Going underground November 2019: best of Scotland's new underground, DIY and self-released music
- Stewart Smith
- 11 November 2019
Featuring Kapil Seshasayee, Mark Vernon and Stable
Kapil Seshasayee – The Item Girl ★★★★☆
The first taste of Kapil Seshasayee's second album, 'The Item Girl' takes on Bollywood sexism and its negative cultural influence throughout the diaspora. Musically, this track is quite a departure from the punchy art-rock of his 2018 debut A Sacred Bore. The glutinous synth bass and jazzy chords recall the contemporary R&B of Blood Orange and Solange, with Seshasayee's spiky sweet vocals pushing it in the direction of Scritti Politti's 2006 gem White Bread Black Beer. The intricate guitar lines still bear the harmonic and rhythmic influence of Carnatic music, but it's twisted through the avant-jazz sensibility of Mary Halvorson and the kind of digital processing associated with St Vincent. In lesser hands, a track like this could be a mess, but Seshasayee pulls it all together with real pop nous and bracing invective.
Cosmic Dead – Scottish Space Race ★★★☆☆
Glasgow's hairiest psychonauts return with a double LP of Buckfast-fuelled space jams. Joined by new drummer Tommy Duffin and synth wizard Russell Andrew Gray, guitarist James McKay and bassist Omar Aborida set controls for the heart of the sun. Opening track 'Portal' is suitably epic, beginning with 12 minutes of slow building drone rock, electronics and chanting, like a breakaway sect of Buddhist monks who've formed a lunar cult. On the turn of a dime it goes into hyperdrive, layering wah-wah squall and wailing oscillators over Duffin's thunderous percussive charge. The band grunt and whoop over McKay's zoned mantra, before it all breaks down into a cosmic thug groove that would do Hawkwind or Comets On Fire proud. Rather than wind things down, our heroes just keep going and going. For all its crushing density, the title track is a utopian fuzz party, with the band hailing Glasgow and Dundee for leading the mission in the 2015 Indyref. 'Can you dig it?' they implore. Yes sir, we can.
Mark Vernon – An Annotated Phonography of Chance ★★★★☆
The latest LP from Glasgow-based sound artist and Radiophrenia co-curator Mark Vernon expands upon the soundtrack to an uncompleted 16mm film made with English filmmaker Martha Jurksaitis and the Portuguese artist duo Von Calhau. Shot on location in Portugal's Alentejo region, the film 'Nossos Ossos' features the bone chapel 'Capela dos Ossos', castles, churches and megalithic sites. These locations were used for experiments with natural reverbs, with the collaborators sounding out the spaces with their voices. These provide the raw material for the soundtrack, along with field recordings and found tapes. The album begins with the sound of dripping water, framed by clouds of reverb and phantom threads of feedback. As voices echo in the gloom, a descending synth riff lurches forward, slowing dissipating amid electronic chitters and ferric ooze. A flea market conversation is overlaid with intense birdsong, followed by a melancholy piano made all the more human by Vernon's glitches and edits.
Food People – Food Party ★★★★☆
I wrote admiringly about the otherworldly sonics and fragmented poetry of Food People's Vetch in the September 2018 edition of this column. The trio of Lila Matsumoto, Matthew Hamblin and Greg Thomas returns with a cassette on Cosmovision, the label run by Chilean folk outsiders Glorias Navales. Food Party finds the group refining their approach by working with a narrower range of materials. The opening 'Evening Fast Out The Window' finds Matsumoto reciting short lines over transient bursts of static, a strategy they revisit to more sinister effect on 'A Body'. Several tracks feature abstracted folk elements, with acoustic guitar and viola drones haunted by lo-fi electronics. 'Seizes In Light' has an almost new age feel, with flute and synth glimmering over clomping hand drums, while 'Glass Factory' sounds like a dictaphone recording of noise-rock through a wall. The concluding trilogy of 'In A Square Wood / Old Shuck / Danbury Jumble' successfully brings a number of these elements together.
Stable – Ex Terra Vis ★★★★☆
An anti-tribute to Glenrothes from the Fife new town's noisiest expatriate, Andy Brown. As Brown writes in his liner notes, the 'stubborn optimism' that fuelled the building of the town soon descended into 'a swamp of poverty, violence, drugs and apathy'. The spontaneously composed tracks the former Divorce drummer has brought screaming into the world do not progress or 'evolve' in the conventional musical sense, all the better to 'present the intense, ferocious, numbing tedium of having to exist in an economic prison like Glenrothes'. That's not to say the pieces lack dynamics or shape. On the opening 'Macedonia', an icy fizzle of static is striated with needling high frequencies and looming bass tones. By the end, it sounds like being trapped in an air shaft with nothing but a power drill for company. 'Warout' is a punishing exercise in hydrochloric acid house, as pungent chemicals rain down over a grim electronic throb, while 'Walking In Circles' administers shock therapy to a stumbling hardcore punk loop, before smashing it against a harsh noise wall. Uneasy listening at its most compelling.