LP Records & Radio Days: The Scots Whay Podcast Talks To Lorenzo Pacitti…

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Lorenzo outside LP Records (image LP Records/Facebook)

For the latest podcast Ali visited LP Records in Glasgow’s West End to talk to LP himself,Unknown Lorenzo Pacitti. The two talk about the history of his LP Record store, the move into becoming a label, (releasing music from Wesley A. Chung, American Clay, and Codist), and his plans to start LP Radio, a station which will be based in the store.

There are also tales of Nicki Minaj, the vital role of darts in the LP story, time spent in Texas and Seattle, the pros and cons of the vinyl resurrection, and his vision of the perfect radio station. For anyone interested in the record business – the records and/or the business – it’s a must listen.

To keep up with all things LP you can follow on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

The podcasts come thick and fast over the festive period, including our Best Of 2018 specials, so keep ’em peeled and don’t miss out…

The Good Word: Scots Whay Hae!’s 10 Best Books Of 2018 (+1)…

DSC_0809 2.jpgI know you’re bombarded with ‘Books Of The Year’ lists around this time, but we like to think that Scots Whay Hae!’s selection is one for the more discerning book lover. It’s a good old-fashioned Top-Ten, but, as with Nigel Tufnel’s amp, this one goes to 11. Which is one better…

These are the publications which stood out against the stiffest competition in 2018, consisting of four new novels, three short fiction collections, the conclusion of a soul music and civil rights trilogy, a book of spell poetry, a history of Scottish pop, plus our bonus entry – a re-issue of a modern Scottish classic.

They will transport you to Harlem, Lewis, Bangour, and post-war America, with detours to Orkney, the Scottish Borders, Edinburgh, Paris, Moscow past and present, and through the looking-glass, along the way. Taken as a whole they are a testament to the artistic diversity and cultural imagination at large in Scotland today and proof that Scottish writing is in fine fettle indeed. Need further convincing? Here’s what we thought at the time:

Olga Wotjas – Miss Blaine’s Prefect And The Golden Samovar

37795464Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar is a crime novel for those people who think they don’t like crime novels. It is also a novel of manners, a comedy, a romance, (although not necessarily a romantic-comedy), and a work of science fiction. With so many influences at work, and genres juggled, it really shouldn’t work but it never falls down and Olga Wojtas should be praised for pulling such a feat off. I’m pretty sure I won’t read anything like it this year, unless it is ‘Miss Blaine’s Prefect’s’ next mission impossible, and I’m hoping that we won’t have to wait too long for that.

Miss Blaine’s Prefect And The Golden Samovar is published on the Contraband imprint of Saraband Books

Helen McClory – Mayhem & Death

51tswpu6nl-_sx326_bo1204203200_McClory doesn’t waste words which makes her fiction perfect for the shorter forms. Some of her stories, such as ‘The Language Of Heaven’ ‘The Purvey’ and the unforgettable ‘A Coven Of Two’, are only just over a page long but they all pack a punch. ‘Museum Piece’ is like a supernatural James Kelman story, and if you can’t imagine that then you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

These stories are intensely sensual but also visceral, and are often uncomfortable as a result – there’s blood, sweat and tears on these pages. They do what the best writing should, making you face your own truths, and asks questions to which you may not like the answers.

Mayhem & Death is published by 404 Ink.
You can hear Helen McClory in conversation on the SWH! podcast from April 2018.

Alison Moore – Missing

9781784631406There are few things better than a novel which surprises you, which catches you unaware and makes you think about the world and yourself in a different way. Missing had just such an effect – as artful and emotional a book as I have read in some time. This is beautiful writing, eschewing the need to give reasons and explanations for what occurs, letting the reader come to their own conclusions.

It’s not a novel which asks for sympathy, but one which offers empathy, in a manner not dissimilar to Ron Butlin’s Ghost Moon. If you are already aware of Alison Moore’s writing, (her first novel The Lighthouse made the Man Booker shortlist in 2012 and she has had many other accolades) the quality of Missing will not surprise you, but if you aren’t then be prepared to be knocked out.

Missing is published by Salt Publishing

M.J. Nicholls- The 1002nd Book To Read Before You Die

1002The 1002nd Book To Read Before You Die is a comic novel which takes its subject matter very seriously, and demands to be read in the same manner. It is a literary undertaking which needs the reader to engage fully. To do otherwise would be to miss out on what is, at times, an exhilarating experience.

