Best new Scottish music to listen to in August
- David Pollock
- 5 August 2016
Highlights include Ette, Nothing Ever Happens Here and Kelvingrove Bandstand's Summer Nights series
You're going to have to indulge us on two counts with this month's carefully selected round-up of Scottish musical highlights, we're afraid. The first; it's obviously August, and try as we might, we just can't avoid filling half of what follows with recommendations for things to do in Edinburgh (see below). And second, the album we're most excited about talking up actually came out in July.
But, you know, they didn't stop selling it on 31 July or anything, so come with us on a trip to the recent past to listen to FOUND's Terra Nova (●●●●, Chemikal Underground), a charming and evocative ambient work based on bandmembers' Simon Kirby and Ziggy Campbell's installation piece about Captain Scott's doomed first expedition to the South Pole (the Terra Nova was the whaling ship which saved him). It's a short and unflashy record, but this adds to its might, bringing together the taut, psychedelic balladry of the title track, 'Lightless' pastoral, Neu!-like groove and the buzzing, foreboding electronics of much of the rest of the record with the spoken word 'Erebus', Kevin 'Neu! Reekie!' Williamson's pulsing ode to seafaring.
Later in the month there are new records from Law Holt and Fiona Soe Paing, both of which will receive fuller reviews on these pages, but right now the other album we'll flag up is Batteries' The Finishing Line (●●●, launched at Stereo, Glasgow, 19 Aug). The new project from Bis' 'Sci-Fi' Steven Clark, it's an album steeped in love and enthusiasm for lo-fi indie rock of a 1990s vintage. In fact, whisper it, but there's much about Steven's voice which reminds of Damon Albarn of that era, all brazen if untutored vocal confidence and surprising range as it soars over the poppier choruses.
There are many of those, for this is a Bis alumnus we're talking about. Check out the bubblegum thrash of 'Pankhurst', the angular punk of 'Hidden Tracks' (in which 'the back seat is unacceptable' becomes a nigh-anthemic repeated chorus), and 'Future Studies', which serves up some decidedly retro-futurist screechy electro. It's a record made with light-touch passion, winning enthusiasm for the power of a good pop melody, a sense of its own place in a wider musical context, and for all that, as cheerfully divisive an aesthetic as Bis ever achieved.
Another album to love, if you like that sort of thing (you should) is Ette's Homemade Lemonade (●●●●, Olive Grove Records), the side project of TeenCanteen's Carla J Easton and Joe Kane. Put in contact with one another by Duglas T Stewart of the BMX Bandits, it's a flurry of cocky bubblegum choruses in a different vein to Batteries, more focused on a contemporary pop aesthetic with their smooth production and Easton's infectious vocal parts. It's very good, and we've frankly no business calling it a side project.
Elsewhere on these pages you'll find more words than anyone might be able to take in during the course of the various Edinburgh Festivals, which means it's hopefully even more useful that we pick out here all the venues playing good homegrown music. Once upon a time the likes of Flux, Planet Pop, T On the Fringe and The Edge attempted to bring a festival-within-a-festival of popular music to Edinburgh in August, all to varying degrees of short-livedness, so there's surely some lingering irony around the fact it's that sometime bulwark of tradition, the Edinburgh International Festival, which is arguably leading the way in 2016.
Whether they're special new commissions or just regular gigs by artists of note and invention, Scotland's artists are well-served by EIF. Into the former category falls Wind Resistance, in which folk composer Karine Polwart charts the flight of migrating geese with help from dramaturg David Greig, and Flit, a group project around the subject of human migration, devised by Lau's Martin Green and also featuring Adam Holmes, Becky Unthank and members of Mogwai and Portishead. Although not commissioned specifically for EIF, the Mogwai soundtrack of filmmaker Mark Cousins' investigation into the nuclear age Atomic and singer Aidan Moffat's musical travelogue of Scotland for director Paul Fegan's film Where You're Meant to Be are also significant, distinctive projects.
Elsewhere at the Edinburgh International Festival, there will be live shows featuring groundbreaking Scottish folk / Indian classical / jazz trio Yorkston / Thorne / Khan , SAY and Mercury prize winners Young Fathers, and gifted singer-songwriter Emma Pollock, while Greg Lawson will revisit his late friend Martyn Bennett's GRIT, in this orchestral reimagining of the folk-techno composer's final album.
The much-loved multi-arts venue Summerhall has done great work throughout the year in bringing an eclectic live line-up to Edinburgh with its Nothing Ever Happens Here strand, and this August its excellent roster brings many great Scottish artists to an international audience. Recommended here are the uniquely delicate songwriting of Kathryn Joseph (6 Aug), the resonant indie-folk of Rachel Sermanni (10 Aug), frankly stunning disco-punk quintet WHITE (13 Aug), the epic, Arcade Fire-like Broken Records (20 Aug), Edinburgh DIY auteur Withered Hand (27 Aug) and Bill Wells' National Jazz Trio of Scotland (28 Aug). The Queen's Hall's Scottish series also features such diverse artists as Roddy Hart & the Lonesome Fire supported by Honeyblood (16 Aug), Blazin' Fiddles (17 Aug) and the ever-excellent King Creosote (25 Aug), while elsewhere you can find Edinburgh psych-rockers Man of Moon (Electric Circus, 5 Aug) and free rebel literary/music night Neu! Reekie! (Edinburgh International Book Festival, 26 Aug), which features live sets from Admiral Fallow and The Sexual Objects.
Naturally, of course, Edinburgh gets most of the good stuff in August, but it doesn't get all of it. Among the highlights at Kelvingrove Bandstand's open-air Summer Nights series will be classic artists Idlewild (5 Aug, with C Duncan), Lloyd Cole (7 Aug, with Justin Currie), Primal Scream (11 Aug) and Eddi Reader (13 Aug), while Glasgow Summer Sessions features Frightened Rabbit, replacing Johnny Marr as support to Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds (26 Aug), and headliners Biffy Clyro (27 Aug).
On a smaller scale, Glasgow's bohemian Southside hangout of choice hosts Glorious Traces, a frankly unmissable celebration of great music featuring artists including Ela Orleans, RM Hubbert, Eliza Carthy, Trembling Bells, Alasdair Roberts, CARBS and Jonnie Common. The same venue also hosts experimental songwriter Richard Youngs later in the month.
Finally, in case Edinburgh's giving the impression it has a monopoly on festivals, some of the most interesting events of the tent-in-a-field variety are happening around the country this month. The first weekend of the month sees Belladrum Tartan Heart return, with Rachel Sermanni and C Duncan among the Scots joining Madness and Super Furry Animals, with the ever-eclectic Doune the Rabbit Hole welcoming Admiral Fallow, C Duncan and Blanck Mass alongside Jeffrey Lewis and Cate Le Bon.
With Wickerman postponed for 2016, Electric Fields ensures there's still a festival presence in Dumfries & Galloway. The line-up is diverse and international, but with Scottish artists well-represented, including much-loved ex-pats Primal Scream and Steve Mason alongside The Twilight Sad, Emma Pollock, Admiral Fallow, TeenCanteen and more.