Song, by Toad

Archive for the Unsigned category

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Chump – Treat Me Mean

chump Chump are another one of the David Cameron’s Eton Mess alumni, that awesome compilation of under the radar Scottish guitar bands we released towards the end of last year.

Chump were a bit of a left-field inclusion on that record, in the sense that I didn’t really know anything about them, apart from the one gorgeous song on their Bandcamp page (which was the song that appeared on the record). They were a recommendation from a friend, Tara was really nice about being on the album, and I’ve been waiting for new material ever since – curious to find out more about the band, beyond speculative extrapolation from one single song.

And now, here we have it, and it definitely is different. Tracks like Out Of It are still pretty reminiscent of the downbeat, morose slacker vibe of Sleeping In, but there are some loud, nasty guitars here and the whole thing gets pretty bloody big in places. There are even traces of Sharon Van Etten here and there if you ask me, not that I would really compare the two artists overall sound.

There’s even a sort of glam theatricality at times, albeit only here and there, which gives the whole thing a great dynamic. It’s available on pink cassette on their Bandcamp page, so go have a listen and grab one there. I really do need to see this band live now.

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Hans Klammer

hans I was raised in Austria, and Franz Klammer is a folk hero out there, and one of the most legendary Austrian ski-racers of all time, so the name of this Edinburgh band is actually rather dear to my heart although admittedly I don’t entirely understand the ‘Hans’ pun.

Pointless digressions aside, there’s a lot of really interesting music knocking around Edinburgh at the moment, but it is really rather under the radar, and this band are one of the best of that rather scattered bunch. They have a couple of things up on Bandcamp, and it veers between sweepingly cinematic, really infectious indie rock songs and more ambient, experimental soundscapes.

When they decide to right a straight up tune they really do a fine job of it, which is slightly surprising given how the more dreamy, thrumming beats dominate the EPs they’ve released so far. It’s great though, you get all these swirling atmospherics, and then suddenly a proper riff breaks out, almost out of nowhere.

It’s all pay-what-you-like too, so have a wee explore.

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New Tunes From Chump & Elara Caluna

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 15.08.36 Both Chump and Elara Caluna fit into that sort of vague category of ‘bands I know almost nothing about, but am still quite excited by’.

Apart from exchanging a few very friendly emails with Tara from Chump I couldn’t tell you any more than your own ears about the band itself. They only had one song out and about on the internet until recently, the awesome Sleeping In, which we put on our fantastic 12″ vinyl compilation of the best new Scottish bands David Cameron’s Eton Mess.

That was sort of a low dreamer but this new tune Treat Me Mean, which emerged a few days ago, is much bigger, more grandiose beast. It’s from a forthcoming tape release apparently, although there don’t seem to be many details just yet, but it’s louder, nastier and has a certain theatricality to by the time the crescendo really peaks.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 15.08.49 Elara Caluna, on the other hand, weren’t on David Cameron’s Eton Mess. I tried to keep that compilation more guitary I suppose, so they didn’t quite fit, and hardly had any official recorded material at the time anyway.

On the basis of what they did have – a cover version and some slightly ropey live footage – I invited them to play a show for us last year. It wasn’t much to go on, but they came recommended by a pal and the stuff which was out there did sound promising. Annoyingly, though, I was out of the country and unable to attend. Brilliant.

Anyhow, they went down really well with my pals who were at Henry’s that night, and someone has told me since that they’re generating something of a buzz over in Glasgow, but Edinburgh is so utterly fucking insulated from all forms of popular culture that I can’t really confirm that myself.

Instead, we have a new song, Silver Dust, one which came out at the tail end of last year while I was away. There’s less crackle and hum on this than I was expecting, and instead of that warm haze there is a sort of creepy fairytale pop feel to the song. Not pop in the Erasure or the Chvrches sense, more a sort of dark cabaret with maybe more in common with the constituents of Glasgow’s awesome Night School Records.

So with two new tracks there’s not an awful lot more to go on than there was before, but these are two really good tunes and it’s nice to see these two highly promising projects cranking into gear for 2016. If I did ‘ones to watch’ these two would be two of the ones I would tip, I think.

