Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Album Review - Very Very Small Inclusions - Dispersions

Dominated by a brooding twin-peaked ridge, a small house sits uncomfortably right of centre, and a low-lying rainbow crosses overhead.  The image chosen by the Glasgow-based duo Very Very Small Inclusions (VVSI) for their debut release, Dispersions,  is striking but painfully bleak and is fresh in the mind of the listener as the album opens with modern plainsong. 

Stuttered Silence  is cryptic, dark and slow-paced.  The harmonies are on point and crisp.  The sobering lyrics "lives left bare and cold" and "fresh out of the womb, straight into the tomb" set an early marker that VVSI are not reluctant to touch on darker themes.  Winter Solstice  follows and is equally measured.  Birdsong  acts as the backdrop to a four-four driven bass line and guitar melody that gradually build-up to the verse.  Claps and reverberations are added before the echoing vocal harmonies take emphasis once again.  Two standout moments on this track include a subtle dropped beat halfway through the second verse and the rolling drum fills embedded into the main rhythm. AΔB  serves as one of the album’s highlights.  The changes in key and melody shortly after the two minute mark are stunning and the reverse tape-looping (a recurring technique never over-employed), muted bass, tapping woodclaps and vocal outro are unorthodox and refreshing.

The ticking of a grandfather clock and crackling logs introduce the counterpoint and retro-pop-sounding Fire Fire.  A syncopated punchy rhythm and bass guitar riff act as a lead-in and the accented vocals, not overdubbed and positioned low in the mix, are slightly and deliberately out of synch.  The bass drum is heavier on this track.  Another album high point follows in the form of Cyclonic.  Brass and heavy drum production predominate in this track and the vocals get louder and more urgent as the track progresses.  Degraded  is more indulgent and boasts traditional rock guitar and drum rhythms, which play in a loop.  The open analogue radio samples add a further dimension.

Accelerato heartbeating opens On The Ceiling  and the dark and muffled vocal harmonies are accompanied by an analogue synth. The interspersed polyphony and shoegaze-inspired guitar lend a subtle hint to the listener on the group’s influences.  This track is a real treat for button-pushing technicians as VVSI combine low filters, complex melodies and changing rhythms to dramatic effect.  Sun Shards  is a heavy bass mix which borrows elements from the Detroit and Club House scenes as well as from the all-but-extinct genre, trance (the background bleeping melody is reminiscent of the Russian group PPK).  The vocals work well with the music and the acoustic drum fill halfway is comparable to the French nu-disco duo, Cassius.  Rain Rain  follows and is more melodic.  The drums are the highlight on this track – the heavy tom-toms are complimented by sliding and tapping drum sticks.  The sounds are pure and acoustic and the vocals are airy, background and compliment the strings and nature samples.  The change in key in the track’s latter half (similar to AΔB) serves as a nice link within the album and is noteworthy.

N!  is the final track and a hidden highlight.  The machine-inspired reverse melody is very reminiscent of the early work of dubstep pioneer Shackleton.  This comparison is fully justified by the dark bell effects that surface a third of the way into the song, and then later in a more demonic and rhythmic form.  The vocals are heavily altered and a strong house beat ensues.  The outro builds into a crescendo of guitar, vocals and drums.  The album is then complete.

Dispersions  is not perfect, but it was never meant to be.  Drawing on a broad range of influences, the cross-genre feel and re-examination of certain past-sounds are definitely strong points.  The line "forward’s not the only way", sung on the second track Winter Solstice,  is fitting in this respect.

The themes that surface throughout the album’s length are many and the listener is drawn into opposing worlds of introspection and warmth.  The contrast is deliberate and mirrors the image of the rainbow against the backdrop of the darkened sky.  Rainbows are nature’s visual consequence of science, the product of light rays refracting into water droplets.  The rays reflects internally before refracting out, creating that all so familiar array of colour.  VVSI look inwards throughout and the ideas and sounds that emerge are equally bold and unassuming.

- Andrew Kidd

Very Very Small Inclusions - Dispersions  is out now and is available here.

Video - Pinact - Anxiety

Fuzzy duo Pinact have unveiled the video for their new track Anxiety  which is the first track taken from their forthcoming debut album Stand Still and Rot.  The album will be released via Kanine Records on 19th May and has been produced by Hookworms' MJ. 

