As well as providing an invaluable source of information on all possible types of new Scottish music, fellow blog and Almost Scottish Fiction co-curator Scottish Fiction has started putting on regular gig nights. The first one was a huge success (review here) and the next promises to be another cracking night. Taking place at The Hug & Pint in Glasgow on 6 October, the gig features three bands: Now Wakes The Sea, Yutani and headliners Wozniak. It's a line up of such undeniable quality that you would be cheating yourself if you didn't go. Add to that the value - £5 a ticket - and you have no excuse not to go.
So who are the bands?
Edinburgh's Wozniak are a favourite of mine and their recent e.p. Auster is a brilliant thing (review). I'm expecting an ear drum worrying but spectacular set.
YuTaNI is the solo project of Connor Reid from Machines In Heaven and his debut album At The End Of A Day is one of the finest electronica albums I've heard this year (review). I'm really looking forward to hearing how it translates live - I've no doubt it'll be superb
NOW WAKES THE SEA
Combining lo-fi experiments, pop melodies and old guitars and broken pedals, Now Wakes The Sea's set promises to be something really rather intriguing
Hot on the heels of July's excellent Religion (review), Tongues return with the next track from their debut e.p. which is due out in a few weeks' time.
You Never Knew Me is, for me, the best Tongues track to date. Filled to the brim with Kraftwerk like bleeps and beeps, overlayed with superb beats, the track builds to a surprising but excellently powerful ending. What's exciting about this track and indeed all Tongues work, is that every new track represents a progression from the last. I'm looking forward to seeing how they top You Never Knew Me as it's really rather special.
In an obvious attempt to pander to my core audience, welcome to the first in a series of no-one's yet quite sure how many pieces of what I'm calling Arbitrary Depeche Mode Things. Not the snappiest title I admit, but we're between albums, I've said all I can say about their discography (I still don't apologise for the Exciter post) and I need to write about what I actually know. So here we go: welcome to Arbitrary Depeche Mode Things No. 1 - The Top Ten 1980's Remixes
(all remixes chosen by me only. You may not agree. Knowing DM fans, you won't agree, I'll be horribly wrong and you'll run screaming to play The Things You Said on repeat to get over the shock but do bear in mind that this is all for fun. Sort of like Set Me Free (Remotivate Me) but good. Anyway, onwards...)
10. OBERKORN (IT'S A SMALL TOWN) - DEVELOPMENT MIX (1982)
Oberkorn is quite literally a small town, situated in South-West Luxembourg and with a population of only around 5,000 people. Depeche Mode's tourbus drove through there in the very early days and Martin was, presumably, so taken with it that he wrote a song all about it. It's the b-side to the horrific 1982 single The Meaning Of Love and is, unlike it's quite implausibly bad parent tune, an instrumental filled to the brim with dark synth sounds and haunting gothic melodies. The Construction Time Again foreshadowing Development Mix is a 7 minute 37 second imperious beast of experimental electronics that showed that Depeche Mode were far more than the pop tarts The Meaning Of Love showed them to be. Haunting, brooding and just bloody fantastic, Oberkorn (It's A Small Town) (Development Mix) is a hidden treasure in the early DM catalogue
9. ROUTE 66 - BEATMASTERS MIX (1988)
The first time I properly noticed Depeche Mode was when I repeatedly watched the 101 video at a mate's house. Yes the main tunes were all magic and utterly transfixing, but the cover of Route 66, used as repeat motif throughout the film (hmmm...really?) stood out. An English electronic band covering a song about a big road in America sung by the wee guy that wears make up? Yes, yes indeed. As the imperious World Violation tour was copied by U2's Zoo TV tour, Depeche beat the Dubliners to the whole Rattle & Hum thing by providing their own take on American music but, because they are Depeche Mode, they did it in a cool way, not a crap way. Route 66 was of course the b-side to the similarly car themed Behind The Wheel and 80's remix crowd The Beatmasters provide a sample filled but, frankly marvellous remix which deservedly makes this seemingly random top 10.