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Oloff – Buddy

buddy It’s a slightly odd concept this, but it works pretty flawlessly if you like wonky, eccentric stuff with peculiar charm. And who doesn’t.

This is a mumbled album of self… well, err, self-loathing isn’t quite right but it’s relatively self-critical at the very least.

The music, on the other hand, is composed entirely of chopped up Buddy Holly samples, giving this whole business a weird sort of ‘Buddy Holly in Dystopia’ feel. It’s alienating and odd, but still the cheerful chimes of the Buddy Holly stuff and the half-hearted self-evisceration of the lyrics ends up producing a weirdly agreeable combination.

You look at a description like this and it could as easily be utterly brilliant as it could be completely awful. Fortunately, this is fucking ace. Fuck knows why it even exists, but I am glad it does.

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Black Polygons – À Travers

atrav Having spent three years in France while she was (kind of) growing up, Mrs. Toad will tell you that French radio can be a little odd. There are laudable rules in place which mandate a significant percentage of the music to be Francophone, as a means to combat the overwhelming plague of English language culture currently smothering the world.

I respect this stance, but it did seem rather oddly to result in a near-monopoly on French radio of Johnny Halliday and the fucking Eagles. I am not sure how the rule led to the result, but for some reason they seem inextricably linked in my mind.

My relationship with French music has also always been somewhat unfairly tainted by the ubiquity of Johnny Halliday on the airwaves, and I never really got into genres that they are really good at like hip hop, although some of their twee pop is pretty awesome.

This is nothing like that stuff, however, but I do like it and it is French and I always appreciate music that pulls me away from lazy habits, even if you don’t take your own lazy thinking that seriously.

Black Polygons’ Bandcamp tags sum the music up pretty neatly, so I suppose there’s no massive need for me to elaborate: ambient, experimental, lo-fi minimalist noise. And that’s pretty much what it is. Some pretty twinkles appear to lighten the mood, but there is really satisfying enjoyment of tone and buzz on this album. A lot of the guitar playing just teases a growl of distortion along for minutes on end, letting it rise and fall in a way which just about lets it meld with the more melodic elements, but in general just enjoying the rumble for its own sake.

There are quite lovely, sweeping cinematic elements here, particularly in some of the keyboard parts, although I’d love to see the movie that dared to use anything as dirty as this stuff for its soundtrack. It would probably be set in the pale winter sunlight in Iceland somewhere, with a handsome bearded man looking moody in a thick knitted jumper.

Anyway, it’s always a shame when albums as enjoyable as this don’t have a physical release anywhere to be found, but you can download this from their Bandcamp for a few bucks and it is more than worth that. The internet free-for-all can mean music like this gets lost a little, I fear, and this really doesn’t deserve it at all.

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Sean Armstrong and Keel Her

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 12.49.28 I’ve told you before, on numerous occasions, that I think Sean Armstrong is a talented wee fucker. Quite apart from his own stuff, his songwriting is a large part of both The Yawns and Spinning Coin, two fantastic bands themselves.

I first played Keel Her on a podcast over three years ago, and going back to Bandcamp I have to confess I had managed to lose track of quite how much stuff has made its way onto their page in the last couple of years.

Anyhow, the two have now collaborated on this tune, and I have no idea what the plans are for it or if there is more of this stuff, but I fucking hope so because this is bloody brilliant. Sean’s vocals are as elusive and distant as ever, but the duet anchors it all beautifully, and brings a lovely touch of warmth to the song.

It’s lo-fi, I suppose, but I suppose it sounds right like that – to me anyway. A simple drum machine, some guitar, a toy synth… it’s simple, but so effective. And that descending chorus bit is pure magic. Damaged pop, I suppose you could call it if you wanted a stupid invented genre, but it’s fucking ace.

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New Andrew R. Burns Stuff

arb Andrew R. Burns has been a wee bit quiet for the last year or so, but a new EP has just made its way onto his Bandcamp page, under his slightly amended new guise of Andrew R. Burns and the Tropicanas.

It’s something of a piece with his existing stuff, and as he builds his back catalogue it’s starting to flesh out into a really good collection of material. It’s very much from the introverted lounge lizard school of modern guitar pop which I know some people have taken a bit of a scunner to, but fortunately I am not one of those people.

