Wednesday, 29 July 2015

T in the Park Diaries - AmatrArt

It might be nearly all gone and forgotten by two weekends ago over 100 artists, 80,000 people, and our good selves descent upon Strathallan Castle for Scotland's biggest music festival; T in the Park!  Once again we recruited some of the finest talent playing across the T Break stage over the weekend to keep a T in the Park Diary for Scottish Fiction.

On Saturday in the T Break stage the job of opening up fell to Glasgow five piece AmatrArt.  The band grabbed the ear of the judges with their pop laced wavey synths, and we caught up with Josh from the band for their T Diary.

Friday 10th July

Our slot was at 12:10pm on the Saturday morning so if we were leaving from Glasgow that would have meant we’d have to leave ridiculously early.  Luckily enough for us Jonathan's folks live in Comrie - about half an hour from the new site - and there was a few acts we wanted to see on the Friday including Jessie Ware, Hot Chip and The War on Drugs.  So we decided to head up on the Friday stopping off there to drop off all the gear.

We sadly missed Jessie Ware as it took some time for us to work out where we were to go to get our artists accreditation.  The rest of the night was pretty good though.  We left before the headliners to get back to Comrie at a decent time where we sat up and had some beers before heading off in the morning.

Saturday 11th July

As we were the first on, and you were to arrive a few hours before your slot, we arrived super early.  The site looks quite bizarre at this time as there’s hardly anyone about.  A few security folk and stage crew.  It also confirmed that the new site was indeed much smaller which could mostly be considered a good thing except from the occasional crush we experienced.  We had a few hours to kill before we were scheduled to play so there was quite a lot of waiting around which we mostly filled by drinking the free beer!

The stage was very impressive and was by far the biggest we’ve played on.  At a lot of the gigs we play it’s unusual to have more than one monitor mix between the band but here we had a dedicated sound guy who's job it was to control the monitor mix for us as well as the guy who did the sound out front.  That was really sweet and the gig was the best sounding for us yet.

The boys from Catholic Action informed us that a bigger stage suits our sound which was nice of them.  The gig itself was super fun, we were all pretty much smiling the whole way through it and we hope it will be the first of many festival gigs.

After our set we watched Catholic Action and then headed over to the BBC Introducing tent to catch Pinact.  Both bands were really good and it was cool to see lots of folk at each of their gigs.

By this time we were all already pretty shattered so afterwards we sat behind had the BBC Introducing tent had some beers with the bands and chilled.  The weather was still pretty decent at this point so were able to utilise the fancy beach chairs they had outside.

Later on we went to see St Vincent who was very impressive.  Probably the best guitar player in the world just now and the choreographed dance moves were pretty captivating.  The sound was quite muffled though and there was probably less people there than were at her ABC show last year which was a bit of a let down but nothing to do with her actual performance which was probably the highlight of the day (except for playing of course!)

We then went to see Alt-J who sounded great but no one could really consider it a very energetic or exciting live performance.  We finished the night catching Ded Rabbit at T Break who in contrast to Alt-J were very exciting.  It was a really nice end to the weekend.

Then began the epic that was getting out of the car park.  We left before the majority of folk but were stuck in the car park for well over three hours.  It wasn’t until half 3 in the morning that we eventually got moving.  It wasn’t all bad though, we helped push cars through the mud, told ghost stories and had dance offs with fellow festival goers.  We’re looking forward to hopefully making a return at some point in the future!

That's My Jam #72 - dune witch trails - Goldenrod Cigar

The savvy advice to all guitar based bands in Glasgow (or further afield) must be to pop into Green Door studios.  The lauded studios in Glasgow's West End seem to be behind the desk for almost all of the promising sounds being made in the 'guitar-band' circle at the moment, and this track from Dune Witch Trails joins that bunch.

Goldenrod Cigar  sets its stall out with cranked up slack guitars which create the bedrock of the track.  Atop sit passionate laid back vocals, with delightful pop harmonies chiming in amidst neat little Dinosaur Jr. style guitar bursts.  The band release this track on their new tape EP being released via Draper Street Records.  Go buy it. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Scottish Fiction Radio Show - 23rd July 2015

his week's show sees the welcome return of our Cover Lover feature with Robert Smith covering a recently released single from The Twilight Sad.  Oh and there's an interview with James from the band on the show too.  See how everything links together!

Additionally we add a new track from WOMPS to our playlist, plus there's new music from CHVRCHES, Inspector Tapehead, Earths and dune witch trails.