Although there are other Scottish novels which come to mind, such as Kevin McNeill’s The Brilliant & Forever, Alice Thompson’s Burnt Island, and Graham Lironi’s Oh, Marina Girl, M.J. Nicholls is doing something which feels and reads as new and exciting. If you love books then The 1002nd Book To Read Before You Die is one to read, before it’s too late.

The 1002nd Book To Read Before You Die is published by Sagging Meniscus.

Vic Galloway – Rip It Up: The Story Of Scottish Pop

dsc_0792Rip It Up is more thorough and exhaustive than we have any right to expect from a book released to accompany an exhibition, and it more than stands on its own right and merits. Of course there are bands and musicians missing, but you can’t include everyone and Galloway admits as much in his introduction. While he can’t hide his obvious love for punk and indie music he remains non-judgmental throughout, and readers can pick the musicians and genres they are less familiar with and explore further for themselves.

Where the book works best is as an extensive overall look at something close to our hearts and always on our minds. This review could have been a book in itself as every page of Rip It Up has information I want to discuss and share with you. This is partly because it’s a subject I love deeply, partly because Galloway’s passion is infectious, but mainly because it’s a fascinating story well written, and what more could you want from any book? Rip It Up: The Story Of Scottish Pop – every home should have one.

Rip It Up: The Story Of Scottish Pop is published by National Museums of Scotland.
You can hear Vic Galloway in conversation on the 100th SWH! Podcast

Donald S. Murray – As The Women Lay Dreaming

dk4wu2bxsaa3yaw1At the centre of As The Women Lay Dreaming is a call for greater understanding and empathy. Tormond, who had witnessed too much at a young age, still had the capacity for love, and forgiveness. As important was the way he used his art and writing to try to help him come to terms with the world around him. This, in turn, would not only allow his grandson to better comprehend a man who had a huge influence on his life, (although he knew him only briefly), but also better understand himself.

With As The Women Lay Dreaming Donald S. Murray has pulled off a similar feat. It not only brings to life the disaster of the Iolaire, but also a place and its people over two periods of time, using personal and individual stories to examine wider themes. This is a novel which reveals new layers with every reading. It is history brought to life through fiction, and when it is done in a manner as moving and beautiful as this it is invaluable.

As The Women Lay Dreaming is published by Saraband Books
You can hear Donald S. Murray talking to Ali on the SWH! Podcast.

Chris McQueer – HWFG

hwfg-cover-1Chris McQueer’s stories are driven by his vivid and visceral characters. Individuals whose lives are rarely written about – mostly outrageous and often shameless. His growing army of followers can be reassured that these are further tales of the dark side of life – divine comedy so black that it’s often difficult to see.

With HWFG he proves that Hings was no one-off, but only the beginning for a writer who appears to have found his voice immediately. It also shows evidence that he is growing more confident in his craft, often addressing the reader directly, making for a more immersive read. After two superb short fiction collections I can’t wait to see what he does next – no pressure! And to those who remain unsure, have no fear – Chris McQueer is the real deal.

HWFG is published by 404 Ink
You can hear Chris McQueer talking to Ali on the SWH! Podcast.

Andrew Crumey – The Great Chain of Unbeing

46482527_184604975815225_6470154595455729664_nIn my opinion Crumey is one of the most underrated and overlooked writers at work today, although his being shortlisted for this year’s Saltire Fiction Book Of The Year may see that change. There are a couple of comparisons with other authors who have appeared on these pages I could offer in terms of style and substance; David Keenan and M.J. Nicholls are the two who spring to mind – but if I’m being truthful Andrew Crumey stands alone.

If you haven’t read his work before then I think The Great Chain Of Unbeing an ideal place to start. All his books can be read on different levels, but that applies to this one more than most while still giving you the full Crumey experience. Put simply, he makes you think. More than that he challenges you to think, and that’s what a great writer should do. We all need a challenge, otherwise what’s the point?

The Great Chain Of Unbeing is out now, published by Dedalus Books.

