Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Single Review - The Amazing Snakeheads - Can't Let You Go

Following the release of their debut album Amphetamine Ballads  in April this year, The Amazing Snakeheads return with a fresh line up with frontman Dale Barclay as the only remaining member from the original band.  However, the change in personnel doesn’t seem to have caused any lasting damage to this band, but perhaps enhanced the erratic phenomena that trickles from their music.

Teasing, jovial guitar strings waltz in unassumingly as we’re introduced to Can’t Let You Go.  The introduction of Dale Barclay’s vocals are met somewhat perfectly with the volatile thrashing of cymbals and rich guitar notes and with that, the invigorating strangeness of The Amazing Snakeheads has fully polluted your mind, wondering what you’ve let yourself in for.

The hysteria contained within Can’t Let You Go  builds steadily as the four piece produce lazy but merrily teasing tones before all erupts and you’re firmly in the depths of hazy, punk-garage eccentricity.  Barclay’s beautifully husky vocals contain howls of conviction, authenticity and plenty of I-couldn’t-give-a-fuck-attitude.

The exceedingly infectious and aggressive guitar and cymbals produce a storm of grunge ecstasy and unadulterated nonsense.

- Melanie McKinlay 

The Amazing Snakeheads - Can't Let You Go  is out now via Domino Records on 7" vinyl or download and can be purchased here.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Good Pack Glasgow Edition

hristmas eh?  Seems like at this time of year there's a clutter of artists doing covers of Christmas classics, or putting out their own festive tinged numbers (both of which we heartly endorse here at Scottish Fiction).  In a kind-of Charlie Brown moment though, six Scottish artists have banded together with The Good Pack to remind us all what this time of year should be about.

My home city of Glasgow has a great music heritage, but sadly suffers from intense poverty in some areas, and the rise in foodbank use and numbers is a symptom of this.  The Good Pack is an organisation that bundles up 'packs' of music and offers them out at a fair price with proceeds going to a chosen charity.  The Glasgow Edition sees six artists make their albums/EPs available for a minimum of $6 (approximately £3.81) with 40% of proceeds going to Glasgow Northwest and Southeast Foodbanks to support Glasgow's hungry over Christmas.

The albums/EPs are:

Three Blind Wolves - Sing Hallelujah For The Old Machine
Algernon Doll - Omphalic
Pronto Mama - Niche Market
Poor Things - Poor Things
Carson Wells - Wonder Kid
BAD LUCK - Between Dog & Wolf

If you don't own these collections already then you're in for some great music with your donation.  Even if you already own all or some of the albums/EPs, hopefully worthy cause will prompt you to pick them up again.

Head along to The Good Pack website to donate and download.

We're Only Here For The Banter - Kinbrae

The latest music act to join the micro label Common Records, Kinbrae are twin brothers Andrew and Michael Truscott who play a variety of brass, guitar and percussion to create a unique blend of accessible ambient and classical music.  The pair have just released their album Coastal Erosion  via Common Records so I caught up with them to find out more.

Hello!  How the devil are you?

Very well!  Enjoying unseasonably warm weather up here on the Isle of Coll.  Although this weekend the weather has started to turn – ferries being cancelled etc.

It's the question everyone hates, but could illuminate our readers with a little bit about your music and your influences?

Our music is probably best described as melancholic instrumental music primarily made up of simple piano melodies with accompanying brass scores.  We also incorporate subtle use of percussion, strings, synths, found sounds and field recordings.

What's your song-writing / creative process like?

We usually build material around simple ideas, usually a repeating piano/brass melody.

What could we expect to see from a live show?

The live show is pretty different from the material on record.  For one, we use electric guitar, something that doesn’t feature on the album as well as the usual piano and brass focal point.  You can expect more drones, loops and each member changing instrumentation quite a bit throughout the live show.  We try to change the line up of musicians from time to time as well.  Hopefully we’ll be incorporating visuals into our live show soon as well.

Tell us about your album Coastal Erosion.

The album I guess has quite a nostalgic feel to it, as it is about our childhood growing up in the small village of Wormit in North East Fife.  The record was mostly recorded in my flat in Glasgow and my grandparents' old, empty house in Newport on Tay.  Field recordings are the sounds from the area we grew up – River Tay, trains crossing the Tay Rail Bridge, wind, and wildlife.