C Duncan - Garden
CHVRCHES - Leave a Trace
Aquafaux - See The Rain
Stillhound - See The Unseen
Inspector Tapehead - Soldier Boy
Apache Sun - The Rain That Never Came
AROUND THE WORLD - Wavves & Cloud Nothings - Come Down
PLAYLIST - Womps - Live A Little Less
PLAYLIST - Pinact - Everybody Says
PLAYLIST - CARBS - Life Drawing
Rob St. John - Young Sun
Earths - Kangerlussuaq
Shambles Miller - Neil's Song
Poor Frisco - Take What You Want
The Deadline Shakes - Phonecalls In the Bath
The Twilight Sad - Sick
T in the Park Interview - The Twilight Sad
COVER LOVER - Robert Smith - There's A Girl In The Corner
dune witch trials - Goldenrod Cigar
ULTRAS - The Path To Getting Paid

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That's My Jam #71 - Tongues - Religion

The solo project of Kill The Waves frontman Tim Kwant, Tongues has had a 100% hit rate with the tracks released online so far.  And with new track Religion  dropping today he makes it three for three.

The lusciousness of the space in the track is the real standout, mixing Jamie xx production vibes with a cathedral chanting and organs; think of Hozier's Take Me To Church  but done well.  Religion  starts off sparse and works its way into a full blown audio masterpiece.  Like a musical paint by numbers, Tongues fills the canvas with bleeps, blips and drums.

Friday, 24 July 2015

That's My Jam #70 - Stillhound - Think This Way

There's something to be said for mountain retreats when the results they produce are gorgeous electro-pop like Think This Way by Stillhound.  The track is available online now as a free download, and is the second to come from the Stillhound stable. 

Structured synths and match up perfectly with layered vocals as the quartet - Fergus Cook, Laurie Corlett-Donald, Dave Lloyd and  Cat Myers - provide a slice of dreamy electronica which captures the spirit of M83, the vastness of Boards of Canada, and the pop sensibilities of CHVRCHES.  The track is no drab imitation however, and worms into your subconscious like an old friend.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

That's My Jam #69 - Be Charlotte - Face

One of the most exciting things I find about the music of Dundee's Charlotte Brimner, released under the stage name Be Charlotte, is the potential.  Listening to Face,  and other tracks on her Soundcloud page,  I can't help but hear how this could sound in six months to a year's time.  There's room for so much expansion, development, and experimenting, partially due to Charlotte's natural talent - she raps, sings, plays, and writes - and also due to the creative input of other musicians, notably Hector Bizerk's Louie and Audrey.

None of this is to say that Face  is not already an incredible tune.  It is.  It really is.  A funky intro, sharp drumming, relate-able lyrics telling the stories of rail travel, a warm and welcoming chorus, and Kate Tempest-esque raps layered over each other, it's got so much going for it.  It's already one of my favourite new tracks, and Be Charlotte is a name to keep a sharp eye on. 

T in the Park 2015 Review - Friday

With this year being the first in 18 that T in the Park has not been held at the beloved Balado site, I think it's far to say that the question on everyone's mind as they set off for Strathallan Castle is what would the new site be like?

And it's a question with many nuances, for example what will the drive up (and later home) be like, how will parking be, what will the layout of the stages be?  It's also a question that will provide different answers to different people, so for the purposes of our T in the Park reviews of each day, I'm going to focus on the music on offer, while saving my observations on the new site for a separate blog post later on.

Which means heading straight to the Main Stage to catch the band opening the festival and at the same time bagging the ceremonious honour of being the first band to officially play Strathallan Castle.  It's perhaps no surprise to see the polished synth-pop trio Prides adorning the Main Stage.  It's a trajectory they have been on for a while, and what with their debut album The Way Back Up  also released today (10th July) it feels like the stars are aligning for the band.

The crowd who have gathered at the front of the Main Stage get it.  Prides are here for a party.  And you know what, despite the early slot, despite the light drizzle, and despite the distinct lack of festival atmosphere, that's exactly what they achieve.  With tracks like Higher Love,  opener Out of the Blue,  and set closer Messiah  getting the full sing-a-long treatment, the obligatory balloons, and the crowd jumping and clapping along, it's a great start to the festivities.  What I particularly liked about Prides billing was that it was a Scottish act opening the Main Stage (something which was repeated with The LaFontaines on Saturday).  For the three guys on stage, who have collectively been to T in the Park 22 times between them, to open Scotland's biggest music festival, whether you like Prides or not, it shows the festival recognising the talent on it's own doorstep.

Next up it's over to the King Tut's Tent to see The Twilight Sad play practically the same booking they had last year.  With the success and rejuvenation that Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave  has had for the band, it's perhaps a no-brainer to bring them back for another run at the festival crowd. 

Opening with There's A Girl In The Corner  lead singer James Graham is deep into his focused on-stage performance.  Throwing himself about with the belief of a man who knows his band and his music were built for stages like these and bigger.  Much of the set comes from the aforementioned album, but there's always a special place reserved for the ear-splitting I Became A Prostitute,  and the anthemic Cold Days From The Birdhouse,  which closes the set. 

