It’s now seven years since Jim Sutherland, a well-known producer, composer and instrumentalist in the folk world, got together with Sylvia and Gina Rae, both familiar singers from Edinburgh's jazz scene. After tequila-fuelled jamming sessions with local jazz, folk and punk musicians, songs were gradually refined in Jim’s studio. The core three eventually signed to Sony and the rest is, well, local poplore.
The Lanterns, hailed by some to be Scottish pop’s bright new things, have had a busy 12 months since their first gig at last year’s Festival. ’High Rise Town’ was a Mark and Lard single of the week in January, and a Todd Terry remix of their second release, ’Winter In My Heart’, reached Number Two in the club charts. They have been compared to everyone from Massive Attack to Dubstar and The Human League; none of which means much to them, according to Sylvia. ’People try and put you in a wee slot, and I think they’re finding it really difficult with us to do that. They were comparing us to The Corrs for a while; that was really getting on my nerves!’
Rae of light: The Lanterns
Debut album Laminate Yer Held, produced by Peter Vettese, is remarkably pop-orientated considering their backgrounds. Sutherland's layered arrangements of strings, percussion and obscure samples provide the backdrop for the Rae sisters’ smooth vocal harmonies, sung in their Edinburgh accents. Sylvia and Gina, quite rightly, see this as perfectly natural, and something they’ve been doing for a long time. It is hard not to pick up on though, if only because so few vocalists do it. Suggestions of it being contrived are dispelled by Jim. ’I think if you do it consciously it’s quite a brave thing to do. For us, we were already doing it by the time we
Live, the girls front Sutherland playing electric wave drums, guitar and electric cittern, with long-time collaborator Neil Harland on double bass. It’s a line up which went down well at T in the Park. ’We’re all live musicians and like to play live,’ says Jim. ’We decided just to cut it down and do the songs.’
With the chance of hearing the album’s darker songs, such as ’Maybe I Do’ and ’Sensible Shoes’, and the excellent Dolphin Boy spinning his discs in support, it may well be worth a trip to Planet Pop. (Fin Wilson)
I The Lanterns (Planet Pop) Beck ’5 Spiege/tent, 558 8072, 20 Aug, midnight, £5.50/E 4. 'Luminate Yer Heid' is out now
started to become The Lanterns.’
Napoleon solo: John Cale
Legendary rock critic Lester Bangs claimed the Velvet Underground were the most important band in the world. A tad Yank-centric, of course, but our Lester was one discerning gonzo noise freak.
’Lou and I both had high aims,’ says John Cale in his book What’s Welsh For Zen. ’We wanted to be the best - and we thought we could do it.’ It was never that simple, though, for the Velvets wanted to challenge their audience; ’to make them vomit’, as Cale puts it.
’Flower power? Get out of here! Acid? Fuck off! We thought doing evil was better than doing nothing.’
A classical musician by training, Cale sought freedom of expression through the Velvets until his relationship with Lou Reed deteriorated and the chemistry between them, almost
entirely pharmaceutically based, was no more.
He went on to tread an eclectic and avant-gardist career path, in between producing some wonderful records by the likes of Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and the Happy Mondays. It‘s for his role in That Band, however, that Cale is still best known. Asked in an interview one time too many about his earlier life, the sardonic Welshman replied that he was more than happy to discuss his part in the Napoleonic Wars. It would be unkind to suggest the man, once described as resembling a ’massive predatory moth', might indeed harbour Little Emperor tendencies.
His aesthetic is probably best framed by the bewigged lighting man at a Velvet Underground show in 1967. ’lt’s ugly,’ said Andy Warhol. ’But it's beautiful.’ (Rodger Evans)
I John Cale: Spoken Word (Book Festival/Flux) Queen ’5 Hall (Venue 72) 668 2079, 20-27 Aug, 8pm, £72.50.
This issue’s best gigs
Fruit Massively acclaimed both in their native Australia and for their '98 Fringe debut, Fruit (pictured) play passionate, funky, up-beat acoustic pop with something for everyone and a good time guaranteed. Fruit (Fringe) Beck ’5 Spiege/tent, 225 9999, 23-27 Aug, 77pm, £7 (£5).
Japan Experience Stunning array of traditional Japanese music, featuring Taiko drums and an appearance from the unique Chikuzan, mistress of the three stringed shamisen. See preview on following pages. Japan Experience (Fringe) Garage Theatre (Venue 87), 227 9009, until 30 Aug, times and prices vary.
John Cale See preview, left. John Cale (Fringe) Flux, Queen’s Hall, 220 4349, Fri 20-Sat 27 Aug, 8pm, E 72.50.
Scanner Very highly regarded electronic wizardry, upping the eclecticism of Planet Pop. Appearing with Gas Giant, Koombaya and Think Tank DJs. Scanner (Planet Pop) The Attic, 225 8382, Sat 27 Aug, 8.30pm, £7. 50/E6.
The Fall The moody king of alterna-rock, six thousand albums into his turbulent career, rocks Flux. Anything could happen. The Fall (Fringe) Flux, Queen's Hall, 220 4349, Sun 22 Aug, 8pm, £10. Popcorn Final The band competition’s six finalists battle it out for big prizes, fame and fortune, with their performances broadcast live on the Internet, cable TV and a giant screen in Covent Garden. Popcom (Fringe) Princes Square Gardens (Venue 52), Thu 79 Aug, 7pm, free.
19—26 Aug 1999 THE US? 89