Thursday, 23 October 2014

Single Review - Alansmithee (feat. Marklar) - Checking Out

Rain drops.  Cosy interior.  The mood is set.  Progressively, the dashing voices fill your head.  Now you are floating, relaxed and careless.  It is as if you are dreaming or hallucinating, you can't tell the difference by now.  That's what Alansmithee is all about.

Hailing from Livingston, the band comprise four lo-fi geniuses.  Their music is a game of sounds and colours that is both refreshing and surreal.  We are transported by the atmospheric feel of their songs and seduced by their melancholic melodies.

It revisits the origins of alternative music and undeniably draws its inspirations from bands such as Joy Division and Velvet Underground.  But Alansmithee have a unique personality and an usual subtle charm.

In collaboration with the off-the-wall Marklar, Checking Out is an alternative trip to the meanders of your mind.  Ingeniously written, its psychedelic tones and echo voices will leave you breathless.  It starts slowly, carefully, then it intensifies.  It becomes powerful to the point of being completely captivating, thanks to the smooth pace and distorted sound of the guitar.

It praises a certain freedom, a bold lightness but, “It's alright,” as the spellbinding voices whisper to you...

Alansmithee is a band that everyone must definitely check out.

Alexandra Andréoli

Alansmithee (feat. Marklar) - Checking Out is out now on via Flowers in the Dustbin and is available to download for free here.

EP Review - Pronto Mama - Niche Market

Pronto Mama are a relaxed and cheerful band who play incredibly lively music.  Their sound is an energetic and tasty ballade that will put you in a good mood and fill your heart with the innocence you lost a while ago.

Goose Step, the first song of Niche Market, sets the tone of the EP.  It has good rhythm, a melodic and joyful character, with a pop aftertaste that does not prevent the band from bringing out a certain rock side.

Remission is the soft touch of this EP, a colourful and hearty melody, which, thanks to the sounds of trombone and trumpet, wraps 4 minutes of intense and passionate music.  With this song, Pronto Mama warms the heart and will definitely be your love at first listen.

Rubber holds a groovy and indie-rock tune which creates the perfect anthem.  Well thought out and brilliantly put together, the instrumental and the voices constitute a powerful combination.

Surrogate Mama and You're Only Human testify of the capacity of Pronto Mama to be present on all fronts.  More energetic and punchier, they are both a mix of indie, rock, alternative and folk music.

Polyrhythmic is the strength of this six piece collective, who are in complete harmony with their instruments.

Alexandra Andréoli

Pronto Mama - Niche Market is out now on Instinctive Racoon Records and is available on download and CD format here.

The band play what is set to be their last Glasgow headline show at the Old Hairdressers on Friday 7th November 2014.  Get tickets here.

Album Review - PAWS - Youth Culture Forever

Compared with their first opus, Cokefloat, which was praised for its true punk-rock vibes, Youth Culture Forever, PAWS' second album, is a more mature approach to life and its drama.

For starters, Erreur Humaine is a reflection on the previous conflicted feelings expressed in Cokefloat.  It provokes anxiety and portrays an unwillingness to enter adulthood, which ultimately sets the mood for the entire album.  After all, what does Youth Culture Forever mean, if not nostalgia?

Tongues is probably one of the catchiest songs of the album and has one of the most cheerful rhythms.  It tends towards the pop-rock side of their repertoire which is quite refreshing.  Later on, you will find the same nonchalant spirit in Owls Talons Clenching My Heart.

By contrast, Someone New expresses a restless bitterness.  Here, the insistent rumble of guitars reminds us of their original music and their punk-indie-rock spirit.  Give Up has the same juvenile side, with its claim that “it's unfair” and is definitely an anthem to youth and rebellion.

Alone is a melancholic heartfelt cry that really makes you feel alone.  YCF in the same painful manner, is quite special too.  Here, no rumble, just the naked sound of guitar and a hoarse voice to accurately reflect the powerful lyrics.

By skilfully using their musical strengths in An Honest Romance, PAWS have found the perfect balance between punk, rock and pop music.  The lyrics and the rhythm combined together with the mix of musical genres offer a brilliant and harmonious sound overall.  Hence, the importance of being – sometimes – earnest in music.

Narcissist, Let's All Let Go and Great Bear are three songs of pure emotion and raw music.  They are vibrant, unexpected and sow confusion but in an effective way.  They bring out a sort of animal-like touch in this album and make you want to break loose and knock down some walls.

Finally, with War Cry, the band ends the album on both an absorbing and alienating vibe.  This battle hymn lasts for almost 12 minutes, but it is not a simple tune.  It is a full-fledged story, a feeling in itself.  PAWS prove once again that they master the art of quiet and loud, of pain and relief. They prove that no genre is a burden and every resource provided needs to be used.