Perhaps ear-splitting isn't the best description in this particular case, as the noise levels do seem - perhaps forcibly - reduced compared with past Sad gigs I've been to.  Such is the case with festivals slots however, and in all honesty it doesn't take away from what is a impassioned performance.  I had the pleasure of speaking with James afterwards and he extolled the virtues of letting your music do the talking.  As the tent got busier and busier during each track it's clear a lot of people are listening to what The Twilight Sad have to say.

After a brief bit of downtime, and the severe displeasure of having Duke Dumont attack my senses, I gathered again in the King Tut's Tent for Hot Chip.  I've not seen the band in a good few years - okay since they toured in support of 2008's Made In The Dark - so I was brimming with anticipation for this one.  So were thousands of others as the tent was suitably packed for one of the finest, and most consistent, indietronica bands of the last decade.

Yet while it was busy there was is a noticeable lull in atmosphere.  Personally I find it hard to pin that on the band, as they are flawless in their collective wizardry, and synchronized dance moves, dipping into their hit-laden back catalogue for tracks like Ready For The Floor  and I Feel Better.  No instead it feels like the crowd are - depressingly - gathering in anticipation of Fatboy Slim.  And then it hits me.  Over and Over  came out NINE years ago.  Whereas I was front and centre clubbing when the track dropped, for many 'newbies' in the crowd it was a hit from yesteryear.  God I'm old.  That feeling is forgotten though when the cowbell strikes and we all start to get "laid back".  The track is the band's opus and they use it to ignite the crowd into a frenzy with Joe Goddard shouting the infamous T in the Park chant from the stage.  He knows what he's doing that man.

Finishing their set - as they did at Glastonbury - with an incredible cover of Springsteen's Dancing In The Dark  which almost unnoticeably morphs into All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem is a stroke of genius.  At least to me and the other appreciative fans around me.  For many of the fresh-faced youngsters it's a tribute lost on them.  Cé la vie.

If the crowd at Hot Chip not appreciating the impromptu cover of the Boss annoyed me, then it was only a precursor to the feelings I'd harbour as we moved over to the BBC Three / Radio 1 Stage to catch American troubadours The War On Drugs.

With their album Lost In The Dream  earning plaudits the world over - the band found themselves rather bizarrely nominated for a Brit Award - their booking for the festival is well earned.  But while I applaud the DF Concerts team for snapping up the band, questions have to be asked about their scheduling between David Guetta and Afrojack.

The resulting quandary is a crowd made up of those looking to enjoy Adam Granduciel's tales of American woe, steeped in the traditions of Springsteen, Dylan, and Petty, those leaving from Afrojack, and those looking to get prime placing for headliner David Guetta.

Unlike in Hot Chip where the lack of appreciation seemed more generational than anything else, this setting is a straight up musical mismatch.  The apathy, and in some audible cases outright disdain, of large swathes of the crowd makes the whole set rather unenjoyable.  Which takes nothing away from the musicianship and professionalism of the band, who give it their all, either oblivious to the crowd or in defiance of them.  As much as I can pick them out highlights include Under The Pressure  and Red Eyes  both of which induce in me the vast potential of the open American highway.

Which brings me to headliner time.  A tough choice I'm sure you'll agree.  Guetta, Kasabian or Mark Ronson are the acts the festival organisers have booked for the main stages.  Luckily there's always another way.

I spoke already about how good it was to see Scottish acts open the Main Stage.  It was equally great to see Hector Bizerk being given the opportunity to close the Transmission Stage.  The band don't need any introductions around these parts, and in my mind this was lining up to be a highlight of the weekend.

Never ones to disappoint Hector delivered on expectations plus some.  From the moment Louie swaggered out on stage, casually mentioning to the crowd that this is indeed a headline slot at T in the Park the crowd are with him every beat, rap and bassline of the way.

Let's not pretend the tent was bursting at the seams.  It wasn't.  But Hector Bizerk shouldn't see this as a negative rather than a reality of festival puntery.  What should be more inspiring is those who came into the tent and left dyed in the wool Hector Bizerk followers.  Because on the strength of their set, anyone not already converted to the hip-hop band's music, was singing their praises after.

As for highlights?  Where to start.  Tracks Festival BoyRust Cohle,  and Skin and Bone  from their latest EP are fresh and showcase the band in their current thinking.  Older anthems like Bury The Hatchet  and Colombus  also provoke en masse sing-a-longs making it hard to think when the band can ever drop these tracks from their setlist!  There's an unexpected treat as the band perform a 'festival' cover of Blur's Song 2  to the delight of the crowd.

And that is that.  Day one of T in the Park done.  Hector Bizerk have crowned a day of great music, but questionable crowds.

- Words by Neil Wilson / Pictures by Bill Gray