With a door opening nod to Joy Division, the video then showcases the band at their finest; noisy, rowdy and melodic as frontman Corrie Gilles throws himself about and drummer Chris McCrory thrashes and crashes.

We're Only Here For The Banter - Henry & Fleetwood

Collaborative duos are interesting creatures.  Generally speaking they tend to draw artists from different ends of the musical spectrum together, and Henry & Fleetwood are no different.  Comprising of Gillian Fleetwood, harpist with The State Broadcasters, and Martin John Henry, singer and guitarist with De Rosa, the duo are releasing their debut EP via Olive Grove Records next month.  I caught with the duo to find out more.

Hello! How the devil are you?

Gillian Fleetwood: Very well, thanks.  Hope all is well with you too.

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

GF: We are from quite different backgrounds, which is part of what we enjoy about the duo.  I cut my teeth on traditional Scottish folk but there's a lot of common ground in that we're both interested in relationships between music and landscape.

Martin Henry: I've always been involved in indie-rock based projects, like my band De Rosa, so I was looking to collaborate with someone of a different background that I could learn from.  I was really fortunate to meet Gill.  The influences on my songwriting aren't always musical.  I like a lot of visual art, mainly photography.  I love the accent and language of Lanarkshire, and the things that the people around me say and do.

How did Henry & Fleetwood come together?

GF: We first met on tour round about 2011 when Martin was promoting The Other Half of Everything.  He came along as touring support for Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel while I was in her band so we'd find ourselves in a bus in Italy or Germany sharing mutual appreciation for loads of the same Scottish bands like The Blue Nile, Cocteau Twins, Michael Marra...  the list goes on and on.  Playing and writing together seemed like a natural next project.

MH: Yeah, the touring experience can be made really special when you form new ties with good people.  That tour was one of the greatest experiences I've had while making music, and mainly for the parts between shows – enjoying food and music with Gill, Agnes and a great Canadian band called Evening Hymns.  It definitely gave our project a solid foundation of friendship and the sheer joy of musical endeavour.

Tell us about your EP On The Forest Floor

GF: Birth, wildness, solitude and partnership are important.  Outdoors, space and playfulness are also themes we return to frequently and I think this helps us rein in and find focus.

MH: I think we've captured a mood, an atmosphere of wilderness or wildness, with ideas of threat and comfort as a part of that.  I think there's a yearning for the natural in there, and an awareness of its violence and beauty.  People who spend time in the most remote parts of Scotland will hopefully recognise this feeling.

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

GF: We are figuring that out as we go along and in part that's why we released the EP as it is.  We wrote that quite largely by email as Martin was living in England for a couple of years and are both really busy with other things, but we were really lucky in getting to go away on a residency last summer where we were given a week to figure out how to work and how best to make this what we want so the new songs are quite different from the EP.  Releasing the first batch as they are is a stepping off point.   We improvise a lot though.  Loads of jams.  It's really fun, but we both have rubbish memories, so we have to record ideas a lot too or we'd happily jam for hours but have nothing concrete at the end of it.

MH: My memory is just awful.  I've forgotten to record entire songs that should have been released on albums I've put out. S o I record everything and I've started keeping notes recently too.  I think this project is the first where I've written in such close partnership throughout the whole process.  With De Rosa, I write on my own and then bring demos to the band for development.  So writing from scratch with Gill is something new and really interesting for me, whether it's jamming around or writing lyrics and parts while drinking copious amounts of tea.  The social aspect of a partnership really helps the creative process - just chatting about music, creativity, what we're interested in doing with the project.

You're playing a launch show on April 11th. What could we expect to see from a live show?

GF: I'll be singing and playing harp, synth, and pedals.  We're trying to keep things sparse.

MH: The live setup is still evolving, with me playing guitar, bass, loop pedals and singing.  I agree that we're both really interested in slowness and texture, creating an atmosphere.  It's a challenge to make these sounds with just two people, but we're having fun figuring it out.  We're still very much in the middle of writing our album with that in mind.  The EP has a full band sound, but we've been trying to interpret that so that we can play versions as a duo.

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

GF: Writing and recording the full album.  We're planning a video for On the Forest Floor  at the moment too.

MH: Yeah definitely promoting the EP then writing and recording our first album as a priority. We're also looking to play in new contexts to new audiences.

