A Confession – Mogwai live

  mogwai3_211014

Mogwai / R.M. Hubbert – Music Hall, Aberdeen – Tuesday 21st October 2014

I’ll be drummed out of the Scottish indie blogging fraternity for saying this, but my relationship with Mogwai has been tangential at best.

I saw them supporting the Manics at the Caird Hall in Dundee way back in, what, 1998 or 1999 and quite liked them. But my subsequent attempts to hook up with them on record were less successful – I did get CODY but found the production a bit thin compared to the live sound.

Whilst I liked anything I subsequently heard by them it wasn’t until 2011’s ‘Hardcore Will Never Die … that I really got properly on board and I ended up placing it at number 4 in my top 10 albums of the year.

Its proper studio follow-up this year’s ‘Rave Tapes’ is also highly regarded in these parts so if I was ever going to go and see the band live again then this date, conveniently organised for the middle of a week off, was going to be it.

rmhubbert_211014

I confess I nearly didn’t make it off the launch pad – at £25 per skull *before* booking fees the show was a fair bit more expensive than I was expecting. But on the basis of now or never I bit the bullet encouraged in part by the fact that support was from the inestimable R.M. Hubbert.

I’d only ever visited the Music Hall once before, to see Mercury Rev back in May 1999, but if anything it seemed even more grand than I remembered it. It was a fine setting for the show.

However you might think that one man and his flamenco styled acoustic tunes would struggle to perform in such surroundings but that certainly wasn’t the case for Hubby.

Despite releasing three albums in less than three years half of his 40 minutes on stage was taken up not with music but with chat. That was a surprise given that one of the performances I’d previously see had been quite taciturn. But he was ferociously entertaining, at times hilarious, thoughtful and occasionally a little belligerent.

The music was great too finishing with ‘Car Song’ (“Is Moffat here? No, he’s on Twitter getting drunk!”). A genuine, national treasure.

mogwai2_211014

In spite of my apparent indifference over the years, Mogwai have simply got on with the business of steadily growing their fanbase at home and abroad such that this show, if not sold out, can’t have been a kick in the pants off 90% capacity.

As anticipated they were ferociously loud such that, despite the sensibly planned use of hearing protection, it really didn’t sound like I was wearing earplugs at all.

My lack of familiarity with the back catalogue meant that it wasn’t until the first encore that I was able to confidently put a name to a song (‘Hunted Like A Freak’) although this didn’t detract at all from my enjoyment.

The show was slightly slow in getting started for my tastes but when the show got louder and faster it was everything I’d want from a (largely) instrumental band. So the older guitar led tunes like ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ and ‘Ithica 27-9‘ were amongst the highlights but then so was this year’s electro single ‘Remurdered’.

Being honest I’m not sure I’d pay that sort of money to see the band again but, for a show which was a slight gamble, it certainly worked out pretty well.

mogwai1_211014

Are You All Sitting Comfortably? Jesus … – The Phantom Band live

phantomband_181014_1076s

Phantom Band live outings have been rare since the release of ‘Strange Friend’  so the Skinny curated Pleasance Sessions appearance on Saturday night definitely fell into the ‘do not miss’ category.

It turned out to be quite a different experience from last time I saw the band in Aberdeen in June.

The biggest and most crucial difference was that the sound was excellent. Unlike in Aberdeen there was a real clarity which meant that the keyboards (AWOL that night) were present and correct.

Whilst the main theatre at the Pleasance has an old music hall charm, its biggest drawback is that it’s all seated.That was a problem because it’s pretty much impossible to fully enjoy the Phantoms whilst sitting down.

It was also, at just over an hour, a comparatively short set so the number of old favourites was cut back slightly whilst, disappointingly, half the new album was also jettisoned.

If the ‘Strange Friend’ material sounded just as good as the old classics, the standout for me was still a wonderful, euphoric version of ‘Throwing Bones’. Meanwhile the live evolution of ‘Crocodile’ continued with a version which seemed to be focusing on the groove in the song.

phantomband_181014_1141s

A couple of weeks ago, I was clear that this year’s live band of the year nomination was settled. After Saturday, I’m not sure I haven’t, maybe, jumped the gun on that.

A further chance to change my mind will take place on Thursday 11th December at Non-Zeros in Dundee.

The Phantom Band played:

1. The Wind That Cried The World  2. Doom Patrol  3. Sweatbox  4. Into The Corn  5. Clapshot  6. Throwing Bones  7. Women of Ghent  8. Crocodile

Encore
9. The Howling

birdhead_158s

Birdhead had opened the show with an excellent half hour set. It was the cleanest sounding set I’ve seen them play and, like the headliners, it sounded fantastic.

