A NEW Virgin of the Birds album is coming, folks, and it’s bloody great.
Fresh from his phenomenal contribution to the fourth Song, by Toad Split 12″ (with vastly, vastly different versions of a couple of the tunes from this new album, coincidentally), Jon Rooney is back with another Virgin of the Birds record.
I love working with John. His tunes are simple, but absolutely always catchy, and he is one of these lyricists who is constantly able to amuse and surprise you. You listen to his music and there’s nothing obviously all that clever going on to begin with, but then the more you listen the more subtle little moments make themselves known, and suddenly you’re hooked.
In the words of Monty Python’s Leonardo Da Vinci, “it just works, mate”.
Jon will be back in Scotland in December to play the Song, by Toad Christmas show, so keep an eye out for that, and a couple of other dates around then too.
Modern Studies are building up an impressive head of steam as their album release approaches on the 12th September.
New single Father is a Craftsman got a wee spin on Vic Galloway the other night, they’ve just had a cracking review in Mojo, and we eagerly await the delivery of the vinyl soon as well (pre-order one here). This what I think you are supposed to refer to as exciting times!
They have an album launch booked in too, at the Happiness Hotel, our warehouse recording space down in Leith on September 10th. It’s BYOB, and we’ll lay on some food, and you can get your tickets by clicking below. Exciti… oh, no, sorry, I already said that. But seriously, though, eh?
Considering we do things like the Toad Sessions, here at Song, by Toad Records we are generally not all that good at making videos for our releases. Fortunately this year we have been working with a bunch of bands with plenty of their own initiative, and actually have a nice wee record of our releases for the year in the form of a video playlist. I am embedding this playlist below so you can have a wee browse through our half-term report for 2016.
Modern Studies – Dive Bombing (above)
This one isn’t out until September (pre-order here), but the excitement is building already for an album of gorgeous, retro-tinged chamber pop – “compelling and graceful” – Gold Flake Paint
Viking Moses – Morning Compromise
The fourth in our Split 12″ series, this is the one and only album we’ll ever record in the living room of our new house in Leith, because Mrs. Toad has forbidden it from now on. This is therefore a one-off artefact of minimal acoustics and slow-paced, rumbling drone – “one of the best albums the label have put out to date” – Whisperin’ and Hollerin’.
David Thomas Broughton – Gulf (feat. Jordan Geiger)
A triple vinyl release, with three different labels, recorded while David was living in Pyongyang, North Korea. It sounds odd enough as it is, but this is a breathtaking behemoth of a record. Experimental, looped folk which drifts between confrontationally abstract and blissfully gorgeous. I’ve sold out now, but you can still get a copy from NoizeMaker Records in France – “a staggering achievement” – Americana UK.
Jonnie Common – More Oven Than Not
Kitchen Sync is an experimental, instrumental album of playful songs composed of found sounds from Jonnie’s kitchen and released on a set of fridge magnets because, er… well, because we could, I suppose. The magnets have sold out, but you can still buy it digitally here – “Sprinkled with interesting ideas and baked to perfection” – Shout4Music.
DTHPDL – The Future
DTHPDL’s debut EP The Future is tight as hell, somewhat synthy indie rock full of hummable tunes – “largely unclassifiable but highly enjoyable” – Is This Music?
This hasn’t been the most closely guarded of secrets, but it’s probably time to make it official: we’ll be releasing the Modern Studies album in September. And it’s fucking awesome.
We have the first single from the album coming out on Monday. It will be premiering on the excellent Gold Flake Paint, so I won’t ruin the surprise by posting it here, but to paraphrase Frank N. Furter, it’s nice to build a little sense of antici … pation.
I’ve known most of these guys for ages actually, and people who know the label may well recognise a couple of familiar faces up there in that picture, namely Rob St. John and Pete Harvey (The Leg). Well Joe on the left runs the Glad Café in Glasgow and is in a number of bands you might well know too, and Emily was actually one of the very first local acts I ever saw in Edinburgh when I first started writing the blog.
I went down to Out of the Bedroom, one of our most enduring open mic nights, with a friend who was running it at the time, and I saw Emily play solo and loved it. Her performance was one of the key things in making me realise that although the bigger bands never seemed to come through Edinburgh, there was plenty of talent in the underground scene if you took the time to look. Funnily enough Rob was actually another of the people who I first heard of around the same time and also had a big influence in drawing me into the local scene. But yep, I’ve known Emily for ages but this is my first chance to actually work with her, which is awesome.
