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

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To recklessly misquote S. P. Morrissey, “Some months are better than others”, but this month is surely one of the best music reviews we have ever offered for your pleasure. It’s a mix of new music to make the heart sing and the future seem a warmer and more welcoming place, as well as a few of Scots Whay Hae!’s favourite musicians from the last 10 years – a potent combination. Looking forward, looking back.

Edinburgh bands feature strongly this month, and we’re going to start with one of the finest. Storm The Palace’s debut album Snow, Stars and Public Transport is out now on Abandoned Love Records. Last night saw the announcement of this year’s Scottish Album Of The Year, where Sacred Paws triumphed over a hotly contested short list. But the world can’t stand still and I’m going to suggest that Snow, Stars and Public Transport should be among the contenders for that title this time next year. Reminiscent of Lorraine & The Borderlands and Modern Studies, Storm The Palace have made a record which is sheer class from Track 1 to 10. Inventive with a strong sense of the tradition in which their music sits, this is baroque and roll at its very finest. As an example of what they do, listen to ‘La Lido’:

There are many exceptional electronic bands around at the moment, but few have the inherent style and vision of L-space. There is a winning understatement and languor to their music which allows your head to swim with ideas as well as sounds. It is expansive, and “Space” is the key word, not only in terms of the physical and the audio, but also that between your ears. Their latest, ‘Space Junk’, is a contender for song of the summer, marrying Giorgio Moroder and John Carpenter with St Etienne and Stereolab. If Nicolas Winding Refn is looking for a band to soundtrack his next movie then he should look no further:

Every year there is a band who make a claim to take their rightful place among your well-established favourites. Half Formed Things are more than half-way there already. Their eponymous EP is one of the best things I’d heard for some time, and the following track, ‘Embers’, didn’t even make the cut for that, (although it is now included on the recent re-press). It highlights what they do so well – make atmospheric music that slowly builds, but also ebbs and flows, leading you in unexpected directions. At first it may appear sparse and minimalist, but listen closely – theirs is a complex and layered sound which gives up more with every play. As with much of the best music the reason it affects so strongly is difficult to fully explain coherently as it is as much physical as it is intellectual – a problem for any reviewer. The only thing I can state with authority is that Half Formed Things make music which is very special indeed. I can’t wait to hear what they do next, and if you get the chance to see them live grab it with every available limb as watching them with an audience adds another dimension again:

While we’re alluding to eagerly awaited albums, there is none more so round our way than Siobhan Wilson’s There Are No Saints, released on Song By Toad on July 14th. Siobhan also featured in last month’s roundup but we make no apologies for featuring her again as the songs are as diverse as they are memorable. The latest example is ‘Paris Est Blanche’ which is quite beautiful in its simplicity and execution, with vocals which are simultaneously fragile yet infrangible. Siobhan Wilson plays The Glad Cafe on Friday 30th supported by The Great Albatross himself, A Wesley Chung, a line-up which suggests it could just be one of the most musically memorable nights of the year:

It’s confession time. This place in the roundup almost went to someone else, but I was looking  through the Scots Whay Hae! inbox for an email late last night when I saw one from Blair Coron which had been overlooked. Within five minutes I had bought his EP DO/RE and played it into the wee, small hours (which is the perfect time, I would suggest). It’s ambient music of the highest quality, reminiscent of Japanese masters Ryuichi Sakamoto,  Susumu Yakamoto and Rei Harakami, as well as the work of Jon Hopkins and Richard Haswell. Like those mentioned, Coron takes classical music and adds loops and other understated electronica to create something spellbinding. Add some spoken word and poetry, and DO/RE becomes unlike anything else I have heard in 2017. It all adds up to some immediate and moving music, and who can ask for more? And who was it who missed out at the last-minute? That would be too cruel to say. From DO/RE this is ‘Kandinsky’

 

We’re going to finish with two paeans for more optimistic times, which admittedly wouldn’t be hard. First off are PoP Campaign.  They marry an undeniable pop sensibility to social and political commentary, making music you think about and dance to at the same time.  Their latest is ‘Ex-raver’, a hymn to the days of underground raves and independent clubs, which would mean little if the music didn’t stand up, but Pop Campaign always put that first. They’re not the only ones to suggest we are all now ex-ravers, (more of that below*), but they do make a convincing argument by their music alone. If you aren’t aware of their previous work you can explore here, but not before you listen:

“Politics – bloody hell”, just about sums up and hopelessly understates the last few years, and it’s little surprise some are fair scunnered. However, Stephen McLaren’s latest track ‘No More (Say Yes)’ is a timely reminder of the sense of optimism and possibility which was among us back in 2014 when many possible futures seemed feasible – except the one which has actually happened. It’s from his eagerly awaited album We Used To Go Raving (*telt ye) which is due out on Errant Media in September 2017, and its simple and insistent piano refrain, understated electronica, and McLaren’s plaintive vocals certainly fits with the world-weary yet optimistic intonation which the title track from the album suggested. In keeping with this month’s theme, if there is one (there isn’t) it’s yet another eagerly awaited album, but in the meantime here is ‘No More (Say Yes)’:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is, if I may say so, a collection of fine music. If it is the end of the world as we know it at least we’ve got a hell of a soundtrack as we go. I’m off back to the top of the page to listen all over again and I suggest you do likewise…

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