With album number two, PAWS are undeniably leaving their mark on alternative music history.

- Alexandra Andréoli

PAWS - Youth Culture Forever is out now on FatCat Records and is available on download, CD and limited edition vinyl here. The band are currently on tour in the USA, with a series of concerts in New York.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

INTERVIEW: Johnny Lynch - Lost Map: One Year On

For someone with his fingers in so many creative pies, Johnny Lynch; a.k.a The Pictish Trail, a.k.a. head honcho at Lost Map Records; is one laid back man.  It's over a year since Lynch, along with the active members of the 'Fence Collective' splintered from the Fife based label of over 15 years, and struck out on their own trail.  It's for this reason that I'm chatting with Lynch; him holed up in Stirling following a show at the Marcobert Arts Centre, me in a cosy yet glitchy radio studio on Glasgow's Southside.

"It was really good yeah" opines Johnny as I ask him how the previous night's antics had gone down.  "The crowd was lovely and the set went down really well.  And it was a beautiful venue as well"  The gig was part of Stirling's Fringe and was a Lost Map showcase, where The Pictish Trail and members of the label played stripped down acoustic sets.  Was that gig then designed specifically to mark one year of Lost Map as a label?

"No not really" answers Johnny.  "It's strange because we announced the new label at the Green Man Festival last year (August 14th 2013), and I found myself down there again this year, so that was kind of fitting.  We are planning however to mark the year with a new feature on our website, as well as some new music and a video from our Howlin' Fling festival."  I'm also assured that Johnny, and fellow label organisers Kate Canaveral and Malcolm Jack, are making plans for Lost Map's second year.

In some ways Lost Map is a continuation of what Fence Records was in its latter years.  Lost Map's roster includes Kid Canaveral, eagleowl, Monoganon, Seamus Fogarty, Rozi Plain, and of course The Pictish Trail.  The label also continues the tradition of hosting its own secluded festivals and gigs, as well as a love for unusual releases.  Where Johnny has looked to differentiate from Fence is the latter's perceived tendency to veer towards singer-songwriters. 

"I mean I've no problem with singer-songwriters, it's what I do myself.  But I felt that by signing Tuff Love, we were really staking a claim that Lost Map isn't purely for bearded songwriters."

Tuff Love, the fuzzy three-piece championed by the likes of Ally McCrae and Jen Long, were the first 'new' act to Lost Map, who hadn't been associated with Fence before.  Lost Map approached the band and offered to work with them, essentially pushing the band and their music out to the wider public, a plan which has seen debut EP Junk  released earlier this year as well as numerous gigs across the UK.

Other notable releases seen on Lost Map this year have been a re-release of eagleowl's album This Silent YearF A M I L Y  by Monoganon; which had been planned for release on Fence; and the debut album from indie-folk prodigies Randolph's Leap.  I ask how Lost Map came to release Clumsy Knot,  an album which has been eagerly awaited by local music fans for some time now.

"Well I had been in talks with Randolph's Leap for a while about putting out an album.  We released Hermit  on Fence, and I just think that Adam [Ross - lead singer of RL] is a really special songwriter.  It just pours out of him and he's a really exciting guy to be involved with."

Another new act to be signed to the Lost Map roster are Insect Heroes, whose album Apocalypso  was released earlier this month.  Having known George Thomas, the man behind Insect Heroes, for a number of years. Johnny felt that Lost Map could give Apocalypso  the release it deserved.  "When I first heard the album [Apocalypso  was self released in 2013] I thought 'Oh my God, this is amazing!'  It's pop music that is really fun, and George was doing it all himself, which I know can be really daunting and exhausting.  So when we signed the band to the label, I felt that re-releasing the album on vinyl was a good introduction to their music.  Plus it's kind of an endorsement to have your music released on vinyl.  I mean there's still an audience who want a tangible product.  As an artist having your album out on vinyl is a good expression of your music.  It pays the artist respect I think."

The label have also continued Fence's love of the physical product, with all releases thus far being granted a vinyl release, plus a continuation of the Postcard singles, as well as the elusive Lost Cat Cassettes. 

"They are secret cassettes, which are not listed on our website" enthuses Johnny.  "We've done three Lost Cat's [with eagleowl & Woodpigeon, Monoganon, and Monogan and WeGoda] and they are great because there's a sense of discovery with them.  We don't list them on the site and they are only available in actual record shops, meaning they are harder to get.  There's maybe a sense of achievement if you find one, which I think is important for the appreciation of music.  Not that it's incredibly difficult to find them mind you!"  Each Lost Cat tape contains exclusive tracks from Lost Map artists, and, highlighting Johnny's sense of fun and word play, the artwork is a genuine lost cat poster. 

