcloud, and from the sounds of it they could be really good. Unlike a lot of the stuff Passion Pusher introduces me to this has a chorus, is recorded pretty well and the band themselves sound coherent and together. It may sit well with a lot of the sloppier stuff I’ve been introduced to this way, but there is a really forceful rock sound to this which sets it apart somewhat.
I’ve not seen them live, and I know only this one song so I have very little frame of reference for what kind of a band they really are, but this is ace.
I sit at my desk sometimes and really wonder what anyone within earshot actually makes of the music I listen to.
Youngstrr Joey is probably at the extreme end of that, not for noise or aggression, just sheer sloppy, out-of-tune chaos. Back when lo-fi was the thing everyone described music as in press releases whether it was lo-fi or not (i.e. about three years ago now, I guess) there was a constant debate about whether things sounded so rough because it was a stylistic conceit, or whether it was simply just the best the band knew how to do.
There’s something similar going on here. I’ve heard some of the guys involved in this sneering at the use of the word slacker, and I have some sympathy, because genre terminology is vague at best and both pointless and thoughtless at worst. Still, the ‘fuck it I can’t even be bothered acting like I am trying to sing’ attitude falls pretty squarely into that territory. It’s not so much slacker, which often felt passive and lazy, it’s aggressively slacker. There is an awful lot of ‘fuck you’ steeped in the drawl of these vocals and the choppy snarling of the guitar.
Even with my own taste in this stuff being pretty well-developed, some of this is pretty heavy going. It’s not stuff I would just slap on the stereo because hey, why not, but there is definitely pop music in there, albeit buried deeper than pretty much anywhere else. In that sense, although this is less narcoleptic, Youngstrr Joey has a fair bit in common with Passion Pusher, in whose band Cal Donnelly also plays.
For example, listening to the most determinedly unlistenable of the tunes on Bandcamp – Furry/Blurry for example – there is an almost completely buried but properly fucking brilliant guitar part growling away below the surface. There is a lot of this stuff around in Glasgow at the moment, mostly emanating from within a particular group of pals who seem to have gravitated towards one another, presumably for musical reasons.
I don’t know if it qualifies as stuff which is destined to break through to popularity anytime soon. Probably not. But there is pop music underpinning most of this and presumably someone somewhere will take all the piss and vinegar out of it and get famous replicating this kind of stuff. And I will lose all interest when they do.
Usually when someone whinges at me for not writing about their music more often the response is polite on the surface but pretty much just ‘fuck off’ in my head.
When it comes to Sean Armstrong’s stuff, however, he has a point. I really like pretty much all of the things he’s been involved in, from The Yawns, to his solo stuff, and more recently Passion Pusher and Velma Helma, but actually haven’t written about all that much of it.
Part of the reason for this is that a lot of it is recorded on the equivalent of a mobile phone microphone and there is no getting around the fact that just doesn’t do the tunes justice. There’s lo-fi and there’s a camera phone too close to the PA at a gig, and even I draw the line there.
Part of my frustration is that when recorded properly, the songs sound as good as this. This is from a four-song cassette out soon on Winning Sperm Party, an awesome wee Glasgow label who have worked with a few bands you should know already, like Gummy Stumps and Monoganon. This too is guitar music, and it’s still pretty lo-fi, but there is plenty of rocking out here and it has a fantastic looseness and enthusiasm about it.
The tune below, the one chosen to publicise the release, is perhaps the most Yawnsy of the whole EP, but my personal favourites are the far more aggressive Hanging Gown and Late Late Late. They’re just… I dunno, purposeful maybe. Late Late Late is fucking gleeful.
Ah, lo-fi tape releases. Hooray for the internet. Funny that something so ephemeral should have ended up encouraging something so very string-and-brown-paper, but it seems to have. If anything, I think the lack of actual need for a physical product has reminded a small group of people why they actually want one.
It’s good though, if somewhat unassuming. On first listen I thought no more than ‘oh, this is decent’, but repeated listens have significantly improved that somewhat lazy first impression. There are elements of meandering bedroom lo-fi here, with songs so unfocussed that they feel like the very most slack of the slacker end of the spectrum. Less that halfway into Accidental Gold you find Frank Devereaux, which is distant, muffled and minimal. Then you get into Stationary Waves and it feels like everything is kind of grinding to a premature halt.
That song is basically just a long, rambling monologue over the top of a background of incidental music that feels like the EP is drowning in its own fuzz and mumble. But then it suddenly springs into life, with what is basically just a big old riffy pop song, called It’s OK, You’re Fine.