8. MASTER & SERVANT - SLAVERY WHIP MIX (1984)
Perhaps calling this remix the Slavery Whip Mix extended the whole chains, whips and general pervy but not actually that pervy thing too far, but that's easily forgiveable when you have a remix as good as this. As with most of the mixes here, the band did this and they take the 4 minute pop song and effortlessly turn it into a nine and half minute beast of a track. Drums smash, basslines go mental, whips crack and Depeche Mode go from pop to industrial in one fell swoop. It's a thumping belter of a track and what it lacks in subtlety is more than made up in its utterly unquestionable genius. PLUS - there's the odd acapella/double bass bit at the end which is just weird. It's a lot like life indeed.
7. JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH - SCHIZO MIX (1981)
Ah Just Can't Get Enough. The track everyone knows, the track many people think is the only thing Depeche ever did and the track you can no longer play in Glasgow without angering 50% of the people in the vicinity. The single is a landmark piece of prime, pristine, perfect synthpop, but the 12" mix, the Schizo Mix, is the real gem. Transformed from the simple single, this mix breathes new life (I didn't mean that) into the song, turning it into a brooding Kraftwerkian masterpiece that mixes experimentalism with early synthpop in a way that remains magical.
6. EVERYTHING COUNTS - IN LARGER AMOUNTS (1983)
Firstly, let's acknowledge the simple genius of the remix title. You all know the chorus ("Everything counts in large amounts") so it makes more sense than anything else has ever made to call this 12" version In Larger Amounts. It's genius. The mix itself is ridiculously good: the original song's noises get room to breathe, exposing every clunk, thump, metal scrape and odd flute thing (I still forget the name) for the marvels they are. Add to that extra electronics, sampled vocals that found their way into the live version ("The graph...The graph...The graph...The handshake) and you have something very special indeed. If Depeche Mode had stopped remixing their own tracks after this, they'd have been justified in doing so - it's perfect.
5. GET THE BALANCE RIGHT - COMBINATION MIX (1983)
Beyond acknowledging that Taylor Swift's 1989 is an unimpeachable pop classic, I have little interest in what clutters up the charts these days. I do know, however that someone sang relatively recently about something being all about "that bass." Whilst her musical adventures are misguided, she was right in that sense and this remix (don't worry, this is getting to the point) IS all about the bass. Bassline anyway. The band take a relatively ordinary and Martin Gore despised song and transform it into a club masterpiece that bewitched the likes of Derrick May and Juan Atkins and directly influenced their own highly influential music, remarkably enough. This remix gives the original song a power it simply doesn't ordinarily have. Superb.
(NB - Check out the lyrics. You may find the inspiration for this blog's name)
4. SHAKE THE DISEASE - REMIXED EXTENDED VERSION (1985)
It's a universally accepted truth that Shake The Disease is one of the greatest songs ever penned by anyone. This, surprisingly enough, remixed and extended version of the track takes you on an 8 minute 46 second journey that breaks your heart, rebuilds it, smacks some metal off a fence and then breaks your heart again. Titanic, metallic majesty.
3. PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE - DIFFERENT MIX (1984)
Frankly, all that you need to know about this remix is that it sounds like a factory waking up with a hangover before it spends a day crushing metal
And that is a very, very good thing.
2. STRIPPED - HIGHLAND MIX (1986) Stripped is a Depeche song that most people would agree is a classic, and it marks the band's transformation from pop mixed with experimental elements to the full on gloomy synth powered beast that would conquer the world. The whole Black Celebration period is exquisite and, as I've rather pretentiously said before, that album is effectively the manifesto for Depeche Mode fans. Stripped was the album's lead single and it's a perfect introduction to that album. This remix takes the track in a slightly different direction, stretching it and allowing its various parts to shine whilst adding a bagpipe like synth sound (hence the title) to kick it all off. Moodier and perhaps less immediate than the 7" version, the Highland Mix is however an absolute triumph filled with power and gothic angst. It's just what a 12" mix should be and still sounds brilliant.
