Best new Scottish music September 2016
Featuring: Law Holt, Kenny Anderson, Peter Zummo, Bryan Kessler and more
They're both discussed elsewhere on this site, but of the many new pieces of work to excite us this month, the (separate) return of both of the people behind the old Homegame festival in Anstruther stands out. What's interesting is that both Astronaut Meets Appleman by Kenny 'King Creosote' Anderson (Domino) and Future Echoes by Johnny 'Pictish Trail' Lynch (Lost Map) are more reserved and reflective affairs, neither as thoroughly engrossing for it, but each the work of recent new dads with new perspectives to explore. There's also the gorgeous Swell to Great by indie-pop supergroup Modern Studies (Song, By Toad).
Stepping out of the same city and managerial stable as Young Fathers, Edinburgh's Law Holt is good enough to render her sometime collaborators no longer a unique genre of one. On her long-awaited, beautifully considered and luxuriantly composed debut album City (●●●●, Steampunk, out now), the beats are sparse and raw, and the voice is forcefully, emotively soulful. The record is a bittersweet homage to living in the city, from 'In the City's hesitant acceptance of urban life and love ('in the city, I let you open the door / but should this come to a close, I'm undecided') to 'Love Drive Through's gorgeous, martial soul-jazz bed, bearing echoes of Gwen Stefani's 'Hollaback Girl' and religious chant, and 'Just Another Break Up Song's weirdly catchy pop, blending summertime soulful ambience and a shouty, MIA-style hook. It's a record in which to find new sounds and feelings with every listen.
We could go on at length about the wonder of the Optimo labels, but there's a whole Scottish music scene out there to be written about, so sadly brevity is essential. Recently and in the near future, you can hear the might of Pussy Mothers, 'a cross-continental two-piece from Scotland and Down Under', whose The Number One EP (●●●●, Optimo Music) includes fusion elements of dub, post-punk, techno and electro; immersive, jazz-inflected chill-out for trombone, piano and rich bass grooves from Arthur Russell collaborator Peter Zummo on his LP Dress Code (●●●●, Optimo Music); and Dennis Bovell's Heaven (●●●●, Optimo Music), an LP which reissues three key early 80s tracks by the legendary afro-punk-funk producer and more recent Steve Mason and Golden Teacher collaborator.
Elsewhere, making his debut on Glasgow's Numbers is a young Cologne producer named Bryan Kessler with the 10,000 Suns EP (●●●●, Numbers), a selection of three stern-faced German techno beats which call to mind the early days of R&S and one minimal, quasi-electro rave track in 'Power Flower', perhaps the highlight here.
Taken from the last album Cowardly Deeds, Glasgow pop orchestra Randolph's Leap have a new single named 'Like a Human' (●●●●, Olive Grove) out, and it's a lovely, sparkly pop song laden with bittersweet Dexy's horns and tinkling piano lines, big-budget effects which may or may not transfer to their tour dates through the month. We've also noted the carousing, Pogues-like Celtic rock edge to Norman Silver & the Golds and The Hoolits' Dead Man's Vigilance EP (●●●), which gets extra marks for being hand-delivered to the audience on pink vinyl.
Making a play for the daytime Radio 1 playlist is Edinburgh's Rebel Westerns with Atomic Blonde (●●●, Depot), a sweet and proficient stab at 80s pop which ends up coming out like 90s boyband anthemics. It's all perfectly hook-laden and listener-friendly, though. At the moment we're more excited by the emergence of Emilie with 'Eyes For You' (●●●, Stellar), also an Edinburgh artist – her real name is Emily Atkinson – who's being pushed as a kind of Scottish analogue of London Grammar; the sparse electronics and breathy vocals are all there, but there's something indefinably folksy in her voice as well.
As strange as it may sound to hear them both together, the Celtic tone in Atkinson's voice (think Karen Matheson) is echoed in Lainie Urquhart's vocal on 'Rattling Bones' (●●●, Stereogram) by Edinburgh's The Eastern Swell, a mournful piece of string-led, Caledonian-tinged Americana which precedes the band's debut album One Day, A Flood (Fri 16 Sep, Stereogram). Elsewhere, there will also be dates from Texas guitarist Ally McErlaine and his wife Shelly Poole's Red Sky July.
There's also strong Scottish involvement at Aberdeen's True North festival, including headline shows by King Creosote and Honeyblood, a show for children by Bella and the Bear, and a great, Emma Pollock-curated tribute to Kate Bush featuring Kathryn Joseph, Karine Polwart, Rachel Sermanni and members of The Twilight Sad and Admiral Fallow, while Ullapool's Loopallu festival is an ever-highly recommended end to the festival season.