Song, by Toad

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Wild Al Hotchkiss and His Aquaphibians

wildal Well umm, this is ace. I know there’s a lot of talk about the music scene in Edinburgh being either great or terrible at the moment, but one thing is for sure: the sheer number of really promising bands knocking around in Glasgow, releasing on tiny-but-excellent labels is really quite something.

The first release on Howling Moon Records looks like it came out in about 2010, which means that I really should have found them a little sooner than I have. In all honesty, there are probably a few missed emails back in the pile somewhere, if I had paid enough attention, but as frustrating as it is, that is pretty much just the nature of the beast unfortunately.

So here I am in 2015, finally catching up, courtesy of this rather splendid piece of surfy psychedelia by Wild Al Hotchkiss and His Aquaphibians.

Mrs. Toad, with somewhat customary cruelty, took one listen and said ‘well it’s really just noodling isn’t it’ and I suppose you could say that, but dammit I fucking like noodling. And this is good noodling, anyway. There’s a really nice, slow beat to it, but it still feels really physical – and, oddly enough, slightly reminiscent of Django Django in a sense.

I know psyche is so very much the thing now, but it really does look very much like these guys were doing it before it became compulsory to write the word in every single PR email sent in 2014, and maybe if it is a bit more fashionable they’ll get a bit more much-deserved attention.

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Sean Armstrong

seanarmstrong Sean Armstrong is one of those people I tend to refer to as a ‘talented wee shite’. He’s erratic, I guess, and can be a little temperamental, but he’s still been involved in an awful lot of excellent stuff as well as his own self-releases, from The Yawns to Spinning Coin and Passion Pusher, and presumably a few others I am missing out.

He’s released a couple of things recently, a new album called Sevsevenson and very shortly afterwards this EP, called The Sweet Centre, and the latter in particular is gorgeous.

It’s a lot more contemplative and melancholy that a lot of his previous stuff, with wafty, high vocal slathered in reverb and delay to give it a dreamy quality, but when that is slowed down to fit with a really downtempo song it just sounds so very, very sad. With the Shivering Trees on The Sweet Centre is a classic example: just gorgeous, and horribly melancholy. And needless to say, I fucking love it for that.

The recording is lo-fi as fuck, but in this case I think that’s out of necessity rather than contrivance. Sean’s songs translate really well to more polished pop songs – see the aforementioned Spinning Coin and Yawns – but on these recordings you tend to get the framework rather than the embellishment.  Try the solo and band versions of Albany, for example:

There are weird moments all over the place: the SMASHSMASHSMASH in the middle of Juvenile on Sevsevenson for example. It can be a little baffling, but it’s just the nature of the beast. It’s all sort of sellotaped together, and you never know if you’re about to get a pop hit disguised as a scruffy throwaway or just a fragment of an idea which drifts off disconsolately into formlessness. The music seems to have the potential to veer into either at pretty much any point. Maybe that’s what makes it good.

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Song, by Toad at the Easter Independent Label Market in London

ilm

That’s right folks, this weekend we shall be down in London for the Independent Label Market at Spitalfields once again.

We don’t really have any ‘exclusives’. I mean, we don’t really do exclusives, honestly, we try and make everything as special as we can, and then make it available for everyone. But we do have some interesting advance copies of stuff you may like – the Garden of Elks album, for example, and the Supermoon tape, and also the Rob St. John and Woodpigeon Split 10″. And of course our fantastic Gin & Swearing t-shirts and Real as Fuck sweaters.

So there will be lots of very, very good things for you to come along and buy, and of course you get the wonderful benefit of my gloriously sunny company. And who could possibly ask for anything more.

I’ve got the stall plan now too, and we are in the very far corner of the market. This may sound less that ideal, but actually we’re right next to Domino, and in terms of musical suitability that makes a lot of sense to me, and maybe we can exploit some of their overspill to make up for the fact that I will probably spend far too much money on their records while I’m there.

Garden of Elks – SWAP from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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Kathryn Joseph

Kathryn-Joseph-lying-down Somewhere in Aberdeen there will be a gentleman slapping his hand to his forehead and shouting ‘Oh for fuck’s sake, Toad’ when this post goes public. I was told about Kathryn Sawyers (at the time) a wee while ago by a pal up there and once again I have been a little slow to get my shit together and listen.

Early this year, however, Kathryn (now) Joseph released her debut album. She did it rather on the quiet, I think, but it made a real impact with the people who heard it. It’s pretty simple really, based around just her lovely piano and trembly vocal. There is more there – a bit of keys, some percussion – but it’s all based around bringing the best out of the gorgeous interplay between vocal and piano.

