FOUND / factorycraft

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Released 14/03/2011 - Chemikal Underground

The nominees for the inaugural Scottish Album of the Year Awards were revealed last night, with some of the bands that have featured here on Scotified making the longlist of 20. Some, such as Mogwai and King Creosote & Jon Hopkins are more well known than others, although there is real quality across the field. It feels good that Scottish music is being recognised in this way, and makes me feel like this blog is a worthwhile endeavour. One album that I consider a dark horse for the title is factorycraft from ‘art-rockers’ FOUND. I first came across the band when they supported The Phantom Band who were touring their 2010 album ‘The Wants’. In a somewhat truncated performance space somewhere in Camden, their mixture of electronics and instruments made for a compelling set, and looking back on it they were somewhat more assured than the seemingly fatigued Phantoms.

The album is a real treat, filled with fantastic hooks and witty turns of phrase, frontman Ziggy Campbell’s vocal delivery walking the line between an abrasive fragility and a softer assuredness. Tracks such as ‘Machine Age Dancing’ provide a good blueprint of the band’s sound and ethos, with reverbed and disorted guitars trading places with stuttering beats and whirring machinic synths. Of course, it is an engagement with the shifting forms of industry – both personal and societal – that inspires the album as a whole. Some of the song titles are just so irresistable – e.g. ‘You’re not Vincent Gallo’ – and the lyrical devices equally so. Opener ‘Anti Climb Paint’ enthralls from the start, “My love comes staggered / Dog-eared and haggard / But your love…it never comes at all”. It’s clear from the outset that this is a Scottish album; not least the accented vocals, but the candour and wry wit.

If there is one thing that may put people off factorycraft it’s probably the way that many of its tracks are in a state of flux, with its melodies and compelling passages sometimes overly fleeting and inchoate. The narrative of the music on offer isn’t pieced together on a production line, but feels somewhat more, well, crafted – which gets to the heart of the oxymoron of its title. In his 2008 book The Craftsman, the prolific academic Richard Sennett describes craftsmanship as the desire to do a job well for its own sake. You certainly get the feeling that FOUND are more interested in doing what they feel is interesting and absorbing, rather than being overly concerned about providing an easy listen. That’s not to say that this album isn’t accessible, it’s just that it might take a few listens to swap the double takes for nods of the head.

Tracklisting

1. Anti Climb Paint

2. I’ll Wake With a Seismic Head No More

3. Machine Age Dancing

4. Blackette

5. Shallow

6. Lowlandness

7. You’re No Vincent Gallo

8. Johnny I Can’t Walk the Line

9. Every Hour That Passes

10. Blendbetter


					

Hot Toddy #3 – Dam Mantle / Her Woes

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Released 26/03/2012

Well it’s been a very long time since the last post here on Scotified! It’s good to get back into things with this new tune from Dam Mantle, a Glasgow based melder of electronic beats, who here scatters a fidgety Jay Dilla sample over uptempo drum clicks, washed over with an ambient, barely-there synth. Nice stuff that sounds best played at the appropriate level. It’s a split single, the other track coming from London artist Becoming Real. Both are worth checking out.

Tracklisting

1. Her Woes (Dam Mantle)

2. Paramnesia (Becoming Real)


					

Errors / Have Some Faith in Magic

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Released 30/01/2012 - Rock Action Records

Again I haven’t got around to writing this one up, and there has been plenty written elsewhere – so for now I’ll just post the links to the album and tracks on Spotify. Watch this space for my thoughts on the latest offering from the Glaswegian electroheads.

Tracklisting

1. Tusk

2. Magna Encarta

3. Blank Media

4. Pleasure Palaces

5. The Knock

6. Canon

7. Earthscore

8. Cloud Chamber

9. Barton Spring

10. Holus-Bolus

Django Django / Django Django

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Released 30/01/2012 - Because Records

What counts as a Scottish album? This fine début from Django Django is released on the French label Because Records, and the band have been described by NME as an ‘Edinburgh art-pop foursome’ and The Guardian as an ‘east London four-piece’. So while there is agreement on geometry, placing them geographically is a little trickier. That said, listening to the first substantive track ‘Hail Bop’ reveals a debt to Scottish indie stalwarts The Beta Band, with similarities in their fusion of pop, folk and electro. This is backed up by ‘Hand of Man’ with its interweaving of spartan drum machine and wistful harmonies. Third track ‘Default’ recalls the sound of pre-Swim Caribou, with stuttering vocals and looped samples buzzing over taut guitar hooks (see also ‘Love’s Dart’). The obvious overlap here is a certain distillation of psychedelic pop, something which Django Django develop and experiment with over the course of the album’s 13 songs.

