Check Masses – Nightlife (4 stars)

Check Masses – Nightlife

Edinburgh trio's debut album is packed with laid-back trip-hop soundscapes

Edinburgh trio Check Masses bring a wealth of collective experience to their debut album, gleaned from nigh on 30 years of immersion in the capital's diverse and somewhat undersung music scene.

Their beats come courtesy of DJ-producer Saleem Andrew McGroarty who ran one of the city's first hip hop nights, the Big Payback, in the 90s. Multi-instrumentalist Vic Galloway, now better known as a writer, broadcaster and all-round champion of new music, brings a background in grungy indie rock bands, while vocalist and songwriter 'Philly' Angelo Collins supplies plaintive soulful vocals over a trippy collage of shuffling dubby beats, twanging guitar, and smatterings of melodica and strings.

The stealthy dub-meets-acid electro of 'Dripn Angel' is already out there as a taster of the laid-back trip-hop soundscapes to come on Nightlife from the bruised blues of 'The Moon & You' to the sweet ska pop of 'Lonesome Little Paradise' which recalls the timeless skank of Collins' onetime peer Finley Quaye. The title track is an easygoing lysergic indie funk highlight, forged in celebration of the scene that made them.

Collins gives more deadpan attitude ('where do you think my head is at?') on the gap year bad trip of 'Moroccan Skies', suffused with requisite casbah ambience, mischievous rhythm and the shimmering shudder of Galloway's guitar.

'Killers' explores the banality of evil, with an unsettling sample of marines boasting of their strike rate giving way to a despairing downtempo acid pop ballad with Ozzy Osbourne-like baleful blues vocals.

'The Will of God' is another strong ballad with a psychedelic chillout club feel and an atmospheric coda of bittersweet strings arranged by Pete Harvey of Modern Studies, while the soulful indie torch song 'Unravelled' also showcases the trio's ability to seduce by stealth as much as produce a layered studio soundscape.

Out Fri 29 May on Triassic Tusk.

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