Best new Scottish music to listen to in July 2016
Highlights include Ela Orleans, the Van T’s, Kid Canaveral and T in the Park
With respect to everyone else who’s busy this month helping music culture in Scotland go round, we’re getting more than a bit excited about just one event; and it’s not T in the Park, but rather the release of Circles of Upper and Lower Hell (Night School, ●●●●), the seventh album by Glasgow-based Polish composer and singer Ela Orleans. It lives up to that title, a terrifyingly lovely transmission from a baroque, Lovecraftian netherverse; the times in which we live, in other words. Over measured, minimally downbeat tracks rich in the use of piano and synthesisers, her voice floats through the shivering choral tension of ‘Circle One’ and the surging, dark electropop of ‘Beatrice’, and is judiciously absented from striking instrumentals like the halting, psychedelic piano chords of ‘The Great Barrier’. It’s two big vinyl albums and you need it in your life, frankly.
Other albums due this month are Konx-om-Pax’ Caramel (Planet Mu, ●●●●), the follow-up to Glasgow designer, video artist and musician Tom Scholefield’s 2012 debut Regional Surrealism. It’s a striking, esoteric work, a procession of dramatic ambient instrumentals gliding on an ocean of delicately artificial-sounding keyboard lines which feed Ryuichi Sakamoto through a Oneohtrix Point Never filter, looping in ghost transmission bursts of noise and old-school rave. Elsewhere, Ben Chatwin (aka Talvihorros) releases his album Heat and Entropy (Ba Da Bing, ●●●), a similarly affecting collective piece of ambient instrumental electronica which perhaps doesn’t enjoy quite as much sonic eclecticism as Scholefield’s.
Calling to mind Billy Connolly, not least in the wild-haired look he’s sporting on the cover, Scottish visual artist turned off-beam indie songwriter Martin Creed releases what might be his masterpiece to date, the album Thoughts Lined Up (Telephone Records, ●●●●), which is precisely what it says; 24 tracks of discordant, folksy rockabilly and indie-rock which put what appear to be stream-of-consciousness, slogan-style thoughts set to music. For example, ‘Prayer’s rhythmic, masterfully-composed a capella poetry, which declares ‘I wish I didn’t know things / it does my head in’, and the unlikely pro-refugee protest singing of ‘Let Them In’ (‘give them a hand / let them stand / on our silly bit of land’). He plays the Poetry Club, Glasgow, Wed 20 Jul.
The other big deal is, of course, T in the Park itself (Strathallan Castle, Fri 8–Sun 10 Jul). It’s hugely publicised already, so we’ll only dwell briefly on the bigger-name Scottish acts appearing throughout the weekend; Frightened Rabbit and Gerry Cinnamon in the King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent on Friday; Fatherson, Travis and, ahem, Bay City Rollers in the same tent on Saturday; and Calvin Harris headlining Saturday (an up and coming talent who we’re sure you’ll agree needs the support).
It’s T Break that we’d really recommend for anyone who wants to be supportive of local artists taking their first steps, however. A reliable barometer for picking out at least a couple of artists who we’ll hear much more of, this year’s lineup over the three days is Bloodlines, Declan Welsh, Domiciles, Edwin Organ, Foreignfox, Forever, Indigo Velvet, Scholesy, Scope, Sweaty Palms, The Ninth Wave and The Vegan Leather. Others involved include Coldplayish Edinburgh bunch Redolent; Mt. Doubt, whose album In Awe of Nothing we compared to elements of Edwyn Collins, The National and Springsteen last month; and Miracle Glass Company, whose swaggering psych-rock new single ‘The Hidden Light’ (Circle in a Square, ●●●) is as simple, direct and pleasingly heads-down as you might expect from a track produced by Owen Morris (former deskman for Oasis and The Verve).
Having caught their chillwave take on Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ at Kelburn Garden Party last week, T Break’s Tongues also come recommended. The BBC Introducing stage is another mine of good new Scottish artists of the slightly more established variety, including socially-conscious Dundonian singer Be Charlotte and The Van T’s on Saturday, and different varieties of psych-rocker in Man of Moon and Womps on the Sunday. And speaking of The Van T’s, you might want to listen to their recent EP ‘A Coming of Age’ (Bloc+, ●●●), a quartet of dreamy but high-volume Riot Grrrl anthems which promise much for the future (the joyful mid-period Creation Records riffing of ‘Dandy’ is our favourite).
Elsewhere, look out for the release of Kid Canaveral’s new album Faulty Inner Dialogue on Mon 29 Jul on Lost Map, reviewed elsewhere on this site (and supported by a show at Summerhall, Edinburgh, Sat 30 Jul), and a rare east coast DJ appearance from Optimo (Espacio) at Summerhall, Edinburgh, on the same night. The Saint Luke’s All-Dayer (Saint Luke’s, Glasgow, Sat 16 Jul) features a roster which includes some bands you may already have seen at T Break, including Three Blind Wolves, Medicine Men, The Van T’s and Declan Welsh, while locally-loved swamp-blues trio Sara & the Snakes are reunited at Henry’s Cellar Bar, Edinburgh, Sat 30 Jul. Those up the west coast might also want to check out Glasgow folk singer Amy Duncan at the Ceilidh Place, Ullapool, Tue 12 Jul.
The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival includes home-grown artists including swing and gypsy jazz quartet Rose Room (George Square Spiegeltent, Fri 15 Jul), their singer Seonaid Aitken with the Tokyo Django Collective (George Square Spiegeltent, Sat 23 Jul), country roots and jazz trio the Bevvy Sisters celebrating their tenth anniversary (George Square Spiegeltent, Thu 21 Jul) and funk and soul collective Federation of the Disco Pimp (La Belle Angele, Sat 23 Jul).