I’ve heard comparisons being made to Brighton’s The Bees, as well as Hot Chip and The Super Furry Animals, and it is hard to disagree. Fourth track ‘Firewater’ bounces along with reverbed vocals and snappy, clappy percussion, before it culminates in 90 seconds of Dionysian haze. ‘Zumm Zumm’ is a jaunty number that sounds like 8-bit 60s psychedelia, a swirling infusion of Game Boy synth and chanted yearning. There are moments of Rockabilly too, such as ‘WOR’ and ‘Life’s a Beach’, where allusions to The Bees perhaps make the most sense. ‘Skies Over Cairo’ provides an interesting departure from the overall sound, and helps prevent the remainder of the album from a stodgy saturation of psychedelic tropes. Its interpolation of Middle Eastern scales is as one might expect for a track so named, leading to a somewhat synaesthetic conjuring of trip to (or in) that landscape.

Django Django have created an intriguing and skilfully restrained take on psychedelic rock, and although this is a fun and accessible album they also approach and deal with serious topics in their lyrics – for more on this see the band’s Track by Track commentary on the album, with a run-down of each track that gives insights into the lyrics and nicely solidifies their clear Scottish heritage. From Scotland, living in London, and signed to a French record label – it will be interesting to see where they end up next, and what the journey sounds like.

Tracklisting

1. Introduction

2. Hail Bop

3. Default

4. Firewater

5. Waveforms

6. Zumm Zumm

7. Hand of Man

8. Love’s Dart

9. WOR

10. Storm

11. Life’s a Beach

12. Skies Over Cairo

13. Silver Rays

RM Hubbert / Thirteen Lost & Found

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Released 30/01/2012 - Chemikal Underground Records

I had the end of January in my mind as the release date for new albums from both Errors and Django Django. It was on the day itself that I found out about this album from Glaswegian guitarist RM Hubbert. Thirteen Lost & Found is his second album, and builds upon the stripped back approach of his first, First & Last. The ampersand fanatic this time uses his distinctively loose instrumental arrangements for acoustic guitar to act as the water cooler around which he and friends collaborate. Some, such as Alex Kapranos, Aidan Moffat, Emma Pollock and Paul Savage are probably well known to purveyors of the Scottish indie scene. Others, such as the Icelandic Hanna Tuulikki provide something unexpected but equally as mesmerising.

To say the instrumental approach has been abandoned is overstating things a little, as opener ‘We Radioed’, ‘Foe Joe’ and ‘Gus Am Bris An Latha’ each set out Hubbert’s stall as an artist of real merit and intrigue. The former in particular, a collaborative jam with Luke Sutherland, reminds me of last year’s Bill Orcutt albums, although that probably owes more to my general ignorance of the contemporary post-blues scene than anything else. Regardless, after 2 minutes of somewhat sinister scene-setting in come Aidan Moffat and Alex Kapranos with ‘Car Song’, introducing a lo-fi mix of Hubbert’s white spirit acoustics and the grizzled poetics of Moffat’s chanson storytelling. Anyone familiar with last year’s excellent ‘Everything’s Getting Older‘ (alongside Bill Wells) is sure to be charmed by this, as it channels much of the same spirit(s).

The following two tracks, ‘Foe Joe’ and ‘Gus Am Bris An Latha’, are two ample slices of folk-tinged Americaledonia, Hubbert joined on the latter by John Ferguson, who I know little to nothing about, although if he’s this John Ferguson then he’s certainly restrained himself for this number. The next track provides what at the moment I consider the album’s highlight, ‘Sunbeam Melts the Hour’, a brightly arranged melding of somewhat disparate guitar and vocals, laden with hooks that sweep and roll. Vocalist Hanna Tuulikki gives the whole thing a hint of Dirty Projectors meets the Dirty Three, as introduced by Olof Arnalds. 6th track ‘V’ provides further melodious improvisational (in feeling if not intended) invention, reminiscent of some of Lambchop’s William Tyler’s playing on 2010’s excellent ‘Behold the Spirit‘. Follower ‘Sandwalks’ brings a reverberating piano into the mix, which tumbles over loose stringed fretwork to create a sense of dark foreboding and uncertainty. Cymbal crashes create a literal translation of the sea as it batters a path through the liminal terrain underfoot.

