Tuesday 30 July 2013

Glasgow Endless - Glasgow's Electronic Music Revolution

Despite its rich musical history, Glasgow has never been particularly well known for electronic music. The club scene has always been vibrant with legendary names such as the Sub Club and Optimo leading the way from the 90's onwards but the live music scene has predominantly been guitar based. Recently, a number of bands have appeared, most notably CHVRCHES, and Glasgow electronic bands are starting to generate huge interest. I caught up with 4 of these bands (Machines In Heaven, Nevada Base, Prides and Analog Angel) to find out more about them and how they see electronic music in the city. Initially, I should declare something if a personal interest here. My band Western Electric gigged around Glasgow from 1997-2000 and we found we were an anomaly on the live circuit. All we had were synths and vocals - people were genuinely mystified at the lack of bass or drums. The recent increase in the number of electronic bands playing live therefore has really excited me. John Brown of Analog Angel has a similar tale albeit his band (then known as Dr Strangelove) had been around since the late 1980's. John recalls Dr Strangelove playing live a few times but any gigs or the scene itself were very much word of mouth only. Over the last few years more and more venues have become receptive to live shows with Bloc, Nice N Sleazy, Broadcast, Stereo and Classic Grand putting on shows. King Tuts is catching up too with Prides (30 July) and Nevada Base (2 August) soon playing shows there. Who are all these bands though? Let's find out a bit more.


Nevada Base first came to my attention when I saw them support New Build at what was The Captain's Rest last year. I was blown away by their mix of electronics and live instruments which created a sound that immediately brought to mind the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip and Talking Heads. This is no band of copyists however - Nevada Base have their own sound as their most recent single Foresight (see review here) showed. Albert, the band's lead singer, cites DFA acts and Talking Heads as influences but adds Kraftwerk, hip hop and even a hint of reggae to the mix. That's the beauty of not only Nevada Base but all the bands I'm looking at. There are so many interesting influences there and they all produce fantastic electronic music. Interestingly, the Foresight ep features a remix of the title track by Machines In Heaven's Magic Daddy. As a fan of both bands I think that's really cool as it's great to see them working together.

The band started off as Albert Kawmi (vocals), Andrew Brown (guitar) and Gus who were joined by Johannes who in Albert's words "pushed (them) to record a demo." Johannes moved back to his native Berlin and Gus moved on but the band continued to gig adding Calum Muir on drums and James Vorley on synths and samples and that line up is still going today. Most recently (28 July) they played a very well received show at the Merchant City festival and will be gigging regularly over the next couple of months.  I asked Albert how the band fared when they first played live in Glasgow given their set-up. Did he find they were treated differently?

"Yeah, it was definitely more noticeable before we had a drummer on stage. Sequenced beats gave it a different feel. Even now with a live drummer soundchecks are different because of the multiple electronic elements. It's not as straightforward as a power punk trio!"

(APA) "What about the current electronic scene in Glasgow? Would you say it's booming?"

"I wouldn't say it's booming because it feels like it's been pretty good for years! Great club nights, high quality local and touring DJ's and electronic acts. Just lots of good sounds. It's a wonderful city for any type of music."

He's not wrong. Nevada Base are a band that with any luck will become a mainstay of the Glasgow music scene and like the rest of the bands I'm looking at I really hope they'll inspire other electronic acts to have a go at playing live. The immediate future for the band is clear. There are more gigs in the pipeline and another one or two EP's. I'll of course be reviewing them as and when I get them and I'm sure I'll be telling you all to get your hands on them. Finally, the band recently remixed New Build's False Thing which you can grab for free here. It's a really impressive remix that for me betters the original.

Machines in Heaven are a band who mix live electronics with almost My Bloody Valentine like guitar to create some of the best new electronic music I've heard for quite some time. I really must insist you get the Glasgow Jihad ep (link) as its three tracks (The National Monument, Mumbo Jingo and bordersbreakdown) display all their qualities perfectly. You can read my review of it here. Their influences vary from The Pixies, through The Cure and Radiohead to Mogwai, rave and all forms of bass. It's maybe my oversensitive ears but I hear elements of Depeche Mode there too and that is of course no bad thing.

The band formed a couple of years ago when Graham "Great I Am" and Greg "Magic Daddy" Hurst started writing and producing, Davey "Blood Blood" Gwynne and Conor "Yutani" Reid then joined to complete the live set up and the band started gigging. Recently they've played at the T Break stage at T In the Park and the Wickerman festival with more gigs to come including an appearance at the Doune the Rabbit Hole festival. They make the transition from the studio set up to the live stage sound effortless and are of course a must see. I asked them how they find the current live electronic scene in Glasgow:-

"The club scene is one of the strongest in the UK but for the live circuit it's different with some punters and venues less interested in the electronic scene. However, we've seen some great electronic nights at Bloc, Broadcast and Stereo recently so it's getting better all the time."

The band have also recently finished recording their debut album "bordersbreakdown" which I am very excited to hear. There'll be a couple of EP's along too with the band promising "one taster and one of new stuff." They've also been hard at work on a few remixes so basically you're going to be hearing a lot of them which is a very good thing. Call them a supergroup, call them electro influenced, call them rave/bassss/Eno or whatever you want - if there is any justice Machines In Heaven are going to be big and you should get into them now.