There didn’t seem to be a large number of folk in the theatre when they started but the crowd grew steadily throughout the set. And, if you’re out to make a good impression then the likes of ‘Tourist’, ‘Time Lag Accumulator’ and ‘Dronebone’, are a good way to do it. Such that by the end of their set Birdhead had a sizeable and appreciative audience.

remrem_5714s

All kudos to Remember Remember for carrying a lot of their melodies on a xylophone but my overriding impression of them was that they were … nice. Serious but nice and that’s not really enough for MPT.

Perhaps the slot did them little favours, placed between two such exciting live bands, but then again I suppose that I can’t love everyone and it seems that Remember Remember have slipped through the cracks.

Photos of all three acts can be found here.

 

Can’t Catch A Hold of My Breath – We Were Promised Jetpacks LP

It’s been more than 8 years since I first wrote about We Were Promised Jetpacks.

In that time just about the only constant has been their thirst for change. Given that they changed their entire set between the first and second live shows I saw, it doesn’t come as anything of a surprise that third LP ‘Unravelling’ is a significant departure from their previous two long players – in a number of regards.

With Paul Savage at the production helm ‘Unravelling’ is the Jetpacks’ most subtle record to date. Opening track ‘Safety In Numbers’ sets the tone, floating in on a wash of synths quite unlike anything they’ve done before.

Compared to the energy of ‘These Four Walls’ and the heavy riffing of ‘In The Pit of the Stomach’, ‘Unravelling’ takes a different approach – taking time to build up to its crescendos but in doing so maximising the impact of the fewer occasions that they do cut loose. single and LP highpoint ‘I Keep It`Composed’ is the best, most thrilling, example of the new aesthetic at work.

Without doubt it’s also the Jetpacks’ most atmospheric set to date with layered keyboards prominent on most tracks. There’s also a greater range to Adam’s vocals including some falsetto and an often gentler tone.

In fact there’s only one track, ‘A Part of It’, which approximates the manic staccato guitars which were the trademark of the debut – restraint it seems is the order of the day here.

Elsewhere the band stake out new territory – ‘Night Terror’ replaces the monolithic guitars of previous records with a pulsing electro riff whilst there’s a proper instrumental too in the shape of the gorgeous ‘Peace of Mind’.

Of course all this change is only of use if the songs are any good. And resoundingly that’s the case here. In fact there’s a case to be made that the first five tracks on ‘Unravelling’ are as strong a run of songs as the band have yet put together.

It’s not a perfect record though as I’m not sure that the second side is quite as good as the first.

Certainly there’s plenty of stuff to enjoy, the aforementioned ’A Part of It’ injects a well timed dose of adrenaline to proceedings, whilst ‘Bright Minds’ is as good as anything on the first side.

But in amongst a lot of mid paced material, ‘Disconnecting’ sounds a little dirgey (ironically, it may have worked better on the previous records) whilst ‘Ricochet’ isn’t quite the epic finale that it’s striving to be.

But taken as a whole ‘Unravelling’ proves that WWPJ are without question one of Scotland’s most adventurous bands with their restless spirit continually driving them on to new heights.

Yet, despite sounding little like its predecessors, ‘Unravelling’ incontestably sounds like no one other than We Were Promised Jetpacks. Not a bad trick to be able to pull off.

Here’s the video for the single:

Underground, Under The Radar – (Another) Roy Moller LP

Roy_Moller_2013-560

I was introduced a few months ago to Roy Moller through his excellent ‘One Domino’ album released on Stereogram early in the summer.

Rather remarkably there’s already been another Moller album – ‘My Week Beats Your Year’ which followed in a matter of weeks (even if it’s taken me a couple of months to catch up).

Inspired by being asked to perform a Lou Reed show for the Edinburgh Fringe MWBYY acts as a part biography/part tribute to Reed by documenting Moller’s early exposure to Reed’s music.

Musically it’s more of a consistent set than its wildly eclectic predecessor ‘One Domino’ taking the New York influences from that record as its template.

Which is in no way intended to pigeonhole MWBYY. On the contrary it’s a diverse LP from the acoustic strum of LP opener ‘Capital City’ to the squalling guitars and celebratory organ of ‘Captivity’ through the horn section on ‘Under The Radar’.

As with ‘One Domino’ what pulls the different elements together is Moller’s insistent melodic sense whilst the production remains pleasingly lived in.

‘My Week Beats Your Year’ is available from Stereogram Recordings. Roy Moller supports James King and the Lonewolves at the Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh (23rd November) and Oran Mor, Glasgow (27th).

