The Grand Gestures - Second (2 stars)

The Grand Gestures - Second

Glum, lo-fi collaborations from Spare Snare man featuring RM Hubbert, Emma Pollock and Sanjeev Kohli


‘A love story, a hobby, a happening, a need, a collaboration, a must,’ is how Spare Snare man Jan Burnett sums up The Grand Gestures. It’s not so much a band, then, as a broad lo-fi alliance, which he helms as core composer and curator. Their second album, the no-nonsensically titled Second, again finds Burnett inviting friends and friends-of-friends from across the Scottish musical (and non-musical) spectrum to lay their lyrics and guest vocals – all recorded in his bathroom in exchange for a curry – atop arrangements of loops, vintage synth drones and found sounds.

With an emphasis on ‘the dark and poignant’, don’t come looking for hummable melodies and throwaway thrills. There’s a search on here for something deeper, stranger, more resonant. ‘My biggest regret is that I’ve rarely regretted,’ grumbles RM Hubbert on ‘Regret Is a Dish Best Served Cold’, in a porridgey thick drawl over what sounds like The Human League playing a funeral dirge. Enjoyable as they may have been to make, it’s hard to place exactly what Burnett means when he says these collaborations are about, ‘fun with a lower-case “f”’. With the greatest respect for Second having been created with heaps of passion and no budget, goodness it’s glum.

Emma Pollock’s fluttering vocal on ‘Running with Scissors’ has its wings clipped by glacial synth chords resistant to any obvious ideas of development or dynamic. Sparrow and The Workshop front woman Jill O’Sullivan’s luxurious voice is stymied by a similar sense of melodic austerity, throughout the mechanical clang of opener ‘Daybreak’. The album’s best moment, ‘The Spree of Brian May’, finds comedian Sanjeev Kohli delivering a spoken-word vignette in rhythmic rhyming couplets over weird whirs and pings like the sound of a dying submarine, all about a junior news reporter who accidentally sparks Brian May into a violent rage. Amusing stuff in its own jet-black manner but, like I say, not exactly fun.