Best new Scottish music for Nov 2016
Featuring Lomond Campbell, Meursault and Bryan Jones
Black River Promise (●●●●), the new album from FOUND's Ziggy Campbell under his Lomond Campbell alias, is the sound of the city transplanted to the country; it was largely recorded in what he describes as 'a decrepit, asbestos-ridden school deep in the rural highlands of Scotland' as part of an attempt to escape the noise of the city and retreat to silence. Bolstered hugely by the masterful string playing and arranging of Modern Studies' Pete Harvey, it's a record which fulfils that promise with a very analogue treatment – one which flits between the deep, medieval weight of the instrumentals 'Fallen Stag' and 'Acharacle' (recorded in a 500 year old castle with a ten-part string ensemble), and the dramatic, measured roots-rock of songs like the title track and Campbell's cover of Nuala Kennedy's 'Coal Daughter'. It's hard to imagine music which more captures the feel of the autumnal Scottish Highlands more. Campbell is also on tour with King Creosote (under his Kwaing Creasite alias) in November.
In niche but still very exciting comeback news, this is the month that the heart-swelling melancholy of Edinburgh's Meursault returns with the Simple is Good EP (●●●●), ahead of the new album in February. Released on Song, By Toad, as ever, it steps from the far more minimal shadows of Neil Pennycook's Supermoon project in a flurry of dramatic waves of piano on the title track, torrential drums, organ and feedback on 'Durch Gaslicht', and finally a delicate acoustic ambiance on the closing 'Albeit Barely'. Stretching to six songs it's, in true Meursault style, not a comfortable listen (impudently, given the name, 'A Killer Chorus' bears a scratchy tension at its heart evocative of the weary but crystal-clear last hours of a hangover); yet it also demonstrates how Pennycook and his tender, eternally on-the-edge-of-broken voice have retained every inch of their fluent emotional power. If Tom Waits sung in the choir it would sound like this.
Remaining in Camp Toad, there's a story behind the Song, By Toad Split 12" Vol. 5 (●●●, out on 14 Nov), but we'll keep its twists and turns brief here; it involves the friendship between Scottish masters of the blog-come-label Matthew Young of Song, By Toad and Tom Johnson of Gold Flake Paint, their shared expertise for picking a good track, and Matthew's reunion with his brother Ben in New York City at the end of 2015, where Ben works for the National Opera Centre. That's where this compilation album (ten tracks, four artists, a one-time-only listing on the 'Gold Flake Toad' imprint) was recorded, and it certainly sounds gorgeous – a perfectly wintery roster of wistful indie tracks from the lo-fi highway epics of Beach Moon Peach Moon to Furnsss' collision of grunge balladry and jagged rehearsal rooms discordance, Small Wonder's resonantly arch but stripped-back melancholia (they include a track called 'I Dream of Springsteen' and a cover of Sam Cooke's 'Only Sixteen'), and Eskimeaux's beautifully tense electro-folk. It's sad indie which will make you very happy.
The press materials which accompany Bryan Jones' International Nobody (●●●) astutely point out that the Scottish rap genre didn't begin with Young Fathers, Loki, Hector Bizerk and the like. A decade ago, Edinburgh's Penpushers – of whom Jones was a member – pioneered a nascent form of the genre on the city's KFM Records, and now he's back with his debut solo album. There are snatches of rap therein, but mainly it's a showcase for Jones' production ability, a variously-textured and undeniably very retro collection which aims for the DJ Shadow cut-up style and makes it most of the way there.
On the nation's live stages, RM Hubbert and Rick Redbeard's joint live tour will take them to Newport-On-Tay, Inverness, Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen and Perth; Edinburgh Leisure (the new project from Keith Farquhar of The Male Nurse) plays the launch of a new set of TMN reissues at Mono, Glasgow, Fri 4 Nov; and SAY Award winner Anna Meredith and her sister Eleanor bring their new project ANNO to Tramway, Glasgow and the Hub, Edinburgh, alongside the Scottish Ensemble. The first Lyceum Variety Night at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Sun 7 Nov features music from Emma Pollock and A New International, and the new Neu! Reekie! welcomes Emelle and Withered Hand to Pilrig St Paul's Church, Edinburgh, Fri 26 Nov. We also send all the best to Glasgow's Nightwave, who plays her debut live show in London on 19 Nov; hopefully we get to see it soon.