Delgados lynchpin and now-solo artist Emma Pollock steps up next on ‘Half Light’, and in doing so hints at fertile ground for a lengthier collaboration in the future. She sings of her receding sense of self-knowing and self-assuredness, over woozy, fiddling strings, creating a tense atmosphere that lies unresolved by the song’s end. ‘Hungarian Notation’ and ‘Switches Part 2’ are two more purely instrumental numbers, although on the latter there are smatterings of fingertaps that use the guitar’s body as a percussive rather than stringed instrument. I’m never a great fan of this to be honest, but as it doesn’t feature too much here (and is well done, in truth) I’ll let him off. ‘Hungarian Notation’ is rather more to my taste (the tapping in the background rather than foreground) and with some accordion added to sharp, insistent drumming you can’t go far wrong. The guitar hooks are delivered with little fuss, and work with rather than dominate the accompanying instruments. It all comes to a close with ‘The False Bride’, as vocalist Alasdair Roberts sings a beautiful, regretful paean to love misplaced by reticence or indiscretion, whose only recourse lies in a retreat to an early grave, to slowly forget his bitter memories through eternal sleep.

I’ve been playing this album all week, which is saying something considering the other albums released alongside it. It has been a thoroughly rewarding experience, and the next time RM Hubbert releases something I will be sure to anticipate it rather than greet it as a welcome surprise.

Tracklisting

1. We Radioed

2. Car Song

3. Foe Joe

4. Gus Am Bris An Latha

5. Sunbeam Melts the Hour

6. V

7. Sandwalks

8. Half Light

9. Hungarian Notation

10. Switches Part 2

11. The False Bride

Errors / Pleasure Palaces

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Released 23/01/2012 - Rock Action Records

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s Beta Band fuelled toddy we have another serving of steaming Scotified goodness. This one comes in the form of Glasgow’s Errors and their new single Pleasure Palaces out now on Rock Action. Their new album, Have Some Faith in Magic, is due out in a week, and this first single gives an idea of what it might be like (for an even better idea, take a paddle in the stream of the album provided here by Drowned in Sound). It reminds me of some of the recent stuff from Emeralds, Walls, and Luke Abbott, but they still corner the market in electronic post-rock hoedown, with neck snapping drums smashing into synth riffs, digital balloons popping like a pixelated pinata. B-side ‘Auberchute Flyer’ is a bit different, a patient looping build up that brings to mind Panda Bear and his ilk, reverb soaked circular rhythms washing over you like the distant peal of echoing church bells calling you to worship…that said, it’s quite a subtle and restrained little number but all the more interesting for it. Looking forward to the new album – look out for a new post when it’s added to Spotify.

The video is worth a look too. It may make you want to live on your computer’s desktop. Or not…

Tracklisting

1. Pleasure Palaces

2. Auberchute Flyer

Hot Toddy #2 – The Beta Band / To You Alone

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This week’s Hot Toddy comes from the same city as #1, Edinburgh, although this time it’s a somewhat older tune from a more well known band. The Beta Band produced 3 studio albums between 1999 and 2004 [The Beta Band (1999); Hot Shots II (2001); Heroes to Zeros (2004)], characterised by an eclectic sound that drew on folk, electro, rock and trip hop (cheers Wikipedia). I was never really into them at the time (I have no idea why given they tick all my boxes) but have been working my way through their back catalogue over the past year or so. To You Alone was not released on a studio album, but features on their 2005 best of, cunningly titled The Best of the Beta Band – Music. It was released as a single in 2000, and I think it’s a great song that reveals a refined pop sound, with simple but snappy programmed drums, layered vocals and celestial synths building into a hi-hat crescendo that breaks down into space-fuzz, before it all starts over again. In some ways it sounds very 2000, but sometimes that is no bad thing…

See also: Squares, for it’s ‘Daydream…’ sample. Nice.