 

 

At Least We’ve Still Got The House of Lords – Randolph’s Leap live

rl_031014_770s

Randolph’s Leap / Blood Indians / Ed Muirhead – Beat Generator Live, Dundee – Friday 3rd October 2014

Some thoughts on Friday night’s show.

Summed up – three great acts and a largely attentive and enthusiastic audience. What more could we want?

Well, as ever, we reckoned that the show deserved a better audience. But the foul weather undoubtedly couldn’t have arrived at a worse time in terms of deterring the casual punter from venturing outdoors.

Turning to the music, Ed Muirhead did his first show for us and opened the show with a piano based set. He’s undoubtedly a versatile player and his set covered an impressive range of styles from contemporary Scottish folk to more 70s influenced singer-songwriter fare.

On one hand Ed benefited from playing to a rather larger than normal sized audience for an opening act at a CCC show – on the other the hubbub had become rather distracting by the end of his set.

ed_m_031014_688s

Having only heard the 4 piece Blood Indians through the E.P. (and a couple of minutes live), their set this time around was a bit of a surprise.

The E.P. is certainly one version of their sound but its cleaner sound doesn’t necessarily seem to represent where the band are headed.

In person, they imbue the tunes with a greater sense of mystery and intrigue and the best of their material (single ‘Lioness’ and the closing ‘Cold Caller’) stand comparisons to the darker pop of Belly. And that’s no small praise in these quarters.

Rowan and Joanne have certainly done a lot of musical growing up in public over the last couple of years but on this evidence they’re delivering on their early promise.

bi_031014_737s

Finally the headliners. Beat Generator seems to suit Randolph’s Leap. I’ve never heard them sound better than they did at the venue in March but Friday’s show sounded every bit as good whilst retaining the energy that dominates so many of their shows.

They’re simply my favourite live act at the moment and I’d suggest that an hour is their company is guaranteed to lift the spirits of all but the most stony hearted.

The setlist was similar to recent headlining shows but the appearance of ‘Take The Skinheads Bowling’ was a nice surprise which only happened due to an unlikely rock’n’roll coincidence.

During the soundcheck the band had slipped elements of ‘Skinheads’ into ‘Counting Sheep’ which was noticed by sound engineer Mick – who had actually toured with Camper van Beethoven back in the day.

Given my comments on the evening’s sound the cover was a fitting tribute to Mick’s sterling work on the night.

rl_031014_839s

The Leap played (something like):

1. Goodbye  2. Foolishness of Youth  3. Nature  4. Isle of Love  5. Weatherman  6. Real Anymore  7. Light of the Moon  8. Microcosm 9. News  10. Hermit 11. I Can’t Dance To This Music Any More  12. Take The Skinheads Bowling  13. Crisps

Encore
14. Unnatural  15. Counting Sheep

Photos from the show here.

Adam returns to Dundee for a solo support of James Yorkston on Sunday 26th October at the Redd Suite.

Special Times – Ed Muirhead interview

june2014_davearcari

Ed Muirhead has been quietly releasing music under his own name since 2011’s Cage For The Clouds album (writes Andy Wood). Having became a solo artist by sheer accident a few years earlier Ed has continued to write, record and release albums. 2013’s beautiful album Simple Life saw him gain a fair bit of attention in the media with songs such as ‘Ode To The Kingsway’ and the title track being featured in local media and on STV.

There’s a lovely gentleness to Ed’s songs, they have a folk-pop feel to them but embrace a wide range of influences and reviews have compared him to artists such as King Creosote, Michael Marra and Leonard Cohen. There is a lack of pretentiousness to Ed’s music but no lack of craft or skill in his songs and the arrangements which suit each song perfectly. Having been a big supporter of the local music scene and a regular face at gigs including The Cool Cat Club we felt it was more than time for Ed to appear on the stage rather than simply in the audience.

Ed kindly agreed to answer some questions for us ahead of his debut performance at The Cool Cat Club.

Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do.

Hi, my name is Ed, I play piano, write songs and sing. I play drums, guitars and other things too, but most of the time it’s piano…

What first influenced you to write and sing?

At the age of 16 I wrote a few songs… then moved to Glasgow, joined a couple of bands and played keyboards (in the 90s, when keyboards were not common in indie bands). We did one of my songs at a gig & it went down well with the crowd: looking back, I suppose that encouraged me on. I didn’t sing much until a few years ago…

What are your current influences, musical or otherwise?