1. NEVER LET ME DOWN AGAIN - SPLIT MIX (1987)
There can only be one winner here and the Split Mix of Never Let Me Down Again is it. A song that was already, and still is, among the best and most powerful in Depeche's catalogue is turned into an even more powerful beast. 9 minutes 31 seconds long, it starts with that orchestral sample part which instantly makes every hair on your and anyone else's body within a 10 mile radius stand on end. From then on, you are in heaven as the song you know smashes you around the head before being taken onto several greater levels as it builds to a shuddering climax. It's absolutely mindblowing and if you ever find yourself stuck on a desert island with the choice of only one Depeche Mode remix make it this. The second you start playing it the desert island will be scared into sailing itself towards land again. Powerful, mesmerising and irrefutably majestic, THIS is the best Depeche Mode remix of the 1980's
Priest are Madelaine Priest and David Kazyk, a synthpop duo from Orlando who have just released their self titled debut album. Mixing influences from the present such as Chvrches or Warpaint with classic synthpop influences like Erasure, The Cure in their Japanese Whispers period and, yes I spotted it, Depeche Mode, Priest have produced a really rather lovely album that I'd put very much in the highly recommended category.
Here's the thing: everyone loves pop music. Unless the first song you heard was by Black Flag or Einzturzende Neubauten, you grew up loving pop music and, while you might have drifted away from it, there's still a place in your heart for it. This album immediately finds that place and repeatedly tickles you with top notch synthpop from the start to the end. Opener The Game is a prime example of Priest's talents. A beautifully melodic slice of synthpop joy, The Game is one of those songs that you hear and immediately feel like you've known it for years. It's followed by the harder sounding Heartbeats, a song that's more beats dominated than The Game but has an equally strong and, frankly, magnificent chorus that holds the song together perfectly. A very strong start is then continued by White Nights which has much more of a dream pop/indie pop feel than the preceding two tracks but all three amount to a hugely strong start to the album. Staring At The Walls is next, a sparser, more mournful track before another of the album's standouts Broken arrives, mixing a distinct 80's influence with a superb vocal and a chorus that is just about the most perfect chorus of all time. Once you reach this point in the album, you'll be hooked - trust me on that
Strong Hearts has the tricky task of following broken and decides to go full on POP with a the sort of synthpop track Erasure would be proud of. It's a bright, bubbly thing and instantly catchy. The pace slows with When The Strings Are Cut, a slower track bathed in icy electronics which leads to Day Drinking, another effortlessly excellent track. The penultimate track on the album Waiting For The End To Come is a celebration of classic film soundtracks, classic synthpop and all things 80's but in a very good way indeed. Like The Game, you hear it and instantly think you know it. I know it's boring and repetitive, but I have to again point out the chorus here - it's undeniably brilliant. Go and seek this track out and hear for yourself. We end on Lying on Your Grave, a soft, slower closer that rounds the album off nicely.
There are many highpoints on this this album and some tracks that are among the best electronic pop tracks I've heard in a good while, but most importantly, Priest works as a whole album rather than a collection of songs punctuated with two or three outstanding tracks. It's a wonderful, superb synthpop filled album that I'm going to be playing a lot from start to finish and once you hear it, you'll do that too
Priest's self titled debut is available now on Itunes, Amazon and other digital retailers. A cd is available from the band's online store
Molly Nilsson is a Berlin based singer/songwriter whose album Zenith is released on the ever excellent Night School Records on 25 September. Recorded in her home city of Berlin, Zenith sees Molly "reveling in big arrangements, sweeping synth strings, bigger choruses and emotions" and it promises to be a cracker of an album
Check out the superb lead track 1995 here:
The album is available for pre-order from Night School here and there are 500 spectacular looking white vinyl versions up for grabs. Be quick.