This new four song EP – rather catchily titled One Man’s Garbage is Another Man Person’s Good Ungarbage – has a couple of cracking straight up pop tunes, and a rather cute instrumental, Emargo, which doesn’t go anywhere much but has a really nice, playful wee melody line – verging on chiptunes.

There’s a really nice dreaminess to these, mixed in with a little bit of swagger. It’s a fairly popular mix these days, but when the balance is right and the tunes are there I really like this kind of stuff.

 

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Yves Yacolt

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 09.25.26 There are band names, and then there are band names. Yves Yacolt, when they first got in touch with me, went by the name of Wank Hilliams. Presumably Auntie Flo suggested it over Sunday lunch one weekend.

Apparently radio play was a little tough to come by for Wank Hilliams for some unfathomable reason, so a super-slick firm of image consultants (or, perhaps, Auntie Flo again) have rebranded the band as the far more family friendly Yves Yacolt which is, by almost every single measure yet invented, a significantly better name.

The songs, however, haven’t changed much, which is excellent news because I thought they sounded really good.

It’s grumbly guitar music, and can be droney, but in general is more of a low-level growl than an all-out bellow. There’s a lot of acoustic guitar over the grumble as well, which works nicely, and makes it all feel nice and approachable, despite the occasionally disinterested approach to singing.

My description of the guitar and vocals sounds a bit like every other band I’ve covered here for the last five years I guess, and that’s not entirely wrong, this stuff won’t shock you when you hear it. There are interesting things going on though, and the percussion can be improvised really nicely, such as She Only Sleeps When She Prays, which is a really nice touch and takes the music somewhere more individual and interesting. There are six songs to have a listen to on their Soundcloud player and enough little detours and surprises like this to imply that the band might well have some rather interesting things in their locker.

The songs are short and sharp, and surprisingly catchy despite the roughness, and I am really glad the band are back in business after going quiet for a while. Right, where’s that Pale Imitation bill?

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Coin Locker Kid

coinlockerkid ‘Unapologetic art rap’ is not really the kind of music you would expect me to get into, really, is it. And having been raised in Austria I can certainly tell you that music from there is generally not the sort of thing I would expect to warm to either.

Oddly enough, though, I’ve found a surprising amount of stuff from Austria I’ve liked in the last few years. Not a lot, mostly little isolated gems here and there, but certainly way more than I was ever aware of when I lived there.

And as for the art rap? Well, seriously, just listen to this. If you want to make the very loftiest comparisons I suppose you could inflect early Jib Kidder with a bit of The Books and be sort of close-ish.

There are lovely moments, some discordant wailing, layers of samples going in every direction and plenty and plenty of ‘what the fuck is even going on here’ moments. It’s really all over the place, and in all honesty I am still digesting what I really think about it. There are times when it all gets a bit annoying, but he still has a pretty good nose for when to reign it back in and do something less confrontational.

There’s quite a lot of stuff on their Bandcamp page too, and I am only just starting to go through it now so I can’t tell you too much, apart from the fact that Sweet Caroline, yes that Sweet Caroline, is incorporated quite fantastically into the first track of Traumnovelle, which all in all seems so far like a slightly less weird cousin to Hailstorm & Maelstrom. It’s still pretty awesome though, and all this stuff is downloadable on a pay what you like basis too.

What an excellent surprise to open my emails to this morning.

And for just a little bit of added ‘what the actual fuck’:

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Shards – Just Something to Get Started

I don’t really know anything at all about this band, apart from the fact that Stephen from Edinburgh band Collar Up (and an arch-nemesis of mine from the Edinburgh amateur football leagues) is involved in one way or another. I am not really sure how he is involved, but he sent me the song, so that’s about it.

It’s theatrical in a way, but slow and dreamy, almost as if it’s stiffly staring off into the middle distance. The vocal and the really, really restrained instrumentation work fantastically together. It reminds me really strongly of something I can’t quite call to mind, but as one-song introductions to new bands go this sounds extremely promising. I eagerly await more.

Keep an eye on their Soundcloud page here, for when more stuff materialises.

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