Analog Angel are John Brown (vocals), Derek MacDonald (synths) and Ian Ferguson (synths). Kicking off in the late 80's as Dr Strangelove, the band were on  hold for a while until their video for Why Do You Do on youtube was discovered by a DJ/Promoter from Israel who liked what he saw and asked them if they'd like to support Depeche Mode in Israel. Unsurprisingly they jumped at it. New demos were recorded and whilst the Depeche slot sadly didn't come off, the momentum was there and Analog Angel were born. Of all the bands I'm profiling Analog Angel have the most electronic approach as it were given that they are simply synths and vocals. John's vocals range from a booming mix of Dave Gahan and Douglas McCarthy to a gentler croon whilst the music veers from almost DAF like EBM through Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, ReCoil, Nine Inch Nails and more. Their most recent EP Pride is well worth checking out and my review of it is here.

Analog Angel have been gigging around Glasgow for a few years now and have also played prestigious shows at the BAS festival and Moritzbastei in Leipzig a huge outdoor electronic music festival. To their credit they have a significant global following now but like Machines In Heaven, Analog Angel initially found the Glasgow scene a little less receptive than it is now. John Brown says

"We eventually ground promoters down and they gave us gigs alongside rock and indie bands. It's safe to say we didn't go down well! We were fortunate to know Barry Douglas at the Classic Grand which is a cracking venue and he is the top promoter for our kind of music in Scotland."

The band are already two albums into their career with Dischord and The Thin Line both appearing in the last couple of years. Their style has mellowed a little from the initial harder almost industrial sound they had and the Pride EP mixes all the styles mentioned above with some poppier elements reminiscent of Yazoo and even (sorry John!) early OMD. John is keen to push not only Analog Angel but also all other electronic acts in Glasgow:

"I would love to part of a collective effort to put Glasgow electronic music on the map. Right now would be a great time with CHVRCHES popularity"

It's a great idea and one we're keen on here. Before that though, Analog Angel are focusing on album number three and you'll see a review of that here as soon as I get my hands on it. If they continue going the way they're going, it will be something very special indeed.

Prides are the newest kids on the block of the four bands I'm looking at and indeed at the time of writing only have one song available online but if that song (Out Of The Blue - here) is an indication of where the band are headed their future is a very bright one. Starting off as Midnight Lion, Stew and Lewis recruited Callum to help out live and once he started writing them they became Prides.  The band aren't frightened to show off their pop roots and with influences as diverse as "80's pop bands, modern pop, Roxy Music, Taylor Swift, Jimmy Eat World and Blink 182" informing their sound you get the most synthpop oriented sound of all the bands here and I love that. Out Of The Blue is instantly catchy and deserves to be huge.

In common with the other bands, Prides found the electronic scene in Glasgow to be difficult at first:

"When we started as Midnight Lion we certainly felt we were out on a limb somewhat not exclusively because of the electronic tag but certainly the synthpop one. Recently there's much more understanding and excitement around electronic stuff coming out of Scotland in general."

Which is of course no bad thing at all. Going forward, as well  as their Prides and Friends night at King Tuts (30 July) the band have played at Wickerman and will be gigging a lot more including slots on the BBC Introducing Stages at the Leeds Festival (23 August) and Reading Festival (25 August). You should really get out and see them. They are still deciding on the next single but if it's as good as Out Of The Blue we're in for a treat.

CHVRCHES increasing popularity means that there is a focus on the Glasgow electronic scene that we haven't had before and their debut album in September will only make that focus more intense. Luckily we have the bands above and the likes of Miaoux Miaoux, Atom Tree and many more who are all contributing to a vibrant scene making these really exciting times for electronic music fans both in Glasgow and beyond. Hopefully the success of CHVRCHES will help these bands succeed too and Glasgow will join other legendary electronic music cities as one of the true homes of electronic music.

Thank you to all the bands for answering my questions, to Ally and to Clair at Piggyback Management.

(c)David McElroy/Almost Predictable. Almost. 

Thursday 25 July 2013

New blog design

Just a quick post to introduce the new design and logo. The logo was created by Neil Baxter, a fellow electronic music, synthesizer and Liverpool football club fan. Follow him on Twitter @saintjohnbaxter or on Tumblr saintjohnbaxter.tumblr.com where you'll see more of his work. Cheers Neil!

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Breathing In Fumes - A Depeche Mode podcast

A very quick post about my friend Glen Hammarstrom's fantastic Depeche Mode podcast called Breathing in Fumes. Podcast number 6 is about to be released and is a must listen for all Depeche fans.

As well as classic Depeche tracks the podcast also contains rare remixes, live tracks and interviews. Podcast number 5 contained a clip of Peter Hook claiming Depeche ripped off New Order's Touched By The Hand of God for Enjoy The Silence - yeah right. Anyway, go and grab all 5 podcasts and eagerly await number 6. If you're a Depeche fan you'll love it.

Follow Breathing In Fumes on Facebook, Twitter and even see what Glen has to say on his Twitter page (warning - he's a vinyl geek so that's really all you'll get there). The podcast can be found here or on ITunes.