Second-last seems like an odd place to put what is closest to your ‘big pop song’, but it throws everything which has gone before it into sharp relief. Closer Nobody Knows (What the Fuck They’re Talking About) is upbeat again, with what sounds like distorted fragments of TV or radio broadcasts interspersed with classic, direct, fuzzy indie rock. It’s nasty, but it has real drive and pace and is a great way to end everything.
As I said, this sudden burst of energy changes how everything before it feels, and what seemed like a weird, distracted meander suddenly turns out to be a really well-assembled collection of rough and ready songs – enough pop to be fairly instantly engaging and enough experimental nastiness to be really interesting. I don’t love Roads + Rails particularly – I am not sure the way it’s sung particularly suits Ryan’s voice – but that’s a pretty small gripe because for the most part this is really good. And there are only a couple left too, so get one quick if you want one.
As a label releasing two things this year which you could certainly describe as at least somewhat shoegazey, it’s pretty fair to say that it is a sound I am rather keen on.
I mentioned in a blog post early in the Song, by Toad era* that the shoegaze revival-and-disinterest cycle seems to move just a little faster from the standard ten years=shit, twenty years=AMAZING one which seems to describe pop music.
There seem to be these little mini-revivals all the time, but I guess it’s just a style which has infiltrated music so widely that things like the current psyche-rock revival and its preceding lo-fi revival all contain elements of shoegaze.
There’s basically something primally compelling to people like me, people who don’t like to dance and who have just a little bit of aggression still untamed by socialisation, about that hypnotic repetitiveness and growly distortion. I love it, I really fucking do.
Anyhow, one of Edinburgh’s best current exponents of this particular style would be Wozniak, and they find themselves on a compilation put together by a Welsh and an Indonesian label of the best of new shoegaze as they see it – buy one here.
The bands are worldwide, and apart from Wozniak I can recommend Ummagma, a Canadian/Ukrainian band who got in touch with me ages ago who I didn’t write about at the time, but whose music I liked.
It’s worth exploring this release. There are plenty of hidden gems here if you’re into this sort of thing – like I am.
*Seriously, look it up, it’s in the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
The vinyl for Le Thug’s gorgeous new EP Place Is has just turned up, and it looks AMAZING! The light in our kitchen isn’t ideal for taking pictures but I hope you get the idea. You can order a copy here, if you are suitably convinced.
The launch night is on Valentine’s Day at Summerhall (i.e. next Saturday), and tickets can be had here. We’re going to be in one of the steep-sided lecture theatres, and Ian will be doing some custom one-off visuals for the show. You know Ian – formerly of Song, by Toad Records and now more properly know as dashing young internet entrepreneur/jaded Nathan Barley figure of the Scottish media scene. He and his pal Jordan run Something Something, and made the rather fantastic video for Basketball Land, which has been doing the internet rounds recently and which I have embedded below.
I am away down to Manchester for a couple of days for family stuff, but I will post all of these off when I get back. Don’t they look ace? YIPPEE!
Jonnie Common’s Trapped in Amber was a bit of a quiet triumph, I think. Partly the response was incredible at the time, but it’s also been nice to watch it continue to creep up on people over the last few months despite the relative limits of our PR resources.
Both Jonnie and Bastard Mountain did really well in the BAMS awards – the Scottish ‘Bloggers And Music websiteS’ vote for the album of the year. The Twilight Sad won it, but Jonnie finished in the top ten and Bastard Mountain just outside, which is really nice. Jonnie has some live shows coming up as well, and we are just in the process of sorting out a London show too – hopefully in late March sometime.
28th Feb – STIRLING – Tolbooth headline show
7th March – EDINBURGH – Limbo headline show
8th March – GLASGOW – Broadcast, supporting R.Seiliog
17th March – MANCHESTER – Gulliver’s, supporting Kiran Leonard
Music Like Dirt also named Crumbs and Shark its joint favourite songs of 2014, which is absolutely great news. Neil even recounts the time I had a misty-eyed conversation with him in a pub in London about missing out on releasing Jonnie’s first album – a conversation I had entirely forgotten until that wee reminder – so I suppose he must have had a wee chuckle to himself when the press release for the new one came out.