Since November 2014, Shona Brown has released a single a month as part of her 10 in 10 project. Using electronics, loops and effects to manipulate her vocals and flute, Shona creates quite wonderful soundscapes and songs that have made a real impression on anyone who has heard them. The singles themselves have been consistently excellent and the whole project has been a real success and a testament to her ambition and talent. Her live shows are well worth catching too as she brings new life to the tracks and never fails to grab your attention. To round the 10 in 10 series off, her new single, , You Are My Music came out on 10 August ahead of her run of shows at the Fringe in Edinburgh from 12 to 15 August inclusive. I caught up with Shona to find out how the last ten months have gone for her.
APA: Tell us a bit about You Are My Music, the new and final single in the 10 in 10 project
SB: You Are My Music is a song with lots harmonised vocals, sweeping reversed piano sounds and more flute and ambient electronics. It's a very personal song - more so than the others
APA: What inspired you to embark upon the 10 in 10 series?
SB: My background is as a classical musician - I'm very new to the electronics and production side of things. I really took the plunge and bought all the equipment without knowing much about it so I thought 10 in 10 would be a great challenge for me! I wanted to try and hone my productions skills and find my "sound." There's nothing like 10 months of deadlines to get you over any procrastination! I also hoped people would be interested to hear my progress over the 10 months.
APA: Did you have the songs written already or have some been written as the project has gone on?
SB: A mixture. I had this crazy idea that I would have finished them all by Christmas, This didn't happen - what did happen was a panic every month and a lot of late nights! Some of the songs were half written but I find the process of finishing a track much harder than beginning it so even the half-baked songs were a challenge.
APA: How have you found the reception to 10 in 10?
SB: I really didn't know what to expect as I've never done anything quite like this before. A few highlights from the project include playing live on STV Glasgow and BBC Radio Scotland. It's also put me on the radar of people like yourself!
APA: It's been quite a few months for you what with the singles, live shows and playing at the Barrowlands with Mogwai. A tough one maybe, but what's been your highlight or highlights?
SB: Playing the Barras with Mogwai has to be up there as it was an amazing experience. Finishing the last track was a highlight too - I joke! Really, for me, the best thing about it has been building up my confidence throughout the process. In the past I had found presenting my music to the world such a daunting experience and a struggle. Making myself do this every month has boosted my confidence no end. I've learned so much about the technical stuff and the creative process too.
APA: If you HAD to choose which would you pick as your favourite from the ten releases?
SB: Eek - that is so difficult. I often find the ones I like best aren't necessarily the ones other people pick up on. I was really proud of Air as I think I found some really interesting sounds and it's opened up many technical possibilities for me. I'm also pretty keen on this last song, You Are My Music, as it's very personal to me
APA: Other than a well deserved rest, what does the future hold for you?
SB: Well this week, I'm doing a run of shows at the Fringe in Edinburgh. After that, a rest before I begin working on an album - I'd like to release on next year.
Thanks very much to Shona for taking the time to speak to me. Have a listen to the superb You Are My Music above and, if you're in Edinburgh between 12 and 15 August, go and catch her show at the Lauriston Hall.
Meantime, go to Shona's Facebook page or her website and have a listen to the whole 10 in 10 series
As regular readers probably know, we've a bit of a soft spot here at Almost Predictable Almost for Glasgow six piece The Insomniac Project. Combining disco, electronica and synthpop (think of LCD Soundsystem versus Giorgio Moroder), the band caused quite a stir with their recent demo release campaign (here) and they were one of the featured acts in our Glasgow Electronic Too blog in March this year.
The band are set to release their debut single In And Out (Of My Head) on August 31 and we're delighted to bring you the world exclusive premiere of that track today
Produced by Lewis Gardiner of Prides, In And Out (Of My Head) is a full on disco belter that will tempt even the most reluctant among you to hit the dancefloor. The song's relentless groove is added to with a full on pop chorus that most bands would kill for and it builds to a quite wonderful, glitterball filled crescendo. Have a listen below - I guarantee you that you will start grooving around in your seat within seconds.
Every month, I team up with Neil from Scottish Fiction to put together a six track e.p. showing off the best new Scottish music which we then make available to you lovely people to download entirely free of charge. You simply couldn't get better value. This month's e.p. is a cracker and can be obtained, once again at no cost to you at all here:
Kangerlussuaq demonstrates a new, previously unseen side to Earths. Stripped away from the fuzz and lo-fi elements, we see uplifting guitars, crisp percussion and haunting vocals.