So, having finally realised what Stevie up in Aberdeen was talking about, I’ve invited Kathryn to play an Edinburgh show – tomorrow (20th March) with Viking Moses at Henry’s Cellar Bar.

It’s going to be a lovely evening, I reckon. Viking Moses will be playing a low-key, more piano-based set, and BEAM’s stuff is absolutely gorgeous, as I pointed out to you a couple of days ago on this very blog. So yes, hope to see you there.

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Tryptamines

tryp I know I can be a bit of judgemental prick when it comes to this kind of thing, but when someone thrusts a copy of their vinyl into your hand at a record fair with a mumbled ‘you might think it’s shit but, er, yeah whatever’ and then shuffles off to the do the same for everyone else along the whole line of stalls, the they’re usually right. I usually will think it’s shit.

It’s always best to treat these things as guidelines rather than rules, however, and bear in mind that some of my favourite music has come from following up on the most half-arsed, ill-expressed emails I’ve ever read, so no matter what you’re expecting, always best to just have a listen anyway.

It took me a while, but I am glad this self-titled debut by Tryptamines found its way to me, because not only is it a really good album, but it’s one of those totally out of the blue surprises (I’ve not seen anyone else really covering this anywhere, or even anyone talking about it on social media) that makes you feel lucky to be one of the few who is actually paying it the proper attention.

There are seven songs on this album, all fairly long ones, and generally composed of low-key, trippy atmospheric stuff not a million miles away from the downbeat end of the Beta Band’s canon (I think – I’m actually not all that familiar with the Beta Band).

Some of this is woozy ambient soundscapes, some of it more upbeat, but it still reminds me a lot of the more indie end of the trip-hop movement which seemed to blossom in the nineties. The mixture of gorgeous cello and piano in songs like Absolutely Everything contrast really well with some of the more crackly, less organic moments and a little like BEAM (who I wrote about yesterday) it gives this a wonderfully warm and accessible feel.

Some of it may be odd, but it is never abrasively or awkwardly so. And it’s really beautifully executed too, none of this ‘lo-fi band finding their feet’ nonsense, the sound of the record is all wonderfully assembled and really nicely balanced.

Thank fuck I don’t pay attention to my own stupid prejudices, eh.

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Jonnie Common – Binary 101

Jonnie Common – ‘Binary 101′ (Official) from Jonnie Common on Vimeo.

It’s been a good wee spell for Jonnie Common. In the wake of his excellent 6Music session with Tom Robinson (starts just over half an hour into this show, if you want to listen back), he’s been playing a series of dates around the country in places like Manchester, Cardiff (Sunday) and, this Saturday, The Shacklewell Arms in London with Song, by Toad label-mates Le Thug.

To accompany the tour this week we released Binary 101, the third single from his latest album Trapped in Amber, released to a pretty splendid reception on Halloween last year. It’s from the slightly odder end of the spectrum, as far as the album is concerned. We tried to stick to ‘the pop songs’ for the first couple of singles, and this is a little odder, although I say a bit too much, no matter how strange the noises are which Jonnie uses, the end result is pretty much always really approachable.

There’s also a b-side, Binary 202, which I think started out as a reworking of Binary 101, and was initially even just called ‘extended mix’, but ended up moving so far away from the original source material that it turned into a separate song in its own right. Enjoy! And pop along to some of these shows if you get the chance.

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BEAM

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 15.05.28 Instead of stalking young musicians on social media, this particular tip came to me the old-fashioned way: mentioned by a friend in the pub. Retro!

Amy MacDougall, who records as BEAM, will be playing what I think is one of her first Edinburgh shows on Friday at Henry’s supporting Viking Moses and Kathryn Joseph (tickets here, seriously, you should come along).

I think Amy might be better know for singing with other people, but that’s a bit of a disservice, because her own music is delicate and lovely. Not in that prissy way that some singer-songwriter stuff can be, just dreamy and gorgeous, with diaphanous* vocal loops providing an elusive sense of atmosphere and mystery. The loops themselves may be dreamy but when the lead vocal comes in it has more presence than you might expect, listening to the tracks build up.

The songs are all about texture and atmosphere, and are a gorgeous blend of organic and digital elements. There is cello (Pete Harvey once more, of The Leg, Cold Seeds, Bastard Mountain and Meursault fame – seriously, that boy gets everywhere), piano, a bit of guitar, Amy’s gorgeous voice, all drifting in and out of focus amongst a gently shifting digital landscape. It’s odd and elusive, but entirely welcoming. I know I’m into my awkward, slightly needly music these days, but this is really warm and generous and I like it for that.

