Best new Scottish music for October 2016
Featuring Slam, North Atlantic Oscillation and TryTryDieDown
Stanley Odd plays Bongo Club, Edinburgh, Fri 21 Oct / credit: Jannica Honey
The old joke about only cockroaches and Keith Richards surviving after the bomb has dropped is in need of updating; Slam will be there too, hidden away in the Sub Club bunker, powering through a set of eerie, dystopian techno beats. Machine Cut Noise (●●●●) is their latest, a double album release to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their homegrown label Soma Records, and it's a weirdly lovely selection of clicking, repetitive machine rhythms which finds its groove three tracks in on 'Viginti Quinque' ('Twenty Five' in Latin). Apparently inspired by the interiors of the airports and hotels in which Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle worked on the record, it bears a timeless retro-futurist quality, as indebted to Tangerine Dream and John Carpenter as it is Detroit techno and ambient electronica.
Her Edinburgh upbringing filtered through study at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford and a songwriting trip to Los Angeles where she reportedly found her voice, Elle Exxe's debut album Love Fuelled Hate (●●●) is unashamedly pop, but it's got a lot going for it besides. Produced by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande collaborator John Castelli, 'Lost in LA' is the signature track, all Joan Jett stomp, Blondie references and sweary backing vocals. Every song is distinctive and attitude-laced, from the swooning R&B crash of 'Lately' to the soaring, Robynesque 80s synthpop of 'Home With You' and the strident, crunchy beats of 'Hating on You'. Its endearing rough edges have clearly been buffed to a shine, but this is still a powerful calling card.
Written after last year's General Election and recorded at the height of this year's EU Referendum campaign and its aftermath, there's a lyrically politically edge to Southern Tenant Folk Union's seventh album Join Forces (●●●), but not so much that it overwhelms the air of gently capable bluegrass reverie soaked through the music. There's a hopeful quality to the title track's exhortation to come together and a deserved mournful resignation to 'What Would You Give for a Leader With Soul?', befitting of a question we all must have asked.
The opening notes of Dundee band Stoor's debut album Witchfinder General (●●●) reveal them as devotees of the post-punk sound of young Scotland circa the 1980s, particularly the edgy, angular tones of Fire Engines. That track, 'Secret World of Cement', is an incessant instrumental, while singer Stef Murray's voice is revealed as every bit as spiky as the music, albeit with a Bowiesque sense of melodrama on songs like 'Frack' and 'Hold That Thought'. It's an energising, lo-fi debut, and it lends hope that the live show might live up to the music.
'An exhibition of curated titles' from Edinburgh's North Atlantic Oscillation is how Lightning Strikes the Library (●●●●) has been pitched, which you can take to mean simply 'compilation'. Drawn from their trio of albums and associated singles, the songs showcased here reveal a lost – or, perhaps more appropriately, not yet properly discovered – talent, a smart collision of anthemic choruses worthy of, say, Elbow, occasional flurries of punky noise, and a bed of smart, pervasive electronic touches which align them with Radiohead around the time of OK Computer and Kid A. They're a band well worth (re)discovering.
GoldMold Records' Scottish Indie Sampler Vol. 2 (●●●●) isn't quite as comprehensive as that name suggests, but there's an eclectic and entertaining selection of lo-fi indie, jagged punk-pop, acoustic psych, jazz, electronic funk and more here, drawn from the catalogues of DIY labels including Fit Like, Make-That-A-Take, Save As Collective, Handpicked Cassette Tapes and DTHCMP. It's one of those cases where the tension between ability and invention creates curious and interesting results across the board.
For those who like electronic music to be challenging as well as compelling, the new EP from London and Glasgow-based producer Connor O'Leary aka TryTryDieDown, Peninsula (●●●●), is recommended. Released on Maya 'Nightwave' Medvesek's Hekatrax label, it's a wash of discordant techno ambience, futurist drum 'n' bass and staccato electro R&B which confounds expectations.
On live stages, there are plenty of homegrown events to get excited about for the rest of this month. The Red Bull Music Academy tour hits Glasgow this weekend, and Glasgow label Numbers have a special event (Savings Bank, Glasgow, Fri 14 Oct) with Lorenzo Senni, Denis Sulta, General Ludd and more. The following weekend, Arika return with Episode 8: Refuse Powers Grasp (Tramway and Art School, Glasgow, Fri 21–Sun 23 Oct), a weekend of essential, politically-focused discussion, performance and music.
Meanwhile, through in Edinburgh, the 20th anniversary of the much-loved and very resilient Bongo Club continues apace, with highlights including Jenny Lindsay's new spoken word and music night Flint & Pitch (Bongo Club, Edinburgh, Fri 14 Oct), whose musical guests are Jo Mango and Finn Lemarinel, and a night of Scottish hip-hop with Stanley Odd, Loki & the Cartel and Roberta Pia (Bongo Club, Edinburgh, Fri 21 Oct). There are also day-long, multi-venue charitable events at the Oxjam Takeover Festival in both Edinburgh (Grassmarket Community Project, Sat 15 Oct) and Glasgow (CCA, Sat 15 Oct).