The band themselves describe their music as Arts und Krafts Werk, which adds to Song, by Toad Records’ proud tradition of making up the silliest genres in the entire music industry. More sensibly, they also use the term chamber pop, which I suppose might make more sense to you. It’s lush, gorgeous acoustic pop music, short and sweet and unusually for us, an album which feels like it absolutely packed with singles. The release date is September the 12th, and you can pre-order from our Bandcamp page. And keep an eye out for that single on Monday. It’s a belter.
Our release of David Thomas Broughton’s epic masterpiece Crippling Lack moves to Volume 2 this month, which comes out on French label NoizeMaker Records. We’ve sold our entire allocation now, so European fans should order from the NoizeMaker Bandcamp page, whereas North Americans should head to Paper Garden Records, who are Brooklyn-based.
Crippling Lack Vol.2 introduces itself with a new single, the flighty and gorgeous River, which features gorgeous work by Sam Amidon* on fiddle:
After this gorgeous tune Volume 2, the heart of the album in many ways, is subsequently dominated by two sprawling epics which are both around a quarter of an hour long. Concrete Statement and I Close My Eyes are full of gorgeous moments, but they decompose almost entirely over their course, leaving only the barest skeleton of their structure left.
These threads will be gathered up and rewoven later, but you’re in the heart of the storm with this record and the tension at the heart of I Close My Eyes between the two most hypnotically-repeated lyrics seems to embody the dichotomy at the core of the whole album. As “I close my eyes and it all goes wrong” slowly cedes ground to “I know I have potential” you can almost hear the emotional trajectory of the album finally arresting its downward spiral and locating the shred of succour and self-belief it needs to drag itself back from the abyss.
David gave an interview with The List recently: “The record is about discomfort and trying to reconcile conflicting elements of the human condition to eventually come to terms with the awkwardness of life.”
Well this is the bit where stuff gets uncomfortable. Don’t worry though, Volume 3 is on the way and it will start to make sense of all of this. Promise.
And in the meantime, here’s a video for Dots, which is on Volume 1:
*Just as an aside, I remember one of our first ever Toad Sessions was recorded with Sam Amidon back in 2009 and one of the things we talked about was his tour with David and how much he loved his music. I was a recent convert as well, and it was a nice wee chat, but I have to confess I never dreamed for a second at that point that we would end up all collaborating on an album release in seven years’ time. Sigh, nostalgia, how time flies, you never know where life will take you, etc etc etc…
The launch nights for Kitchen Sync, Jonnie Common’s new instrumental album of found sounds from his kitchen released on a set of fridge magnets – no seriously, have a look here, they’re nearly sold out! – were bafflingly fantastic.
I say bafflingly because they were primarily composed of Jonnie giving what was essentially a Powerpoint presentation about how he actually made the album, complete with basic explanations of things like side-chain compression and the pitch-shifting of sampled wave forms. Having explained the process and source of the sounds for each song, he then played along with it, although inevitably a lot had to be pre-recorded samples.
And somehow, it was absolutely fascinating. I salute you, Mr. Common, I have no idea how you pulled this whole ridiculous idea off, but it’s absolutely bloody brilliant.
The Restless Natives Festival is happening in Glasgow in the first week or so of May, and there is an absolute shitload of excellent Toad stuff happening. About which I have no doubt you are thrilled. Just thrilled.
We have a showcase, the David Thomas Broughton documentary is playing, and Adam Stafford is doing a live movie soundtrack. Awesome, no?
The Ambiguity of David Thomas Broughton is a documentary about the man himself, and made by Oh Kestrel film. I’ll be conducting a live Skype Q&A with David on the night, as he’s based in South Korea these days and that’s as close as we could get him.
Adam Stafford on the other hand will be performing a live soundtrack to A Page of Madness, which is not something I can say I know much about, but sounds weird and interesting. He’s a film-maker himself of course, so I guess this kind of thing should suit him.
And finally, we have a three-band Song, by Toad bill of Le Thug, Numbers Are Futile and DTHPDL at Collective Studios on 10th May (details and tickets here).
The festival is a celebration of all things DIY in the arts, from visual art and film, to music, comedy and debate. It sounds ambitious as fuck to me, and I’m really pleased they’ve seen fit to invite us to participate. Hopefully see you there, Glasgow!
Because we don’t have enough new releases bubbling away at the moment I thought it might be time to introduce you to our next awesomest thing!