What are you listening to at the moment?

GF: The new Grouper album, the new D'Angelo album, loads of Tom Waits, I've just been revisiting Chicken Skin Music Ry Cooder which is amazing...  Ian Carr and Simon Thoumire made a brilliant album last year called He Thinks He's Invisible  which blows my socks off.

MH: I've been listening to Colleen, also Grouper, and Glenn Branca.

Check out more from Henry & Fleetwood

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Monday, 30 March 2015

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 30th March 2015

Another week, another dose of Scottish Fiction to serve up.  Get some electronica with new tracks from Django Django and Babe, enjoy some folk and singer-songwriter fare with new ones from Lidh and Siobhan Wilson, and dip into more DIY alt-rock with Polarnecks and The Bellybuttons.  And more.  There's always more.  Enjoy!

The Van T's - Daisy
Dearness - Thaw
Polarnecks - Awake
Errors - Lease of Life
Babe - The Warbling
Passion Pusher - Home
COVER LOVER - Tuff Love - Lovely Day
Amelia Bayler - Internet Friends
Pennycress - Heavy Heart
Call To Mind - Recovery
Django Django - Reflections
Night Noise Team - High Line
Washed - Cinders
Watchfires - The Northern Lights
The Bellybuttons - Red Wing
dune witch trails - gold bar faucet tap
Depeche Choad - Pube Village
BEAM - Hex
Siobhan Wilson - Say It's True
Lidh - Murmur
RE-MIXING IT UP - Charlotte Brimner - Face (Hector Bizerk Remix)
C Duncan - Here To There
Art of the Memory Palace - La Lumiere
Henry and Fleetwood - Forestry

Subscribe/listen to the podcast via iTunes.

Connect with us and submit any submissions via:
Facebook - www.facebook.com/thisisscottishfiction
Twitter - twitter.com/scotfiction984
E-mail - scottishfiction@mail.com

That's My Jam #57 - Babe - The Warbling

omplete with '80's vibes, and spacious electro-pop Babe returning with a new EP, The Hereaftergo'ers,  due out on Moshi Moshi on 27th April.  The EP follows their 2014 album Volery Flighty  and sees the band take a turn into electronica with a more experimental approach to these songs.

Lead track The Warbling,  possesses an onomatopoeic quality with the synth heavy intro trilling harshly.  Lead singer Gerard Black's soaring vocals rise above the quivering guitars, creating an almost out of body listening experience.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

That's My Jam #56 - Turtle - Silent Weapon

Jon Cooper, the real name behind the musical moniker of Turtle, has been causing a bit of a frenzy amongst muso types with his spacious and luscious electronic music.  The trend continues with Silent Weapons  a track off his forthcoming second EP Colours.

Featuring whispy vocals, complete with mysterious lyrics, atop hazy electronica, the track really ignites in the final third with pulsing synths and floating guitars whirling round together in a seductive mating ritual.  It's a different dimension to the music of Turtle, intelligent and emotional leaving a real embedded connection with the listener.

Album Review - Bronto Skylift - Date With A Ghoul

Who knew that just two guys could create such a ruckus?  It's certainly not a challenge for Iain Stewart and Niall Strachan, who both impressively screech and crash about in Bronto Skylift's Date With A Ghoul.  In fact it's a walk in the park.

The album is the Glasgow duo's second full length album.  Recorded at Chem19 in Glasgow and mastered by Steven Ward, it's the follow up to 2010's The White Crow.

Despite losing the rawness that accompanied their debut, Date With A Ghoul  is a full on heavy record, with comparisons to Nirvana's Bleach  not far from the mark, with the droning simple chord changes on Shark  drawing similarities.  Although, be warned as there’s none of that loud/quiet dynamic carry on.  Your ears are dragged through the record with no rest bite.

There is a little humour thrown in amongst the noise.  For example Shit Hoody  could be about a poor fashion choice or a day trip to the seaside.  Who knows?  The lyrics are indiscernible.

The simple punk ethos is present.  Short tracks with simple chord changes layered with bawling vocals.  The amount of energy Strachan and Stewart cite tires the listener by well, just listening.  A live show is assumingly their weekly work out.

- Holly Callender

Bronto Skylift - Date With A Ghoul  is self released and available here.  Catch the band at Henry's Cellar Bar, Edinburgh on 22nd May.