What else have you got planned for the rest of 2014 and into 2015?

Playing at Ambient Festival in Cologne, Germany in January

What are you listening to at the moment?

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Atomos
Kiasmos – Kiasmos
Grouper – Ruins
Brian Eno & Harold Budd – Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror
Alvvays – Alvvays
Jon Hopkins – Asleep Versions

Thanks for speaking with us, would you care to share a joke with us?

A man walks into a bar with a sausage roll under his arm:  “A pint of Guiness for me and the sausage roll,” he says to the barman.  “I’m sorry sir,” replies the barman, “we don’t serve food in here.”

Check out more from Kinbrae

Facebook         Twitter          Bandcamp

Monday, 15 December 2014

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 15th December 2014

Scottish Fiction gets Christmassy on this week's show as some Christmas tunes both old and new slip into the playlist along side new music from Errors, Collapsible Mountains, Turtle and Vasquez.  T'is the season and all that. 

Keeping things festive are my session guests Campfires In Winter, who joined me in the studio for a stripped back session ahead of their Christmas gig at Sloans on Wednesday 17th December.  The band played three tracks, including a never before heard exclusive, and chatted about their plans for an album next year.

Belle and Sebastian - The Party Line
The Son(s) - Christmas Song
Broken Records - My Beer Drunk Soul Is Sadder Than All The Dead Christmas Trees In The World
Campfires In Winter - We'll Exist - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studios
Collapsible Mountains - Hope
COVER LOVER - Randolph's Leap - One More Sleep 'til Christmas
Now Wakes The Sea - Bear
Errors - Lease Of Life
Campfires In Winter - Janus - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studios
Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers - Believe In Yourself - As chosen by Campfires In Winter
Lady North - Monster Wants A Kiss
Vasquez - Thumbmusic
RE-MIXING IT UP - The Phantom Band - Women of Ghent (Miaoux Miaoux Remix)
Turtle - Lavender
Campfires In Winter - White Lights - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studios
Deathcats - Sprint
Ballboy - Merry Christmas To The Drunks, Merry Christmas To The Lovers
Das McManus - Not My Words
Honeyblood - Biro
CLASSIC TRACK - Travis - Driftwood
Frightened Rabbit - It's Christmas So We'll Stop

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Scottish Fiction - 14th December 2014 by Scottish Fiction on Mixcloud

EP Review - Machines In Heaven - Hindu Milk

Dynamic Glaswegian trio Machines In Heaven produce the kind of music that my experimental electro-dance loving self finds incredibly satisfying.  Their new EP Hindu Milk  is a cacophony of beautiful sounds, created courtesy of Davey Gwynne (production, guitar, synth, vocals), Greg Hurst (production, synths) and Connor Reid (production, guitar, synths).

The record gets down to business immediately with opener Edge Of The Middle.  Random ambient bleeps make way for surging guitar and intense melody, always with that killer beat.  This has already got me nodding my head and wanting to get the lights out and up dancing on my bedroom floor.

The light, glistening intro to the next track, the eponymous Hindu Milk,  is built up gently and magically.  I’m shaking my head in wonder now, as crunchy beats and electronically angelic vocals transcend the song to another level.  These guys know what they’re doing.  This is what electronic music should be: transformative, infectious and full of surprises.

You know you’re onto something good when you feel like you don’t even want to listen to the next song – I was inclined to save it up for later as a treat.  Voodoo Mechanics  doesn’t disappoint.  Packed with sassy guitar and sprinkled with kooky bloops, the strength of the synth carries it through to when the beat drops, releasing a whole world of chaotically organised sounds.  Another inducer of the head-shake, this one has the power to possess.

Feel Slow  is one of the band’ most popular tracks, and with a melody as captivating and beats as atmospheric as this, I can see why.  Just like in the way that composers of classical music tell a story with their music, so do the best makers of electro.  The drama created by the music alone is amazing, and it’s heightened by emotive vocals on top.

Sweetly picked strings are the foundation of the last song Holy Particles.  An altogether more chilled out vibe is offered here, and I must give the band kudos for apt song titles, as little chunks of heaven is what this track conjures.  This ambling sound gives way to a euphoric amalgam that escalates angelically.  A stream of sound that becomes almost mind-achingly reminiscent of infinity and space and the unknown.