"Yeah we just took some posters off the street to use as art work" laughs Johnny.  "Actually I've secretly been kidnapping cats, just so their owners will put up posters which we can then steal!  What happened to the cats?  Oh we used them as food at the Howlin' Fling.  It's the secret life of a record label boss; kidnapping and killing cats!

As we talk, and uncontrollably laugh, it's clear why Johnny Lynch is able to run Lost Map as a close knit family rather than an ‘at distance’ label.  Johnny exudes confidence and warmth, laughing throughout our chat, and giving out the sense that he genuinely loves the music and artists he's so closely involved with.  I ask him if that sense of community is an important ethos to the label.

"One of the things I've tried to do is to be as involved with the music as much as each artist wants me to be.  I will make suggestions and changes, but I've already got 100% belief in all the releases already."  I ask if Johnny had a sense of where he wanted the label to go when he started to which he verbally shrugs his shoulders.  "There were no set plans; however I wanted to work with people that I like, and with music that I like.  I'm chuffed with how it's gone, and it's largely due to trusting my gut."

That sense of community seeps beyond the label collective and into the fans as well, with events such as Howlin' Fling on the label's spiritual home of the Isle of Eigg developing a sense of togetherness and showcasing all the label's wares at the same time.  It's an ethos which Johnny is keen to pass onto the bands, and has seen Randolph's Leap host their inaugural I Can't Dance ToThis Music event, while Kid Canaveral's Baubles now rolls into its fifth year.  Elsewhere eagleowl host a night branded Irregular Owl Movements, further showcasing the lack of taking things too seriously at Lost Map.

"It brings fans together" states Johnny.  "Ideally I'd like all our artists to curate their own events and build things outside of just their recorded music, whether that's live or online.  Each act will express themselves differently, but I feel it gives the artists a lot more involvement" 

Unwittingly that may have been an insight into why Fence fell apart, however it's clear that with Lost Map, despite professing otherwise, there's a clear plan ahead for Johnny and the team.  Build each act up, encourage them to take on board other duties, and in a way help them learn the way that Johnny himself learned at Fence.  It's certainly worked for him, as this year's reissue of Secret Soundz Vol 1 & 2  on Moshi Moshi Records shows.  It's important to remember that whilst running a label, Lynch is still a writing, performing and touring artist in his own right, and the "seal of approval" from Moshi gave him a self-admitted confidence boost.

"I was chuffed when they took the record on board, and it's also interesting to see how they do things, which is completely different from Lost Map."  Is there another Pictish Trail album in the works I ask?  "I'm currently working on the next record.  I've got lots of ideas, and Moshi are very supportive.”

So what lies ahead for Lost Map?  Well as you'll guess of course there's things under wraps that can't yet be disclosed, but Johnny confirms there's a few records lined up for 2015, and that the plan remains to work with the artists on the roster already.  More of the same seemingly, although don't write out anything just yet.

"If an amazing record comes our way, then yeah we'll look at it.  But if not, we'll stick with what we have, getting our artists more involved and hopefully a lot more aware of their surroundings too."

- Neil Wilson
For more about Lost Map, and to buy any of their releases check out

Lost Map celebrated its first year anniversary on 14th August 2014, and has released material from Randolph's Leap, Monoganon, eagleowl, Insect Heroes, Tuff Love, Seamus Fogarty and Kid Canaveral.  To celebrate the label have unveiled Clumps, a new section on their website which promises a mix of podcasts, photos, gossip and other stuff.  Clumps kicks off with Lost Map label sampler, and a short film; by The Forest Of Black; about the legendary Howlin' Fling festival.

Album Review - Insect Heroes - Apocalypso

Apocalypso  is the latest release from the Lost Map label, and their first debut album proper.  Insect Heroes set the tone for their album with the introduction.  What at first sounds like seagulls on a distant beach reveals itself to be hawking synths, which is then playfully followed with the lines "welcome to the modern age, welcome to the end of days."  The band are almost a snapshot of current pop coming out of Scotland: lo-fi, undeniably quirky, a melodic nod to the '60's, a hard pull to the beach and a heavy dose of charm.  The songs on offer here are so sun stroked that it feels almost wrong to be released in October.