That’s a hard one to answer, I absorb loads of things without noticing, whether it’s a beat that makes me move, or an intricate ballad with a heart-wrenching story. Right now I might listen to Stevie Wonder, Feist, Dick Gaughan, Led Zep or 10 others…

You’ve released 2 albums to date on your own label, Tattie Records. How have those albums been received?

The reception was great, though I always feel like a small-time outsider… I needed to get the songs out of my system and give them a life of their own. It’s great to hear the positive feedback, and requests for extra copies to send to friends or family overseas!

What are the pros and cons of running your own label?

It’s a tiny label, about as small as you can get, one man and his dog. So far it’s been my own material, though we have other acts coming. Things move slow at Tattie, and it’s a challenge wrangling musicians – though I will announce a new act soon – young Johnny Cash with a moody Mexican twist!

You released your most recent album, Simple Life, last year and there seemed to be quite a buzz about it. How do you feel about that and why do you think that was?

Simple Life had a wee local buzz, mainly triggered by the Dundee ballads getting picked up by local papers, radio, TV. I had a brief media bang: interviews, photos, videos, fun for 15 minutes :-)

What are the vital ingredients for a simple life?

Who knows? It’s probably a lot easier than you think, these days everything is too complicated. Justice is a big thing for me, even more than peace. If you can avoid greed that’s a good thing. The song was written straight after hearing someone describe the story on the radio. Later I researched it, seemingly quite an old story: fisherman & businessman… your homework is to find out more about that ;-)

I believe you have a new album on the way? Can you talk us through this please?

Yes indeed, it’s half-done, due to be released on 1/5/15. The music is new-fashioned blues and funk, and called “Day Job” – I’ll tell the story behind that title during the gig… There’s a brass section, harmonica, extra guitars: several guest musicians who I’m calling The Banter. I imagine at gigs people will say “I’m only here for The Banter”.

Prior to performing and recording you played in a band called Trampled By A Horse. How important is it to do both or is it more of a happy accident?

They’re a great bunch of guys, I’ve been with them for several years now, first on keyboards, now drums. We’re fairly laid-back, more of a social gathering – gigs are rare, but good fun: original rock with a dose of punk. I like doing a bit of both. Late in 2009 the band couldn’t make it to a gig, so I volunteered: that was my solo debut, done 40 gigs since then.

In addition to writing, performing and running a record label you also run a listings website for Dundee and have produced the rather epic map / family tree of the Dundee music scene. What is the idea behind the latter projects?

Eight years ago I started inDundee.co.uk – to do gig listings for the city. Over time I heard about local bands as they split, reformed, etc, and thought I should do something with all that info. The Dundee music map grew from there, with loads of suggestions from band members and connections between all kinds of groups. Last Christmas we had a limited run of posters, and a new edition is planned this Christmas: send in your music connections and we’ll get them added!

What are your thoughts on the current Dundee music scene? Any particular favourite bands you’d like to recommend?

I love live music, and get to gigs whenever I can… there’s a thriving scene & always plenty to look forward to. Too many to mention, here’s a quick alphabetical list of local bands I enjoy live: AMWF, Courtney’s Chain, Darren Campbell, Esperi, Kings & Cowards, The Mirror Trap, No Egos, PanicByFlare & recently saw Stonethrower: mesmerising.

ed_hat_chris_gunn_sm

Do you have any routines or rituals you like to undertake before a performance?

Not really, just think of a song to start with, then take it from there… a set will take its own course: depending what comes to mind, and the crowd’s reaction. I often sing one I’ve just written, those are special times, the song is not quite finished & you never quite know how it will go.

If you could organise a gig or festival with your ideal line-up and location (being the world of imagination money and mortality are of no hindrance) what would that consist of?

I’ve seen big acts and brand-new bands, and often had the same excitement at both, so I don’t really have an ‘ideal line-up’. But it would be cool to see John Martyn, Ray Charles, James Brown, etc.

Here’s another plan: get Daisy Dundee to do a festival, she’s a genius at gig organising! ;-)

What has the future got in store for Ed Muirhead?

I’m changing career the next couple of years, loads more music, particularly music therapy and community music.

What’s the one thing I’ve not asked that I should have asked – and what’s the answer?

Who’s your favourite member of Randolph’s Leap? – The bass player :-) Last time I saw them play The Cool Cat Club, I remember thinking their bassist is just so funky!

 Ed Muirhead opens the Randolph’s Leap Cool Cat Show this Friday (3rd) at Beat Generator Live, Dundee, which also features Blood Indians. More info – tickets available from Groucho’s and online here.

Photos by Dave Arcari and Chris Gunn