The trio have hit the nail on the head with their own name too; these are the kinds of sounds I would be happy to hear in paradise.  Once you’ve heard their music there is no going back…

- Maura Keane

Machines In Heaven - Hindu Milk  is out now via Hot Gem Records and available to download via all good online music retailers.

Catch them live at Broadcast in Glasgow on the 17th December.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Album Review - The Xcerts - There Is Only You

Having released their second album Scatterbrain way back in 2010, it feels like we’ve been waiting an absolute age for the return of Aberdeen’s finest noise makers, The Xcerts.

Alas, the wait is finally over and the trio are back with a brand spanking new bunch of tunes, collectively known as There Is Only You.  The hype around its release was definitely high but not many could’ve anticipated the sheer raw yet perfectly polished nature of the album.  This is what happens when pure emotion meets great production.  More specifically, the astounding efforts of old pan Dave Eringa and new pal Paul Steel, the other half of frontman Murray's short lived side project, Cold Crows Dead.

After the short introduction, 2.12.12, which instantly reminds you of Murray and co’s power to evoke All Of The Feels through chord progression alone, it’s straight into Live Like This, a raw and raucous opener that washes over you with its shroud of thundering distortion.  Who knew blasting some fuzzed up noise pop could feel as cleansing and cathartic as this?

Shaking In The Water was the first we’d heard from the new album – the band had actually begun testing it out live towards the end of the Scatterbrain era.  Catchy as hell, it was the first indication we had that this new album would be a departure in sound from the previous two, embracing all the very best and most fun elements of pop music, whilst, lyrically, maintaining that dark, brooding approach.  The lesson here?  When self-loathing, why not just have a wee dance?

Now, Murray is rather adamant that the songs on this record are not directly inspired by his break-up earlier this year.  But with songs like Kick It, a loud, relentless ode to messy, drunken arguments and I Don’t Care, a slower, but just as powerful, song about impending relationship destruction, it’s quite hard to believe him.  Then there’s the small matter of the album’s title. You’re fooling no one, Murray.

After Kevin Costner, an impassioned ode to the actor, there’s a triple whammy of excellent ‘screw it, let’s dance’ songs.  Teenage Lust sees that unabashed embracing of pop, with infectious verses and a great sing-a-long chorus.  This is something the band have always had a talent for (Aberdeen 1987, anyone?) and on this record, it’s found in abundance.  Pop Song is, by no means, an exception, with its stadium sized drums and Baywatch-esque piano melodies, as Murray declares, “You haunt me like a pop song in my head.” Kids On Drugs is another slower-paced but hard-hitting number, with a huge chorus that could easily fill spaces ten times the size of the clubs they currently sell-out.

In the final tracks, things fade in volume and pace but grow, exponentially so, in sentimentality.  While She has all three members come together to deliver the bittersweet message that love is, indeed, blind, the closing title track sees Murray pour his heart out with just piano and strings.  However, it’s not long before the guitar, drums and bass are re-introduced for one final explosion of sound.  And, wow, is it a beautiful explosion.

If there was any shred of doubt that The Xcerts deserve to headline the kinds of large-scale venues in which they have supported the likes of Brand New, Twin Atlantic and, dare we say, even Biffy Clyro, There Is Only You has well and truly shattered it.  Having been together since their teens, this band are made for great things.  It’s only a matter of time before we see these become reality.

- Nina Glencross

The Xcerts - There Is Only You is out now via Raygun Music and is available on CD and limited edition picture disc here.  A deluxe version of the album (with two bonus tracks) can be downloaded from iTunes.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Randolph's Leap - Scottish Fiction Session Videos

Our latest session guest Adam Ross, is better know as the frontman of Glasgow based octet Randolph's Leap.  As well as being the band's lead singer, with his soft falsetto vocals, Adam serves as the band's chief lyricist, penning the whimiscal rhymes and playful wonderings which both amuse and probe audiences.  Joining me in the studio for a solo session, Adam played tracks from the band's album Clumsy Knot  which is out now on Lost Map Records.

Below are videos for the tracks WeathermanFoolishness Of Youth  and I Can't Dance To This Music Anymore  which were recorded at Pulse 98.4 as part of Randolph Leap's Scottish Fiction Session.  To hear the full show, including interview, check out the Scottish Fiction Podcast for 7th December 2014.

And check out this EXCLUSIVE video of Black and Blue  recorded for the Scottish Fiction blog.