Stuart Cosgrove – Harlem ’69: The Future Of Soul

46523465_252474145447194_8238799154168463360_nAnyone who has read the previous books will know what to expect in terms of form. Cosgrove takes us through the year of 1969 chronologically, month by month, and looks at events which may have begun in Harlem but which had ramifications way beyond the neighbourhood boundaries.

I was wondering how he was going to wrap things up before the close of this third act, and he does so by looking to the future, linking events and individuals to people, places, and music from the next five decades which only reinforces his central thesis that these are three years which shaped America, and shook the world, musically and politically. All the issues that Cosgrove touches upon, in this volume especially, are still felt keenly, and there is a sense that he views 1969 as a year zero for America – socially, politically, and culturally – and things would never be the same again.

Harlem ’69: The Future Of Soul is out now, published by Polygon Books.

Jenni Fagan – There’s A Witch In The Word Machine

Theres-a-Witch-in-the-Word-Machine-4-e1530966044594The spell poems in Jenni Fagan’s latest collection There’s A Witch In The Word Machine do their job as there’s something magical on these pages, with an honesty and integrity at their core that makes you confront your own. Fagan looks at people and places, love and loss, all with an unflinching eye married to her innate understanding of the power of words to communicate and to help heal. The central poem of the collection, ‘Bangour Village Hospital’, is the most moving and emotional piece of writing I read in 2018, and it is exemplary of the power of Jenni Fagan’s poetry.

The best poetry collections take hold in a manner similar to favourite albums in that you are compelled to return again and again, finding something new each time while also taking comfort in growing familiarity and significance. There’s A Witch In The Word Machine is highly personal, yet its themes are universal, and no other book captured the cultural spirit of 2018 as it has.

There’s A Witch In The Word Machine is published by Polygon Books
* A version of this review first appeared in The Bottle Imp’s Best Scottish Books of 2018

(+1) Ron Butlin – The Sound Of My Voice (Republished)

dsc_0772The Sound Of My Voice is as astonishing an undertaking to me today as it was when I first read it in the late ’90s.  It is artistic, insightful, philosophical, psychological, even spiritual, and I could go on and on. But, above all, it is human and it is compassionate. At its core is a kindness and an attempt at understanding the worst of times with the belief that only then can we appreciate the best of times. Few writers have the ability, and, indeed, the desire to examine and understand what it means to do more than simply exist as Ron Butlin does, and this is evident in his poetry and other writing, particularly 2014’s novel Ghost Moon. 

The Sound Of My Voice remains “The Greatest Scottish Novel You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of”, but now you have and I hope I have convinced you that it is essential reading. Returning to it after seven years only confirms my feelings that, after all the Scottish novels I’ve reviewed on these pages and elsewhere, if I had only one to recommend to you The Sound Of My Voice is it.

The Sound Of My Voice is republished on the Polygon imprint of Birlinn Ltd.

2018 really was a strong year, with Helen Taylor’s The Backstreets of Purgatory, Douglas Skelton’s The Janus Run, Mandy Haggith’s The Walrus Mutterer, Robin Robertson’s The Long Take and Daniel Shand’s Crocodile just missing out, but you should click on those names, read their reviews and seek them out all the same. 2019 has a lot to live up to…

New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best New Music From The Last Month…

unnamed.pngIt’s the time for everyone’s end of year lists, and as SWH! will be posting our own in the coming days and weeks it would be a touch hypocritical to complain, but I do feel for writers, film makers, musicians, etc, who put out something new in November/December as they are often overlooked in the rush to compile and commemorate what’s gone before. Well, not on our watch.

What follows are the best tracks to reach our ears over the last month, including some rocking rockabilly, mind-expanding psychedelia, indie-agitpop, a natural beauty, a multi- genre triumph, and a song which became an anthem for many in 2018. It’s a fine selection which also acts as a neat summary of what was an inventive and eclectic year. More of that very soon, but in the meantime…

We have been fans of The Strange Blue Dreams at SWH! for a long time, (and also of their alter egos The Shiverin’​ Sheiks). Their latest single is ‘Man’s Game’, and it is that rarest of beasts – a good song about football, one packed full of metaphor and meaning, comparing the ups and downs of the beautiful game to the trials and tribulations of life. And if that sounds a bit ‘Thought For The Day’, have no fear – The Strange Blue Dreams deliver a slice of off-kilter rockabilly and skiffle, full of twangy guitar and a snare as tight as a drum, sounding for all the world like the house band in a Coen Brothers’ movie.  Catch them for yourself at Glasgow’s Oran Mor tomorrow night (5/12/18). In the meantime, this is ‘Man’s Game’:

Making a late bid to be included in those Best Albums Of 2018 lists are Strike The Colours with their latest release, Flock. Taking inspiration from the often wild side of the natural world, it’s mood is one which has a touch of Gothic folk while remaining resolutely contemporary, and it feels perfect for this time of year. A winter walk will be greatly enhanced with Flock as your soundtrack.  As you would expect from a record featuring musicians who have, in their time, played with BDY PRTS, Arab Strap, CHVRCHES, Mogwai, A Mote Of Dust, and Idlewild (among others) the record oozes class and quality. Add in guest appearances from Louis Abbot and Emma Pollock and what you are looking at is a sure-thing in terms of great music. If you’re quick you can see them live (supported by Rick Redbeard) at Glasgow’s Hug & Pint on the 16th December. In the meantime this is ‘Final Eyes’:

The announcement of new music from Barrie-James is arguably the most welcome of 2018. You may know him as the front man of Kassidy, cos he was, but he is back with a new solo album Psychedelic Soup which will be with you in 2019. From it is the single, ‘Free Like A Bird’, and it is some classic old-school psychedelic rock that puts you in mind of the 13th Floor Elevators, Pink Fairies and Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention, with James’ unmistakable vocals to the fore. I’ve been lucky enough to see Barrie-James live a couple of times in the last year (as part of the excellent Gigs at Braemar Gallery) and he is mesmeric and magic. You can witness this for yourself on December 7th in Glasgow at The Old Hairdressers. This is ‘Free As A Bird’, and if Syd Barrett was making music today it would go a little something like this:

Considering the potential source material there has been a distinct and surprising lack of musical reaction to the political events of recent times, bar the odd song. Where are today’s Housemartins, Redskins or Half Man Half Biscuit? Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage, after too many years away, The Hector Collectors who have a new album Remember the Hector Collectors? .​.​You Won’t Believe What They Sound Like Now!. On it they address the political, social and culture discourse of the last decade and, unsurprisingly, find they have plenty to say. The first single is ‘Edgelords’ which takes on social media and the trolls who reside there. The sound is still that of classic indie pop similar to those names above, and it could just be The Hector Collectors time is now. Take a listen to ‘Edgelords’ and see if you agree:

One of the best albums of 2018 is Be Kind by Starry Skies, a musical collective collected from bands such as Sister John, The Sweetheart Revue, Tenement and Temple, and The Gracious Losers, among others, led by Warren McIntyre, a man who lives and breathes music. It is a wonderful record from start to finish, but one track in particular became an anthem for 2018. The song is the titular ‘Be Kind’ and it now has a video to accompany it. This has been a year where themes of love, peace and harmony, kindness and care – for yourself and others – made a welcome comeback, at least among the beautiful people who listen to the Starry Skies, and those who read and follow SWH!. You want proof? Just look back at the music featured in these reviews over the past year and you’ll see I’m right. Sit back, make yourself comfortable, and listen to ‘Be Kind’. It’s a mantra for a better life:

Straight outta Shetland, and sounding like Ween and They Might Be Giants hanging out with Hall & Oates, Big Time Quell are here to talk about the ‘Midnight Jaguar’ (which, for some reason, sounds filthy). It’s a trip fantastic across the genres with the synths and sounds of dance and disco mixing with face-melting lead guitar, the driving drums and bass of Prog, and a little sax thrown in for good measure. It shouldn’t work, but listen below and you’ll see that, somehow, it does. With an EP, Hardman Ponytail, coming soon this is just the beginning. 2019 could just belong to Bit Time Quell? If it does then it starts here with ‘Midnight Jaguar’:

As any fule kno, the greatest rock bands come in threes – Motorhead, ZZ Top, Nirvana, Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Husker Du, Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jr – heck, even The Police, to make a point (and if you can forgive the sins of Sting). Proving me right are Dead Fiction, a band who deal in epic and anthemic rock which will take your head clean off. Their eponymous EP is out now, and it is relentless from start to finish, and will delight fans of The Foo Fighters, Feeder, Faith No More – and that’s just the f’ing Fs. Dead Fiction are clearly a class act and if you are a fan of any of the bands mentioned above then you have to check them out. Do that now as, from the Dead Fiction EP, this is ‘Crushed By The Weight’:

That’s yer whack for this month, but don’t go far – as promised our Tracks Of The Year will be with you very soon…

Lessons From History: The SWH! Podcast Talks To Donald S. Murray…

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For the latest podcast Ali met up with poet and writer Donald S. Murray in Waterstone’s on Sauchiehall Street before the Glasgow launch of As The Women Lay Dreaming (Saraband Books), his novel which examines the Iolaire disaster of 1919 and the impact it has had on a community through the generations.

The two discuss the book (right) in detail and why this story of one of the worst peacetime maritime Dk4Wu2BXsAA3yAwdisasters remains largely unknown outside of the Highlands & Islands. They also examine the way Murray uses it as the starting point to say much about Scotland as a whole, covering themes which include language, religion, class, art, guilt, and family.

Donald also talks of the importance of the memory of the senses when it comes to recalling the past on the page, the crucial role of an editor, and others, in helping to see your own work more clearly, his struggles with structure, and the current healthy state of writing in and from the Highlands & Islands.

It’s a fascinating conversation about one of Scotland’s defining moments in history and much, much more. With the centenary of the sinking of the Iolaire imminent this is a podcast you won’t want to miss. There is some ‘cafe ambience’ to begin with, but that soon dies down and we hope it won’t affect your enjoyment of this informative and delightful discussion. And see if you can spot Ali’s deliberate mistake right at the beginning!

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

The podcasts come thick and fast over the festive period, so keep ’em peeled and don’t miss out…

Three Is The Magic Number: A Review Of Stuart Cosgrove’s Harlem ’69: The Future Of Soul…

 

46523465_252474145447194_8238799154168463360_n.jpgAll good things must come to an end, and this is sadly true for Stuart Cosgrove’s epic and engaging soul and civil rights trilogy. What began with Detroit ’67: The Year That Changed Soul, and moved to Memphis ’68: The Tragedy Of Southern Soul, ends with Harlem ’69: The Future Of Soul, and while it is a crying shame that, for the moment at least, we won’t find out more of what happens next (although, as suggested in the title, Cosgrove does touch upon the future), as James Brown knew, when you depart the stage do it in style and leave them wanting more. Cosgrove is leaving us in the finest style, job done.

Anyone who has read the previous books will know what to expect in terms of form. Cosgrove takes us through the year of 1969 chronologically, month by month, and looks at events which may have begun in Harlem but which had ramifications way beyond the neighbourhood boundaries. His cast of characters are a Venn diagram of the well-known, the lesser-known, the expected, and the unexpected. For every Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Gil Scott-Heron, and Donny Hathaway, there’s someone such as Fat Jack Taylor, Betty Mabry, Arthur Conley, and Afeni Shakur (born Alice Faye Williams) whose stories are vital – indeed they, and others like them, are the spine of Harlem ’69.

All four mentioned have the most remarkable life stories, as a musical impresario and drug dealer, a muse – and so, so much more – to Miles Davis, a man struggling with his sexuality in a none-more macho world, and a leading Black Panther and mother to a future superstar. Theirs are just a few of many such accounts, and they are evidence of what Cosgrove does so well – taking everyday people’s extraordinary lives and linking them to what’s going on, not just in Harlem, but across America.

Then there are those who appear who you, or rather I, just don’t expect. Famous names such as Jimi Hendrix, Luther Vandross, Frankie Knuckles, the aforementioned Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Nile Rodgers, and George Benson. Most music lovers will be aware of their lives and work but they seem to belong elsewhere, to other musical movements and eras. For all of those mentioned to appear in the story of Harlem in 1969 is as fascinating as it is surprising.

So far I’ve only really touched upon the music, but this is as much a story of civil rights (and social issues), if not more so. They are intrinsically linked with the time and place, and with each other. This is epitomised by the staging of the free concert which came to be known as ‘Black Woodstock’, with appearances from Sly and The Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, and a legendary performance from Nina Simone – her version of ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black’ a highlight of the set, and as a result the song would become the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement in 1969.

