Going underground June 2019: best of Scotland's new underground, DIY and self-released music
- Stewart Smith
- 25 June 2019
Featuring Comfort, Wojchiec Rusin, Tom Mudd and more
Comfort – Not Passing ★★★★★
Comfort's debut album Not Passing is one of the most powerful recent albums from a Scottish artist: not only for its exhilarating electronic punk sonics, but for its unapologetically queer politics. In Scotland, certain politicians and parts of the media have created a hostile environment for trans people. In this climate, radical works of art like Not Passing are all the more vital. As Natalie (vocals, electronics) writes, 'I am debated as if my existence is deniable … my womanhood needs no permission.' Not Passing is an angry record, full of deal-with-it defiance and sarcastic barbs, but it's also an uplifting one. The razor-sharp phrasing and insistent beats are utterly compelling, while the raw invention of Natalie's electronics takes the music to an ecstatic pitch. 'Calm of the Crowd' takes us through a rave wormhole to a fractured and discordant dimension, while 'You're Shaking' sounds like a deranged post-industrial take on Arthur Russell, as bit-crushed drums thrash at an apparition of disco pianos and strings. There's a gorgeous melancholy to the Blade Runner synths of 'Better Need Assumptions' while 'Work Through Fault' grinds a cold wave riff deep into your brain. An instant Glasgow underground classic.
Wojciech Rusin – The Funnel ★★★★★
The latest release from Glasgow-based Akashic Records is a very strange record indeed, taking in medieval polyphonic singing, field recordings, self-built electro-acoustic instruments, and alchemical texts. The Funnel grew out of a commission for the 2017 edition of experimental broadcast project Radiophrenia. Partly recorded in Port Talbot steel works, the piece creates its own universe, one that is simultaneously ancient and futuristic. Wojciech Rusin has created a truly uncanny work of art, from the autotuned canticles of 'Paolo's Dream' to the sinister pitched-down vocals and eerie sussurance of 'First Encounter'. The epic 'Celestial Twins/Procession' opens with keening female voices and twinkling bells over strident cellos, before plunging us into a sepulchral realm of foggy drone and drizzling reverb. Heavenly voices and shimmering beams slowly lift us out of the gloom.
Tom Mudd – Brass Cultures ★★★★☆
The latest tape from Glasgow/Manchester label Fancyyyyy takes us to the outer limits with Tom Mudd's synthesised brass instruments. Created with digital models of 'physically impossible brass instruments', Brass Cultures is touted as sitting 'uncomfortably somewhere between radical computer music and 19th-century brass band music'. There are also echoes of the extended techniques of improvisers like John Butcher. This is no mere technical exercise: the results are compellingly odd and frequently uncanny, with Mudd playing on the strengths and limitations of synthesis. The opening track sounds like an AI recreation of a bass saxophone and foghorn duet, while the second takes us into a strange realm of glitching bagpipes and soprano saxophone. There are two versions of 'C', one all percussive valve taps and flanged tones, the other choppy and contrapuntal, like a cybernetic World Saxophone Quartet. A mind-boggling project, strangely beautiful in both concept and execution.
Howie Reeve – Cracks ★★★☆☆
Fusing Basque folk with post-punk and improvisation, Tattie Toes were one of Glasgow's greatest ever bands. Their bassist Howie Reeve has become a true DIY troubadour, taking his tender folk-punk to Europe and Japan, making friends and collaborators along the way. Several of these appear on Reeve's latest album Cracks, including former the Ex vocalist, GW Sok. Spanish accordion player Marcos Padrón backs Reeve on a rousing version of the popular 1904 song 'It's The Poor That Helps The Poor', while Ale Fajardo sings the refrain of 'Pol Maccanni' over French horn and bass harmonica. Elsewhere, the focus is on Reeve's intimate vocals, as he delivers diaristic observations and enigmatic imagery over intricate acoustic bass parts, suggestive of a folkier take on the art-punk of Dog Faced Hermans.
Taupe – Get The Keys ★★★☆☆
This Glasgow-Newcastle trio follow their 2017 album with a two-track tape of nervy jazz-rock and alien atmospherics. Guitarist Mike Parr Burman, alto saxophonist Jaimie Stockbridge and drummer Adam Stapleford revel in formal deconstruction and textural mutation, resisting the temptation to ride out a riff for too long. The nagging saxophone motif that opens 'Get The Keys' is more an exercise in demented repetition than catchiness, while the discordant and sour electronic effects Stockbridge brings to his horn are deliberately alienating. That's not to say this music is misanthropic – there's a sense of punky mischief here that recalls Naked City or Melt Banana.