Featuring Looper, Pronto Mama, Apache Darling and Siobhan Wilson
It wouldn't be like us to recommend anything on JD Twitch's Optimo Music anything less than wholeheartedly, and that's not changing this month. The first in a projected series of eight records exploring the symbols of the I-Ching from Glasgow electronic composer Iona Fortune's Tao of I (★★★★☆, Optimo Music) is a striking and endlessly explorable record, rich in instrumental ambient menace and the singular sound of Asian instruments like the gamelan and the guzheng. Also memorably distinctive, but of a much different tone, is Offgrid/Offline (★★★★☆, Mute), the fifth album in two decades from Looper, married couple Stuart (formerly of Belle & Sebastian) and Karn David. It's a gorgeously understated set of piano-led indie-pop chamber storytelling; often literally so from Stuart, whose soft voice occasionally diverts from song into pensive spoken word.
Pronto Mama's debut album Any Joy (Electric Honey, ★★★★☆) – premiered upon release by this very publication – is a lively and full-blooded affair which fuses the rattling indie-punk of 'Double-Speak' with the horn-led blue-eyed soul of 'All Your Insides' and the mournful balladry of 'Bennie' and 'Memory Song'. It's a diverse and well-crafted calling card from the young Glasgow group.
Individually raised in Aberdeen, Stirling and Santiago, Chile, Lush Purr are a Glasgow band signed to an Edinburgh label. They're also very good, although not in an obviously accessible way, shrouding the glowing pop hooks of their debut album Cuckoo Waltz (★★★★☆, Song, By Toad) beneath a fog of lo-fi production which lends the vocals, in particular, a faraway air. Yet there's something distinctive and addictive about a band who sound like The Vaselines gone shoegaze.
The solo project of Edinburgh's Andy Thomson and friends, Fuzzystar is a far more straightforward form of indie rock, a creditable collection of powerful, radio-friendly choral lines, chiming guitar hooks and Thomson's rich, rootsy vocal. The ten songs on Telegraphing (★★★☆☆, Satellite Sounds) are all very similar in tone, the odd ballad or the closing crescendo of 'High Friends' aside, but this is a crafted collection which should appeal strongly to fans of Frightened Rabbit or Fatherson.
It's a busy month for good albums from these parts, and Into the Light (★★★☆☆, Last Night From Glasgow) by Medicine Men is another we'd recommend, although maybe we can be forgiven for wishing the old-fashioned Balearic beats of instrumental opener 'A La Llum' had seen more service throughout. But singer and guitarist Ian Mackinnon is also a songwriter of distinction, creating arch lyrical tableau with rabbit-punching hooks and wistful storytelling tableaus, alongside a shiny, synthesiser-led backdrop. More joyful than we might expect a record born out of grief at his father's death to be, it condenses a particularly retro set of Glaswegian sounds, from Postcard Records to the blue-eyed soul movement.
There are also a bunch of interesting individual tracks being issued in May, although space dictates we only pick a few to highlight. There's a lot of promise in 'Go' by Glasgow's Apache Darling, for example, which sets Stefanie Lawrence's dramatic vocal against an icily epic synth backdrop; think Chvrches, but more mainstream. Also showing strong is 'Futuramayana' by Raza, a frantic instrumental built around Atari pop synths and Latin rhythms; the joyously raw and uncompromising 'Babyboomers' by Glasgow's Joanna Gruesome and Rapid Tan offshoot Breakfast Muff; new Song, By Toad signee Siobhan Wilson's churning, atmospheric 'Whatever Helps'; and 'Do You Say Hello to Your Neighbours?' by Lost Map's Savage Mansion, an arch and pleasant guitar jangle with a hint of Teenage Fanclub and Modern Lovers about it.
A live electronic weekender across two stages, with live and DJ sets by 12th Isle (DJ), Baggy Clobber, Becky Marshall (DJ), Clip Art, Cru Servers, Cucina Povera, The DDN, Dick 50, Domestic Exile (DJ), GK Machine (DJ), Iona Fortune, Jason Kerley, J Hill A, Joe Germlin, Junto Club, Kelora (DJ), Kleft, Kübler-Ross, Lo…