We’ll be doing a new single with Jonnie soon, Binary 101, so keep an eye out for some new artwork, some extended and alternative mixes and various other bits and pieces. On the subject of artwork, actually, David Galletly, who did all the art for Trapped in Amber including a fantastic wee looped animation which was projected at the album launch shows, has put together a really nice post on this own site about the work he did. It’s great when a release has such coherent, distinctive artwork like this, and I’m really grateful to David for the work he did for us.
In other news, Nialler9 recently made Crumbs one of its best tracks of the week, and Niall himself played the song on his Irish radio show. Muruch also featured Le Thug recently, and you may wonder why I mention these two particular things, but Niall and Vic from Muruch are two of the very first music bloggers, both well established when I started Song, by Toad, and I was early enough as it is.
We know each other from the now-deceased elbo.ws blogger-only message board, but for all I always got on really well with them there, it’s been a long time since we’ve released anything which has prompted either of them (or indeed anyone else I know from that era) to post about our music. That’s fine of course – contrary to the constant accusations of cliqueyness, just being pals with someone doesn’t mean they will like or feature your music. We’d be on the Vic Galloway show every week if that was the case.
But it is nice to see that people you know still keep half an eye on what you’re doing, and that some fellow internet music loons are still beavering away after all this time. At a time when the hipsters writing for free for the bigger online mags seem to have lost interest in us altogether, it just makes me feel like there are still some nice, reliable things about the universe.
I remember when I first started this blog… actually, hang on, when I first started this blog I lived down South and was just writing about bands I read about in Uncut and bought in HMV, so let’s quietly pretend that era never existed and that I was always an aspiring super-obscure music hipster.
Even when I first turned the site into an actual blog a couple of years later, in Edinburgh by this point, I still had little idea that there was quite so much music being made all around me in this city. Nor that so much of it was worth paying attention to. I suppose I just never realised that much like football or acting, the professional music world we see before us is just the tiny tip of a massive, massive iceberg, and that supporting and feeding that tiny visible chunk bobbing about above the waterline, is a vast mass of people working away, from those with aspirations to the top to those who just dabble because they love it and everything in between.
As it slowly began to dawn on me that music I love was actually being made all around me, and that I didn’t really need to look to the glossies or the megastores to find it, possibly the first local enterprise I came across was Steve Adey and his label, Grand Harmonium Records.
His music is slow and downbeat, probably fitting into that ‘gloriously morose’ category you know I have such a soft spot for. However, having first written about him so long ago that the post only just missed being lost in my Great Database Debacle of 2007, my attention subsequently veered into much louder territory, and I have to confess I’ve inadvertently taken my eye off his stuff for a while now.
These new recordings have sorted that out though – they’re gorgeous. They remind me an awful lot of the latest Ed Harcourt album actually – another gloriously morose piano playing singer-songwriter. Filmed in Buccleuch Church in the Southside of Edinburgh, the setup is completely minimal: Steve and a piano, and Helena MacGilp on drums and backing vocals. It’s gorgeous. It’s easy to imagine all sorts of things being added to these songs, but they just don’t need it. The minimalism allows you to concentrate on every drum, every piano note and every rise and fall of the vocals.
Five of what will apparently be ten songs have been published on his YouTube channel already, and I am very much looking forward to the rest appearing. And honestly, I think this collection of recordings really does deserve its own release despite the fact that the songs themselves are all from his last album.
Well first of all, thank you so much to everyone who came down to Henry’s on Thursday. It was a packed show – not our first sell-out, but definitely the first time we’ve had to actually turn people away at the door, which is a bit of a shame, but still feels like something of a triumph nevertheless.
It’s mostly fairly minimal recording, but it showcases the move from orchestral rock, as I suppose you could call the last Meursault album, through a slightly lost phase of being a three-piece Black Sabbath tribute band with which Meursault toured the States but has yet to be captured on record, to something weirder and with a bit more needle.
It’s a welcome direction, from my point of view. You know me, I always like music with a bit more tension and discomfort captured in there somewhere, and this stuff definitely has that. There will be a formal physical release at some point in the relatively near future, although I have no idea how much similarity it will bear to this stuff.
I think a good few of the songs will remain, if not necessarily all the recordings, and Neil’s recent comic drawings will feature heavily (find these on Instagram), but that’s about all I can tell you at this stage, largely because I don’t really know myself until I see the finished article, and Neil tends to play these cards fairly close to his chest.
Nevertheless, in the meantime there is this EP. It’s quiet, a bit odd, and embraces noise and crackle, and until we come up with something physical for you to actually purchase, is a pretty good intro into where the Supermoon project is heading.