The backdrop to Harlem ’69 is dark and dangerous, with the increasing prevalence of heroin taking a terrible toll, street gangs at war, and crime and mortality rates through the roof. As the months unfold matters only get worse. There are events throughout the year which define the times – the raid leading to the arrest of 21 Black Panthers being one of the most far-reaching in its consequences. But perhaps the most shocking is the death of 12-year-old Walter Vandermeer, an event which came to symbolise Harlem’s problems.

I was wondering how Cosgrove was going to wrap things up before the close of this third act, and he does so by looking to the future, linking events and individuals to people, places, and music from the next five decades which only reinforces his central thesis that these are three years which shaped America, and shook the world, musically and politically. The influence on, and the links to, the greatest exponents of hip-hop and rap is particularly strong, and poignant.

Tupac Shakur, Dr Dre, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Tone Loc, Mantronix, NWA, Public Enemy, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest – their music and politics can be directly traced back to the years and places covered by Cosgrove. The Black Panthers’ influence in particular can be felt in music, film, theatre, art, fashion, and elsewhere, and that continues to the present day (perhaps most obviously in Marvel’s recent Black Panther movie). All the issues that Cosgrove touches upon, in this volume especially, are still felt keenly, and there is a sense that he views 1969 as a year zero for America – socially, politically, and culturally – and things would never be the same again.

There’s a playlist on the Books from Scotland website which Stuart Cosgrove has carefully curated for your listening pleasure, but here are just a few of my favourite tracks mentioned in Harlem ’69:

It is to be hoped that this isn’t the end of Stuart Cosgrove’s writing about American soul music and culture, but if it is then it’s on a high. However, if you happen to read this, Stuart, I have one last thing to say, “One more year, one more year…!”.

Harlem ’69: The Future Of Soul is out now, published by Polygon Books.

Tales Of The Unexpected: A Review Of Andrew Crumey’s The Great Chain of Unbeing…

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When is a book of short stories not a book of short stories? When it is written by Andrew Crumey. As those who have read his previous work, (which includes Sputnik Caledonia, Pfitz, and The Secret Knowledge), will know he is a writer who appears to derive great delight in the undertaking of writing and the possibilities it offers, and also in playing with the expectations of readers. He unashamedly embraces ideas and examines them with a forensic, yet playful, eye. This has never been shown to better effect than with his latest book The Great Chain Of Unbeing  – a collection of stories which are bound intrinsically, yet almost imperceptibly, by interrelated situations and characters. Just who, how, why, where and when – these are all for you to uncover and unpick.

It begins at the ‘Unbeginning’ and ends with an ‘Unending’. Between the two are the stories which make ‘The Great Chain Of Unbeing’, a title which hints at the connections which run through these tales, and which asks questions about what we can claim as real. “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?”. Crumey tackles that question, but not head on – more a tackle from the side. These connections are not linear, they are a network with strands leading you in unexpected directions. Continue reading

Personal Space: The SWH! Podcast Talks To Vive-La-Rose’s David Luximon-Herbert…

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For the latest podcast Ali went through to Cabaret Voltaire in Edinburgh to talk to musician David Luximon-Herbert, better known as Vive-La-Rose, about his latest album For She Who Hangs The Moon, which is destined to be one of the best of 2018.

0013949348_10The two talk about the making of the record, influences, themes, tone, space, the expectations David has, and the critical reaction so far. Soulful, bittersweet, fragile, yet with a power that is undeniable – it’s an album which is clearly intensely personal yet also universal, reflecting on life, love, and regret, but with an eye to the hope the future holds.

In a recent review of the latest double A-side single ‘The Watchmaker’ and ‘Interior Rules’ SWH! said,  “For She Who Hangs The Moon is the perfect soundtrack for the wee small hours of the morning, when thoughts turn to times past, both good and bad.” Couldn’t have put it better myself. Continue reading

New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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The nights may be drawing in but the (in-a-just-&-fair-world-they-would-be) hits keep coming. As we approach the time when, love them or hate them, sites such as this one start to contemplate compiling their end-of-year lists it’s important that the new music released in 2018’s latter months receives proper recognition and its due. It’s not just for Christmas, you know.