POOR FRISCO - WHAT'S LEFT OF IT
Taken from their forthcoming debut album, What's Left Of It showcases Poor Frisco at their best. With shades of The Shins and The Pixies at play, What's Left Of It is a great track from the East Kilbride five piece
THE MAYBES - WHAT YOU CAN REMEMBER
The Maybes are a Glagsow based duo whose recent e.p. Contra Todos features this track, What You Can Remember, which displays their melodic indiepop at its best.
GUS HARROWER - MYSTERY
Mystery is the lead and title track from the debut e.p. by Edinburgh's Gus Harrower. At only 17, Gus is already a talented singer/songwriter who brings to mind the likes of Bon Iver.
YuTaNi - MT. MINAKAMI
YuTaNi is the solo project of Machines In Heaven's Connor Reid. His album, At The End Of A Day, is a superb mix of downtempo and ambient eletronica. Mt. Minakami is the album's centrepiece - a beautiful slice of eletropop influenced electronica and one of this year's outstanding tracks.
NOTHING UNIVERSE - PYRE
With a track from the band's live e.p. recorded at King Tut's, this track showcases the direction Nothing Universe, previously known as Phases, have been taking with their music. Layered, dense and intriguing, Pyre builds things up only to tear it all down in a climatic frenzy.
Stream the whole album below and then go and help yourself to a download:
Thanks once again to all the artists for taking part and thanks to you for listening. Make sure you check out all the bands' various social media pages.
As well as providing an invaluable source of new Scottish music, Neil Wilson's Scottish Fiction is also well known for its gig nights. Last night at The Hug And Pint on Great Western Road, Glasgow, the Scottish Fiction Presents gig put on three bands who were all different in style and sound but complimented each other perfectly to give everyone there a hugely enjoyable night.
First up were Dec. '91. The band's track When You Come featured on the most recent Almost Scottish Fiction e.p. (here) but the acoustic feel of that track was no preparation for what was to come. We instead got a mix of early Pixies, some Jack White like guitar sonic waves and, as spotted by Dougie the venue's sound engineer, a distinct Jonathan Richman feel. It was loud, chaotic and superb with the Pixies influence felt not only in the sound but also in some of the lyrics. One to watch no doubt.
Dec. '91 - picture taken from Scottish Fiction's Twitter feed
Next up were Akela, a band who I'd never heard before but one who certainly made a good impression. Their sound brought to mind Talking Heads in places or the likes of Vampire Weekend with even a little bit of Wilco like alt-country thrown in for good measure. Their new single Past Sunrise was one of the stand out tracks (https://soundcloud.com/akela-music/past-sunrise) but the whole set worked really well. One of the good things about a gig like this is discovery of a new band to keep an eye on - Akela were that band last night.
The headliners were Mt. Doubt, whose debut album My Past Is A Quiet Beast has been getting a lot of attention from many places including this very blog this week (review). As I said in my review, it's a powerful release that really impresses but live, it's taken to another level entirely. Leo Bargery is transformed from the man on the album to someone who seems to have mashed together Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen and had them backed by The National. It's engrossing and incredibly powerful stuff. The whole set flew by and was quite superb. I'm quite sure that Mt Doubt are on the verge of something very special indeed - music this good and this powerful can't fail.
So that was that - a fine evening featuring a diverse selection of bands that came together quite wonderfully. Thanks very much to Neil at Scottish Fiction for arranging it. You must all keep an eye out for future Scottish Fiction Presents gigs as you won't want to miss them. I've got to say as well that The Hug And Pint is a cracking small venue. The sound was spot on and the bar is a great, friendly place. I'll certainly be back there for gigs.
Mt. Doubt is a solo project by Edinburgh based musician Leo Bargery and his debut album My Past Is A Quiet Beast is something rather special. Mixing introspective lyrics with large scale sounds, think a mix of Radiohead, Arcade Fire and The National, My Past Is A Quiet Beast is a really impressive and confident debut with much promise.
