Going underground: the best new independent and DIY releases in Scotland
- Stewart Smith
- 5 September 2018
Food People / Vetch
We dig out some of the best underground, DIY and self-released music currently coming out of the Scottish music scene
Drawn To Water
Drawn To Water ★★★☆☆
A new quartet from the ranks of Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, Drawn to Water features Raymond MacDonald on alto saxophone, Jer Reid on guitar, Una McGlone on double bass, and Stu Brown on drums. Taped live at Glasgow's Old Hairdressers in July 2016, the first three tracks give a clear sense of the musicians establishing lines of communication. An initial flourish of bright guitar and expressive sax slips into moody post-rock abstraction, with McGlone's bowed bass sketching grainy charcoal lines over muted percussion. The rhythm section develops a slow ambient throb, their gathering momentum encouraging MacDonald to rise from the depths with spiralling Evan Parker-like loops. Brown rumbles with intent, before pulling back to give the other musicians the space to explore more delicate textures; McGlone's lilting bass figures are particularly affecting. 'Colder-Colder Warmer-Warmer' brings the skronk and clang, while the closing 'Softening', recorded at the Glad Café, belies its title with a rollicking percussion climax.
Otherworldly sonics and fragmented poetry from the trio of Lila Matsumoto, Matthew Hamblin and Greg Thomas, three musician/artist/writers with strong links to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The creeping pulse of 'Bone Moon' supports a lunar viola figure and keening skirls of flute, before we dive into the murky interlude of 'Ditch', its grimly surreal poetics set to droning medieval folk. This dissolves into an uncanny realm of spectral viola loops and wraithlike vocal effects, followed by an unsettlingly dry Dictaphone account of some mysterious case. A long passage of muttering voices and ominous drones is suggestive of Twin Peaks: The Return transplanted to the dark moors of David Peace's Red Riding novels, while 'Long Acre' is an engrossing DIY take on the epic grandeur of Popol Vuh's Aguirre: Wrath of God soundtrack. There is an occult energy to Food People's mesmeric drones and experimental poetics: reality warps around them.
The November Meteors ★★★★☆
Glasgow's Caroline McKenzie makes her debut on Glass Miniature, a London-based label whose founder David Barker is a long-time champion of the Scottish underground, from the Pastels and the Vaselines, to Telstar Ponies and Richard Youngs. A more compact affair than its 2017 predecessor, the epic song cycle The Drowning Of Ophelia, The November Meteors is a gorgeous evocation of the upper atmospheres. There's an icy electrical charge to the processed fuzz guitar of 'Heatherstorm', as it fizzes and crackles through a minor key figure. McKenzie gradually fills out the sonic field with reverberant electronics and beats. The title track is reminiscent in mood, if not quite sound, of Fripp & Eno's 1975 guitar and tape classic Evening Star. Lambent synth chords swell and overlap, on top of which McKenzie layers metallic percussion tones tuned to an alien temperament. The effect is luminous but uncanny, with McKenzie's EBow guitar lifting us further into the troposphere.
Mac-Talla Nan Creag
The Sorrow Of Derdriu ★★★★☆
This second album from Mac-Talla Nan Creag takes its inspiration from the folkloric figure of Derdriu, who narrowly avoided being killed before her birth after it was prophesised that kings and noblemen would go to war over her. The core trio of Hoch Ma Toch (Drew Wright aka Wounded Knee), Lord of the Isles (Neil McDonald) and Other Lands (Gavin Sutherland) enlist the latter's daughter Eva to recite the opening track, 'Derdriu's Vision', her voice reverberating over shimmering mandolin and synth. 'Love's Promise' captures the more romantic elements of the Derdriu legend through airy Celtic jazz-pop piano, while 'Lament For The Sons Of Uisliu' evokes the tragedy via Hoch Ma Toch's solemn baritone. Bodhran beats and sputtering trumpet drive the otherworldly 'Flight', while the superbly titled 'Sketches of Spean' features the lowing warble of the carynx, a replica Iron Age war horn played by ancient instrument expert Professor John Kenny. Weaving together elements of folk, Boards Of Canada-like electronica, library music, free improvisation and post-rock, The Sorrow Of Derdriu is a magical invocation of the Celtic world, from ancient to the future.
School Of Mystic Rock ★★★★☆
There's an appealing wrongness to this debut tape from the Glasgow trio of Maria Tedelman, Jack Paton and David Roeder. Not wrong in the tedious Fat White Family edgelord sense, but wrong in the way its riffs are punchy yet skew-whiff, the vocals a little demented. On first impression, this is scratchy and sardonic lo-fi indie in the tradition of Yummy Fur and the Fall, but Mystic Rock have a wonky character of their own. Opening track 'Alien' is an unlikely romantic dialogue between Tedelman's cooing extra-terrestrial and Jack Paton's grunting caveman. Deranged absurdism set to scrabbling guitar and a crude garage stomp: what's not to like? In lesser hands, the adolescent awkwardness of 'Sex Song' and 'Zena' might be pushed too far, but Paton is so committed to his persona that it works. The music itself is totally righteous, the guitars bent-out-shape yet full of vim, the drums pounding and urgent. A blast.