Hot Toddy #1 – Meursault / Sleet

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This is a new feature I’m starting on Scotified, while I wait to get my head around the first of the new releases in 2012. It’s a rip off of inspired by a new website I’ve recently become a member of. On thisismyjam members post the song that they are currently listening to more than anything else, and their followers can listen to this track for 7 days, after which additional songs can be posted. It’s a great idea for spreading infectious melodies and hooking people in to artists they might not have heard before. In the spirit of awful puns upon which this site is built I’m calling this feature Hot Toddy.

So, first up is a song by a group on Song, by Toad Records. Meursault are from Edinburgh, and this song is drawn from the self-described ‘epic lo-fi’ of their 2010 sophomore album All Creatures will Make Merry. With the weather having turned a bit colder of late I’ve been reminded of this song ‘Sleet‘ and its awesome take on the otherworldliness of snowfall. At first the scene it sets is bleak and tense: ‘You asked of the sun / to kindly leave you alone / so you could see / the snow falling’. In truth that early atmosphere is never escaped entirely, yet while the lyrics and instrumentation are haunting and visceral (especially those strings) I find its icy embrace uplifting and invigorating: ‘And as frost grips to our arms / and the clouds obscure the stars / we will never say of our time, that it’s wasting’.

Top 20 of 2011 / Spotify Playlist

It’s been a while since the last post, mostly because it’s getting to the end of the year and releases are drying up. Although I said I’d be looking at some previously released Scottish records on Spotify I thought I would wait a while so that I could do so as part of a 2011 retrospective. So here are my favourite 20 LPs and EPs that have been released on Spotify this year. Some of these have been featured on Scotified before but most will be new. I’ve also made a playlist of my favourite tracks from each release. Enjoy.

The Scotified Top 20 for 2011

1. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will

2. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

3. Sparrow and the Workshop – Spitting Daggers

4. Hudson Mohawke – Satin Panthers EP

5. Admiral Fallow – Boots Met my Face (Reissue; Originally released 2010)

6. Rudy Zygadlo – Achtung! EP

7. Moth and the Mirror – Honestly, This World

8. Jonnie Common – Master of None

9. Rustie – Glass Swords

10. Remember Remember – The Quickening

11. Found – Factorycraft

12. The Savings and Loan – Today I Need Light

13. The Son(s) – The Son(s)

14. Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older

15. Martin John Henry – The Other Half of Everything

16. Zoey Van Goey – Propellors Versus Wings

17. The Fruit Tree Foundation – First Edition

18. Rob St John – Phantom Limb / Ian Humberstone – The House on the Hill (Split 7″ single)

19. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls

20. Star Wheel Press – Life Cycle of a Falling Bird

Click here for Scotified best of 2011 Spotify Playlist

Rudi Zygadlo / Achtung!

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Released 14/09/2011 - Pictures Music

Something of a step-change for Scotified here, making a move away from the indie and post-rock that has dominated thus far and into more electronic territory. This very interesting EP from Glaswegian Rudi Zygadlo has been out for a month or so, but only recently came to my attention. First impressions are a cross between Barbarossa, Efterklang, Adem, Hot Chip and Hudson Mohawke. Boom. The chamber pop of opener Catharine  is all over the place musically, but in a good way. The same can be said for all the songs here, and Variously Made Men begins as an insane sea shanty before a lush breakdown after 15 seconds into something that I think sets Rudi alongside fellow countryman James Mathe (previously and now once again known as Barbarossa) with his glitchy nu-soul sound as a backdrop to smooth vocals. That said, whereas Barbarossa is rather more lo-fi and stripped back Mathe-rock, Rudi’s is…yeah, not so much! Title track ‘Achtung!’ is the most straightforward number here, and that assessment is certainly a relative one. The EP closes with ‘The Deaf School’, another beaut that I have really warmed to. I love the contrast between simple balladry and those parts where skittering drums and chopped bass fuzz collide to form a crunchy electro-salad. Seconds for me please…

Tracklisting

1. Catharine

2. Variously Made Men

3. Achtung! (Go Easy, Come Easy)

4. The Deaf School