You may have seen this skittering about the internet yesterday, but given the reckless pace of the average Twitter feed and Facebook’s steadfast refusal to allow people who explicitly sign up for news about your thing to actually receive news about your thing, I figured I should actually post a formal announcement on the blog. Just, y’know, to be safe.
DTHPDL (Deathpodal, if that helps with pronunciation) are a new-not-new Edinburgh band, who released an EP back in about 2009 or something like that, and then promptly vanished until early last year, at which point they reappeared sounding entirely different. So not technically brand new, but effectively they might as well be.
Their new EP The Future is out on Song, by Toad Records in a couple of weeks, and the launch night will be at the Leith Depot on Saturday 22nd April, supported by the excellent Lush Purr and Miracle Strip, and with Jesus H. Foxx (fuck me – remember them!) DJs.
Our Split 12″ series is, erm, sporadic, to say the very least. It’s been a couple of years since the last one, but there will be three released within the next twelve months, to take the tally up to six by early 2017.
This one is, a little like the Insider one we did last, going to be unique in the sense that it was actually recorded in the living room of our new house in Leith where, Mrs. Toad has decreed, no recording shall ever take place ever again. That’s what The Happiness Hotel is for.
And speaking of The Happiness Hotel (it’s our warehouse, and if you don’t get the reference you are dead to me), that is where we shall be holding the launch night for Song, by Toad Split 12″ Vol.4, on Thursday 5th May. The record features Viking Moses, Supermoon, digitalanalogue and Virgin of the Birds, but seeing as two of those bands are based in the States and hoping for them to be in Scotland at the same time seemed a little optimistic, we thought we would have to make do with three bands from the Split, get each of them to learn a song by the regrettably absent Virgin of the Birds, and include Viking Moses’ tour pal Sam Goodwill just for shits and giggles and because he’s good.
One of the absolute greatest things about being as close to the actual making of music as I now am is being able to actually witness new and awesome things as they come into existence, and to savour that ‘holy fucking shit, what is this, it’s awesome‘ moment when you realise that it is going to be excellent.
I am still amazed by what a mess music can actually sound like when you are in the room, listening to the actual act of recording. I remember some of the flat-out rock bands we recorded in our old living room, and it just sounded like someone throwing a load of old pots and pans down the stairs with some poor fucker trying desperately to scream over the top of the resulting cacophony. It sounded awful. And it turned out fantastically.
As you know I am currently in the middle of recording Song, by Toad Split 12″ Vol.6 (Vol.4 is out in July and Vol.5 in November) and we have three bands’ songs more or less down now. This project has embodied both ends of the ‘what the fuck is going on’ spectrum, from the Willard Grant Conspiracy, whose performance in the room itself was so obviously beautifully that my sole responsibility as a mixing engineer is not to fuck it up, through to the Tissø Lake songs, which were mostly individually tracked, so I didn’t really have much idea what I was hearing until we started to assemble everything together. It still surprises me when proper, grown-up music emerges from all those scraps, but it shouldn’t anymore.
Micah P. Hinson, on the other hand, has been a slightly different case. I am not sure he really enjoyed the recording process himself, primarily because he is from Texas and was playing in an unheated warehouse in Edinburgh in November, so he was absolutely fucking freezing. I am genuinely sorry for this – I blame the perennial postponement of our stove installation – but you honestly wouldn’t know it from the recordings. The sound as Micah generally does: unhurried, rich and sincere.
One of the nicest bits though, and the bit which prompted the opening sentence to this post, is a cover that Micah played. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it’s a Phil Ochs song and listening to it the other day as I tweaked the initial mixes, it struck me, hearing Ochs’ lyrics sung by Micah, how much lyrical common ground there is between the two. Phil Ochs is obviously more overtly political of course, but in other senses they have such a similar feel – the burst of humour (bitterly acerbic or otherwise), the flair for lighthearted musical styles to back poignant lyrics, that constant sense of self-doubt and nagging fear of futility, and of course the ability to write absolutely crushingly sad, beautiful songs as well as almost anyone I’ve heard.
There’s an intensity to the two of them too, sitting there beneath the surface of the music, and you never quite know what to do with it, which I think it probably what makes it brilliant.
Micah is fond of a cover, of course, and recorded a whole double album of them a few years ago, but this was just one of those moments where I thought ‘oh yeah, that’s perfect, and I never realised at all’.