Opener Beast is a slow building, brooding affair, with the phrase "My past is a quiet beast" repeated throughout, building to a power ending that certainly sounds cathartic for Bargery. The next track Feathers is the opposite of Beast, all pop and melody and really quite brilliant. It's my stand out track from the album and one you'll certainly want to hear (listen below). Slump displays the darker side of Mt Doubt again, before Bend Sinister lets some light back in albeit in the dark yet optimistic way The National handle their lighter moments. It's been said many times already by those who've heard Mt. Doubt, but there is definitely something of the Matt Berninger in the way Bergary delivers his vocals and that's of course no bad thing at all.
Fans of this blog and the Almost Scottish Fiction releases will already be familiar with the excellent Bend which featured on the third e.p. (here) and the track works beautifully when heard in its album setting. Dancing Phantoms and I Break Spirit follow Bend and both are atmospheric slices of dark indie pop and they lead to the swirling, gripping Telmessos which, like many tracks here sounds like it would be comfortably at home in some pretty big venues. The influence of The National is again felt on another of the album's stand outs Soft Wrists, before we end on Asunder, a rousing, joyous finale to what has been a hugely enjoyable album.
My Past Is A Quiet Beast really is an intriguing and rather wonderful debut and it deserves as much attention as it can possibly get. Highly recommended.
Mt. Doubt play live at The Hug & Pint, Glasgow on Tuesday 4 August headlining the Scottish Fiction Presents... gig. Tickets are £5 and are available from www.hugandpint.com
As an Electronic Sound subscriber, I heard Rodney Cromwell's superb Barry Was An Arms Dealer in the August edition and fell in love with it straightaway. It's a track that merges the simplicity and pop nous of early synthpop with a modern edge and is amongst one of the finest things I've heard this year. You can listen for yourself below. Having investigated Rodney further I quickly ended up with his album Age Of Anxiety and all its label Happy Robots Records catalogue. It's an outstanding album and one that I can't recommend highly enough for fans of synthpop, electropop or whatever you want to call it.
The brief The Internationale kicks the album off before the early Hot Chip like Cassiopeia lands the first blow on your ears. Waves of soothing synths give way to treated vocals and New Order like bass before the song wraps up, returned to the synths of the start. There are a couple of recurring influences throughout the album to my ears, namely Power Corruption & Lies era New Order and Vince Clarke in his early days with the likes of Depeche Mode's Speak & Spell or Yazoo's Upstairs At Eric's but they don't become overbearing at all. Rodney takes the pure pop of Clarke and mixes it with the harder edge, at least by comparison, of New Order but puts his own stamp on it. The next track is the aforementioned Barry Was An Arms Dealer and that heralds a run of quite outstanding songs.
You Will Struggle takes the synthpop formula the album is quickly perfecting and adds an I Feel Love style bassline to the mix, creating a sublime track. The cousin of Kraftwerk, One Two Seven follows, as good as anything else here and then the New Order go pop of Fax Machine Breakup arrives mixing melodies, melodica and some rather superb lyrics ("I sold some records but not a lot/I won't be floating Happy Robots") to superb effect. At this stage, I found myself enjoying the album more than I'd enjoyed many albums recently as it is just irresistible. Baby Robot comes next, and the titular robot is clearly a fan of New Order's Temptation which is no bad thing and the penultimate The Blue Cloud takes us back to the disco albeit one which is DJ'd by Ralf Hutter and Giorgio Moroder. We then end on the near 7 minute Black Dog which displays the influences I've perhaps already overdone, but ends the album perfectly.
It's a brave move to release an album that relies on a certain era of synthpop as translating that effectively is difficult and has led to a number of rather useless releases in the recent past. This album though is basically flawless and is one that within which every fan of electronic pop will find something to love. It only seems a matter of time until Rodney's prediction is Fax Machine Breakup is proved wrong. Go and listen to this album right now.