The voice and general tone of the album sits in a similar territory to label operator, The Pictish Trail, although the overall production is a lot more electronic and playful, whilst still being cleverly put together in terms of arrangements and melodies.  The vocals are, in places, hushed in a similar way to Yusuf Azak, with the songs displaying the infectious summery pop of Now Wakes The Sea.  The band draws on a variety of influences and manages to bring them together to a coherent sonic imprint.  Animal Collective, at their most Beach Boys, are a clear influence, there are elements of Americana, with Spacesuit  sounding like a lo-fi pop take on Kurt Vile and there are even nods to carnival music beyond the album’s title, although more in its general upbeat and feel good tone rather than musically.

The lyrics are mostly ridiculous and brilliant alongside the music.  The chorus for Fabulous  is four repetitions of the line "tonight I’m fooking fabulous"  while Beautiful World  lists a number of things that are beautiful before exclaiming "I’m so happy I could die" with this format making up the entire song.  This simplistic take adds towards the charming naivety and innocence of the album, suggest that Insect Heroes are not trying to be anything other than themselves.

There are two well placed quieter and slightly more intimate moments on the album, Marionette  and Wooden Heart,  that, along with brief interlude Insect Heroes Theme  and wind down Good Night,  help to break the album out ensuring all the optimism doesn’t get fatiguing.  The consistently upbeat and optimistic feel throughout the album is endlessly endearing and makes this a hugely revisitable listen which, due to its quirky nature in terms of instrumentation and production, uncovers more on every listen, all while the melodies are engrained in your brain.  If only this was released in May, it would have been the perfect soundtrack to the summer.

- Ashley Leiper

Insect Heroes - Apocalypso  is out now via Lost Map Records and can be purchased on CD and vinyl here.

We're Only Here For The Banter - Tetra

Popping up on Bar Bloc's Ensemble  compilation last month is a good way to catch the attention of music fans.  Since then this week's 'banter' guests Tetra have released their eponymous debut EP and launched it with a gig at Bar Bloc.  Time to find out more.

Hello, how the devil are you?

We're great thanks, yourself?

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

I guess you could say we're an alternative rock band with some electronic elements but when people ask us that question we usually just look at each other in bemusement and shrug our shoulders!  As far as influences, we all have different favourites with the common threads being bands like Battles, MGMT, Everything Everything and Radiohead.  Jordan does have quite an unhealthy obsession with Haim though and Lynas is usually singing some soul, funk or jazz song that he's discovered that week.

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

Most of the time it starts with Lynas writing the chord progressions and structure of the song, recording it and emailing it to the rest of us and we take it into the studio and work on it from there, you'll often see Lynas freak out with joy and fall to the floor when he hears Jay's guitar part or Jordan's beat over it for the first time!

What could we expect to see from a live show?

A loud, fun, energetic and frantic show!  That's how it feels for us on stage anyway.

Tell us about your new EP Tetra.

It's our debut EP and it's been a long time coming to be honest!  Some of the tracks on it are around two years old so its great to finally have it out there.  It was recorded with Michael Butler at Bare Calf Studios and we had a lot of fun making it.  Also it's free to download so go have a listen!

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

We are playing a fundraiser gig in Broadcast on the 2nd of November for our friend who is doing a 6 day trek to Machu Picchu all in aid of Make-A-Wish Foundation, so that should be pretty cool!

We are also taking part in Kenny's Music Battle Of The Bands competition, which takes place in BOX on the 22nd of November so we are hoping to do well in that!

Apart from that we are just going to keep writing new stuff and look towards hopefully releasing some new material in early 2015!

What are you listening to at the moment?

Thundercat - Oh Sheit, It's X! (Brainfeeder)

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

A dyslexic man walks into a Bra.....

Check out more from Tetra

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Monday, 20 October 2014

Scottish Fiction Presents: Book Group, Behold The Old Bear, and Shambles Miller

It's been a while since the last Scottish Fiction Presents gig, but boy what a way to make a comeback!  I'm delighted to officially announce that on Thursday, 20th November at The Cellar on Queen Street, Glasgow the next Scottish Fiction Presents gig will take place. 

And topping our bill are the glorious Book Group, one of the finest Edinburgh bands plying their trade at the moment, with fuzzy guitars, a fulsome rhythm section all squeezed in with some infectious pop hooks.  Live, the band always provide an emphatic performance, bombing anthems out across the crowd.  Keep an eye out for megaphones and wandering frontmen!

Support comes from quirky alt-pop Behold, The Old Bear, fresh from their split cassette release via Scottish Fiction for Cassette Store Day, and everyone's favourite singer-songwriter; Shambles Miller.

Tickets are on sale NOW for those of you with an eye for a bargain as if you buy in advance online you'll get a ticket for the knock down price of £5 right here.  Otherwise, tickets are £6 on the door.

And for those with their social lives integrated to Facebook, go on and invite yourself.

See you there!