New Music: Outblinker, Womps and Book Group
Must-buy new Scottish albums and EPs in May
That the half-decade in the making Eternal Return (●●●), the follow-up to Glaswegian quartet United Fruit’s 2011 debut album Fault Lines, found its streaming premiere occurring on Spin’s website indicates that some kind of a breakthrough to the mainstream is on the cards. Yet one listen to this brisk and joyous rock record will also confirm that’s the case, from the gorgeous summer harmony and clattering riffs of ‘Open Your Eyes’ and ‘Golden Days’ (its ‘I wish I had that golden-tastin’ summer haze feeling / in my heavy heart’ hook makes for a perfect ‘school’s out’ anthem) to the muscular, reverb-heavy ‘How Long’ and the soaring anthemics of ‘Cause and Effect’. The angular funk of ‘Taste I Can’t Give Up’ aside, the record’s tendency to stay in fifth gear renders it a little one-note, but Iskander Stewart’s vocal performance is piercing and impassioned, and like a UFC alternative to Idlewild, their heart isn’t lost amidst the volume.
Glasgow trio Machines in Heaven’s thoughtful, considered electro-pop is a familiar quantity now, particularly since 2014’s debut album bordersbreakdown. The follow-up Phenomenology (●●●) carries on the theme, if they can be described as having established a theme with their music; the instrumental ‘Quango’ calls to mind Daft Punk’s ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ (see also the heavy DP vocoder on ‘Logarithm’), while ‘Ruix Con’ is a lush, ambient vocal soundscape placed somewhere between Tangerine Dream and Leftfield. It’s a hugely interesting listen, more than an infectious one in the vein of synth-bound citymates liked Chvrches, but any album which finishes on a fusion of ambient electronica and samples from the Gaelic archive of Alan Lomax demands applause for its sense of adventure.
The bearers of one of those presumably intentionally obscure press presences which tells us nothing about them, we’re left with the simple knowledge that they’re a quintet from Glasgow to get a handle on Outblinker; that, and the fact that The Remains of Walter Peck EP (●●●●) was co-written and produced by the now Edinburgh-based Benjamin Power aka Blanck Mass of Fuck Buttons notoriety. The lack of vocals lends the three tracks here – the careening, Kasabian-without-the-tedious-macho-strut ‘Walter Peck’ (the apparently fictional ‘hero’ of the EP), the battering, mechanical ‘Farrokh Bulsara’ (Freddie Mercury’s real name) and the John Carpenter-like menace of ‘Ernest Becker’ (the author of The Denial of Death) – a level of sinister intensity that’s contagious.
Womps, the band formerly known as Glasgow’s Algernon Doll, proudly proclaim they deal in ‘nihilism and jaded optimism’. We’d certainly agree with the latter; amidst a spiky, sounds-like-it-was-recorded-in-their-bedroom punk rock aesthetic, Ewan Grant and Owen Wicksted’s Steve Albini-produced debut album Our Fertile Forever (●●●●) demonstrates a gift for melody and a bittersweet lyrical intent (‘there’s no such thing as love / just dependence and independence,’ runs ‘HowAreYou_’) which is hugely compelling, as though Sonic Youth and the Wedding Present were somehow inhabiting the same noisy space.
After a succession of EPs and singles since their formation in 2012, Edinburgh’s Book Group have arrived with their debut album proper. The Great Indoors (●●●●) was worth waiting for, a lively and punkish collection infused with no small amount of personality, from ‘Actress / Model’s insecure tales of dating the titular partner to the electro-acoustic balladry of ‘Electricity (Will Be the Death of Me)’ and ‘This Little House of Mine’, and the very meta touch of adding their own studio-bound commentary on satisfactory count-ins to ‘Do You Feel Insecure?’ There’s no denying, either, their way with a straight-up, Snow Patrol-style anthem like ‘Year of the Cat’.
Eternal Return by United Fruit is self-released on Fri 13 May. Phenomenology by Machines in Heaven is released by Hot Gem Tunes on Fri 13 May. The Remains of Walter Peck EP by Outblinker is out now on Stabbed in the Back. Our Fertile Forever by Womps is released on Fri 10 Jun. The Great Indoors by Book Group is released by Sportsfan on Fri 13 May.