Best new Scottish music
- David Pollock
- 24 February 2016
David Pollock pricks up his ears and takes in some must-buy new Scottish albums
Having kept a reasonably close roster in terms of friends ‘n’ family following the dissolution of Fence Records as was, Johnny Lynch’s Lost Map Records has expanded once more with the Closing EP from new signing Victoria Hume. Over seven tracks, she reveals a heavily understated delicacy to her vocal and playing, with the soft piano undulations of ‘Sell Everything’ and the reserved, dramatic fusion of ‘Lanterns’ among the highlights. Hume’s vocal echoes of Beth Gibbons and the unforced protest sensibility of ‘Ungoverned’ suggest a significant talent has arrived.
Indie-rockers De Rosa return with a long-awaited third LP, Weem. Having shifted over to Mogwai’s Rock Action label from Chemikal Underground, they’ve created an impressive collection of emotional textures which finds its grounding in what might broadly be termed the post-rock scene, but which breathes with almost folk-inspired textures. The group took themselves off to the Highlands to record the album, and the music speaks eloquently of an expansive and open landscape. There’s the measured acoustic sensibility of ‘Falling Water’ or ‘Prelude to Entropic Doom’ offset by the surging electronic exploration of ‘Devils’ and the ghostly Germanic clangs of ‘Lanes (Reprise)’.
It’s been six years since Emma Pollock’s most recent LP, but the sometime Delgado and co-founder of Chemikal Underground has maintained a presence as a live performer. In Search of Harperfield is named after her childhood home, giving the impression of being as deeply personal as that connection suggests. It’s not often an easy listen, but it’s regularly a pleasing one. ‘Can’t Keep a Secret’ is built on a lapping wash of indie symphonics and a haunting backing of slow whoops. The confident strut of ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ is atypical, a suggestion of desperate-to-escape teenage bravado amidst a record which takes the perspective of a reflective, adult writer.
‘Alabaster’ moves on gently lurching keyboard lines, with Pollock reflecting on frosty resentment upon an unnamed other who ‘used to be on my side’ while the downbeat, folksy piano and strings track ‘Clemency’ hints sharply at suicide or murder, and ‘Intermission’ surges on heavy, baroque strings. And then there’s a shift into gritty garage rock on ‘Parks and Recreation’ and the discordant ‘Vacant Stare’. It’s an album filled with delicately rhythmic and heavily-loaded lyricism, seemingly poised between the possibility of youth and regret of adulthood.
The wonderful Tuff Love’s sort-of debut album Resort is largely a known quantity. Following the Beta Band’s ‘3 EPs’ route, it features the first trio of mini-albums by these Glasgow-based shoegazers. Across these records – ‘Junk’, ‘Dross’ and ‘Dregs’, clearly a themed triptych – Julie Eisenstein and Suse Bear have gathered together a strong group of songs which could have been beamed in from the early 1990s.
Over the lead tracks of each record, ‘Sweet Discontent’ and ‘Slammer’ demonstrate a fierce, angular kind of fuzz-toned indie-rock, while ‘Duke’ (charmingly, the chorus is just the word ‘awkward!’) is dreamier and with a lighter touch. It’s a canny collection, though, not just in how they’ve maximised the potential of this group of songs, but how they’ve kept up such a commendable standard throughout, from the dreamy surf-pop charm of ‘That’s Right’ to the sun-kissed garage clatter of ‘Flamingo’. In years to come, it’ll surely be remembered as a much-loved debut.