With that in mind we have a suitably reflective selection of songs, welcoming back old friends, and more recent ones. In fact everyone mentioned below has appeared in a previous SWH! music review at some point, and we make no apologies for that. A couple made their first appearance just last month, but with others we go back years. It all makes for a fine selection and collection of tunes, some of which will move you, and others which will make you move.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin. The new single from The Eastern Swell has got me reminiscing hard. Look at the cover above. A child dressed as an astronaut, holding a Spacehopper (I believe taken from the cover of Andrew Crumey’s novel Sputnik Caledonia), the clock from Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, The Olympia Theatre in Bridgeton – it couldn’t be more nostalgic for Glaswegians of a certain age, and it gives you an idea of what awaits you when you put the needle on the record, or, in this case, press play.

It’s called ‘Down Again By Blackwaterside’, from the album Hand Rolled Halo, and it’s their take on, and re-imagining of, an often covered trad-folk ballad which influenced musicians from Bert Jansch through Led Zeppelin to Altan. The Eastern Swell’s version moves me for reasons I can’t quite comprehend, speaking to something deep-rooted in my cultural and musical memories. I think it’s to do with the traditional element – music from the land and of the land, story telling and song handed down through generations rather than heard on radio or TV.

Add to that the accompanying video which is reminiscent of, and may even be, an Eastern European children’s animation from my youth, and I get a kick of nostalgia writ large. Whatever the reasons it’s powerful stuff. After my first play I immediately shared the song with my brother. It is like finding an old holiday photo or childhood recording – something which can be enjoyed by everyone, but extra special to those with whom you shared those times. This is ‘Down Again By Blackwaterside’:

Continue reading

Stranger Hings: A Review Of Chris McQueer’s HWFG…

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As Harper Lee, The Stone Roses, or Sam Raimi will tell you (and that’s a dinner-party I’d like to attend), it’s not easy following up a cultural touchstone. When your debut strikes a chord with a wider public and becomes higher profile than anyone expected then there’s bound to be added pressure to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. Chris McQueer’s short story collection Hings was just such a debut, one which found its way into the hands of people who don’t normally bother with literary fiction.

As with lain Banks’ The Wasp FactoryIrvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, and Alan Bissett’s Boyracers, Hings is a book with a reputation which spread in no small part by word of mouth, praised and quoted in the workplace and passed around the playground. It received mainly glowing reviews on sites such as this one, and in print, but so do many other books which don’t manage to achieve the profile Hings did.

In the age of social media such a reach can be more readily measured, with people posting pictures holding their copy on a variety of social media, often accompanied by messages professing that it’s the first book they’ve read in ages, a claim also made for those mentioned above. It feels as if Chris McQueer is reaching an audience outside of the usual Scottish literary scene in a manner not witnessed since Allan Wilson’s Wasted In Love received similar attention in 2011. But now we get to find out if McQueer can follow Hings. That’s the question which inevitably arises with the publication of his latest collection, HWFG. Continue reading

Films & Festivities Down The Firth: A Preview Of The Dunoon Film Festival…

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Now firmly established as one of Scotland’s finest, the Dunoon Film Festival is back this coming weekend (9-11 November) with a fantastic line-up. Here is the SWH! preview, with 10 suggestions for you to ponder, but you can check out the full programme here.

Tickets are incredible value for money, either £5, £3 or free, with the option of getting a festival pass for £30 which lets you fill your filmic boots and see whatever takes your fancy.

As well as tremendous opening and closing films, there are free screenings, workshops, cinema for children, and even the promise of a scratch-&-sniff version of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-RabbitIt’s well worth a trip doon the watter for the following reasons and more.

There’s rare footage from one of Scotland’s finest filmmakers, a musical zom/rom/com/ where La La Land meets Shaun Of The Dead, Harry Dean Stanton in one of his final screen roles, a live score from The Badwills to a classic Italian silent movie, the Scotsman who paved the way for Charlie Chaplin, the master of stop-motion cinema, a documentary about one of Scotland’s greatest (if controversial) sportsmen, Josie Long’s eagerly awaited Glasgow-based debut, and the festival closes with a 2018 BAFTA winning feature. All this and a showing of SWH’s favourite film of all time (and you can read just some of the reasons why here) followed by an ’80s disco. Who could ask for more? Not us. See you on the dance floor… Continue reading