So, Friday then. This is going to be excellent! BEAM will be onstage first – at 8pm – so if you want to catch her performance come down early.

*Seriously, fuck you, I write about music all the time and I never use that word. You’ve got to give it to me this once, surely. No? Seriously? Too far? Alright, maybe you have a point, sorry, what was I thinking. Seriously. ‘Diaphanous’. Who fucking uses words like that?

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digitalanalogue – Be Embraced, You Millions!

digitalanalogue – ID 83846 (Don’t Look Down) from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

This week – today in fact – sees the release of the wonderful Be Embraced, You Millions! by digitalanalogue, the largely solo recording project of Ian Turnbull from Broken Records. It’s on limited-run, 12″ vinyl in hand-printed sleeves with artwork by Fee Buckle, and photography and writing by Ian himself.

We’re a bit behind, in that the sleeve printing starts tonight, but nearly there and the whole thing is going to be fucking lovely. In the meantime you can buy it on iTunes here or stream on Spotify here, if you can’t wait for the vinyl. We’re working on a really nice launch night in Sofi’s, hopefully over the Easter weekend, so keep your eyes on the internet and we’ll be sure and let you know.

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Pennycress

pennycress More gems from my various social media feeds here, with a new Glasgow band I first found out about today: Pennycress.

Listening to the first couple of tracks it’s easy to think ‘ah right, they’re basically a punk band’, and quite an old school one at that. A lot of the songs on See Us Swell are like that – some just a bit more rapid and frantic than I would generally listen to I have to confess, but there’s a lot more going on here than that.

Fourth track Stopped & Stared borders on whimsical indie-pop, although a band with this kind of overall aesthetic might kill me for saying so (although the preceding tune All Might even has either sleigh bells or tambourine on it for fuck’s sake!), and closer Heavy Heart is really rather lovely… for a while at least. There’s other stuff in there too, like Waltz, which may still be intense and screamy but not quite at such a break-neck pace. This all may seem trivial, but it’s important, because it breaks up the sense of being vociferously berated about something you didn’t know you’d done.

The band tag themselves on Bandcamp as queer and I rather like that. I don’t know if this applies more broadly, but most of the music I’ve heard which uses that term has a belligerently unapologetic attitude to sexuality, and this is good. Fuck you to being expected to pussyfoot around this kind of thing – people need to get used to the idea that their opinions on other people’s sexuality are just fucking irrelevant and not being asked for (says he, veering dangerously close to expressing an opinion on other people’s sexuality) and I get the impression that people who use the term queer are generally a bit more forceful about that kind of thing.

Not least that more confrontational attitude seems to be bringing a lot of good punk back into the socio-political sphere, which is also something I like. F Fit, for example, sounds a bit like it’s basically saying ‘fuck you, yes I’m a feminist, and what?’ although I have to confess that it’s pretty hard to make out most of the lyrics on this.

Anyhow, musically this is intense. As I said, the few wee breaks you get are kind of needed, because the second you draw breath they are off again, battering and reeling off one two-minute gem (if that) after another. Eight songs, a little over a quarter of an hour, and that’s it. It’s not all squarely my cup of tea I guess – some of the most full-pelt punk songs have never been entirely my kind of thing – but in general this is really really good. And so full of piss and vinegar it’s impossible not to warm to.

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Kill West

killwest My inbox has been a pretty barren place of late, tip-wise. I suppose there’s just so much in there that even the gems can end up seeming very isolated, so I feel like I am returning to the days of just being a plain old music fan a bit at the moment, and just getting my tips from social media like everyone else.

This was posted on Facebook by James, who is currently booking for Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s in Glasgow. We have a very good mutual friend actually, although I don’t think we’ve met in person, but his Facebook feed is a goldmine of interesting music. Including this: Kill West from Buenos Aires.

This came up this morning, and it’s ace. It reminds me a bit of Lil Daggers actually, whose album we released a few years ago, in that it’s garage rock, but it’s also swampy and dark and menacing in a similar way. I suppose you could almost describe it as proggy in a sense – in that it has big long instrumental passages, full of thrum and rhythm, although there’s nothing all that proggy about the feel of the music itself.

It’s not overly heavy on distortion or lo-fi aesthetics either – apart from the treatment of the vocals – but there is a wonderful growl about the guitars. In fact, as much as anything, these guys just seem to love playing guitar, it’s that simple.  They just seem to revel in the parts of the song which are just them all getting their heads down and playing. Awesome.

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