Music Record Reviews
CONTEMPORARY MR MCFALL’S CHAMBER Birds & Beasts (Delphian Records) ●●●●● Five classical string players thinking and playing out of the box, a jazz pianist and two drummers, and a piper with both folk and jazz
leanings – it can only be Mr McFall’s. The music is equally eclectic – two compositions by Fraser Fifield (the piper), Martyn Bennett’s once lost ‘Piece for string quartet, percussion and Scottish small pipes in C’, and six arrangements by violinist Robert McFall
SINGLES & DOWNLOADS
Trying to be cool is often the death of decent music, so let’s avoid style mag darlings and delve into the hinterlands of good tunesmithery. First up are Glaswegian foursome Kassidy who look and sound like they’re from Big Sur circa 1972. ‘Stray Cat’ (Vertigo) ●●●●● is basically cheesy upbeat Americana, but the four-part harmonies and humungous chorus are also basically irresistible.
Next are Edinburgh somnambulists
Eagleowl, whose ‘Into the Fold EP’ (Kilter) ●●●●●● is a haunting slice of Low-style slowcore, boy/girl vocals entwining around atmospheric folky strains to sumptuous effect. The Scottish Enlightenment plough a
similarly gentle furrow, their ‘Pascal EP’ (Armellodie) ●●●●● shuffling along in a dream, echoey and half-asleep, but disguising lyrical bite all the same. A tad more frisky are State Broadcasters, the Glasgow sextet’s ‘Dusty Record Collection’ (Electric Honey) ●●●●● is a perky slice of guitar pop a la Belle and Sebastian, although it’s a little lacking in melodic intent.
Defying their name, Sheffield duo Slow Club turn in a gloriously bouncy piece of 60s beat pop nonsense with ‘Giving Up On Love’ (Moshi Moshi) ●●●●●, a song that cuts straight to the heart with a singalong chorus The Supremes would’ve been proud of.
Kicking it up a notch are the ferociously
uncool Wildtype. An Edinburgh trio of long- haired noiseniks, they prove themselves unafraid of meaty noise on ‘The Combine EP’ (self-release) ●●●●●, cramming riffs and ideas into every second of a promising debut. Staying on a rock ‘n’ roll tip are Southampton
three-piece Band of Skulls. ‘Death by Diamond and Pearls’ (You Are Here) ●●●●● starts off like the Black Crowes with bees in their bonnets, then struts off in a Jon Spencer huff before swaggering back to chorus our asses off. But just beating that to Single of the
Fortnight are Edinburgh kids Your Neighbour The Liar (see above). ‘The Michael Cera Type EP’ (self-release) ●●●●● is a thing of shouty, jagged beauty, a confident piece of blistering math-rock which brings to mind both Frightened Rabbit and early Biffy Clyro. That they only formed in November last year is, frankly, amazing. (Doug Johnstone)
64 THE LIST 13–27 May 2010
orchestral textures in compelling fashion. Palle Mikkelborg’s plaintive trumpet cuts through the morass, while Paolo Vinaccia’s propulsive drumming stokes energy levels. (Kenny Mathieson) INDIE ROCK THE NATIONAL High Violet (4AD) ●●●●●
Over a ten-year spell, moody Brooklyn boys The National have been fretting over their souls and the messed-up world around them. The time to cheer up a bit is surely overdue with Interpol having long ensnared the miserablist NYC indie rock market. Muttering about
spiders and ghosts, High Violet aims at something dark and arch, after 2007’s excellent Boxer, but simply leaves red faces all round. There are fleeting moments of morose beauty (‘Sorrow’, ‘Conversation 16’) but how can the result be any different when they blithely chuck out lines such as ‘you and your sister live in a lemonworld; do do do’. Just don’t don’t don’t. (Brian Donaldson)
FOLK NUALA KENNEDY Tune In (Compass Records) ●●●●●
From her early days at Edinburgh College of Art, and nights in Sandy Bells pub playing flute with the city’s cross- over music scene, young Kennedy’s exploratory curiosity has always led her away from her musical roots in the traditional music of her Irish homeland.
After touring and recording (with singer/guitarist Kris
Drever) in the trio Fine Friday, she found her own voice on her well- received solo LP, The New Shoes. Her latest album, the product of her ongoing international musical adventures, sees her assemble 20 friends, all leading instrumental and vocal artists. This adventurous and absorbing album covers an exceptionally wide spectrum – from the vocals of Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Will ‘Bonnie Prince Billie’ Oldham, to top British jazz piano from Brian Kellock, and stylish string sounds in Mr McFall’s Chamber. (Norman Chalmers)
COUNTRY ROCK PHOSPHOR- ESCENT Here’s To Taking It Easy (Dead Oceans) ●●●●●
Up until now, Phosphorescent has been the solo work of Alabama-born, NYC resident Matthew Houck. But from the opening horn parps of ‘It’s Hard To Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama)’ it’s clear this is a more expansive, full-band blow out, blending vintage white boy soul, Americana and good old rock ‘n’ roll, with occasionally scintillating results. The E Street Band immediately spring to mind on that opening track, but The Flying Burrito Brothers are a better touchstone here, ragged, unkempt country rock with an impressive ear for melody and a sadness in its heart. No bad thing. (Doug Johnstone)
ALT. FOLK MEURSAULT All Creatures Will Make Merry (Song, By Toad) ●●●●● A sizeable measure of expectation surrounds this record, and with good reason: Edinburgh rousing-folk experts Meursault have become
a much-loved live attraction since their 2008 debut album. Does this, their follow- up, do them justice? Would we dare to doubt it?
Frontman Neil Pennycook is unveiling himself as one of alternative music’s great talents: a voice that could floor you at twenty paces coupled with a songwriting knack that could break your heart. Augmenting his band from four to six makes for blustering anthems (‘Crank Resolutions’, ‘What You Don’t Have’) but Meursault’s masterful, pared-back ballads (‘Sleet’, ‘A Fair Exchange’) have equal force. (Robin Atkinson)
WORLD MACHACA LOS AMBULANTES Sarabande Records ●●●●●
Machaca is the brainchild of 30-year-old Mexican guitarist Morgan Szymanski. Machaca’s take on contemporary South American work, from Brazil’s Villa Lobos to Argentina’s Piazzolla, with lesser knowns such as Venezuela’s Antonio Lauro, breaks moulds for agility of play and the airy quality of their music, which darts deep while remaining subtle and delicate.
The octet includes Edinburgh’s own Chilean guitarist Galo Cerón. Watch this space, as with a mother from Ayr and ground- breaking musicians in his family, Szymanski has inspired vision. Title track ‘Los Ambulantes’ is a highlight, full of textures, pings, rings and evocative effects. (Jan Fairley) ■ www.sarabande records.com
from Bennett’s music. The McFall’s have a track record in adapting Bennett’s ground-breaking folk- meets-techno experiments, and it is good to see it now on disc. Tunes from Bothy Culture and Bennett’s stage music for Knives In Hens lend theselves well to the treatment (the later, even more studio-dependent Grit could have been a trickier proposition), and capture the excitement of Bennett’s creative thinking in convincing fashion, while Fifield’s fiery ‘The Beast’ is a virtuoso achievement. (Kenny Mathieson)
JAZZ TERJE RYPDAL Crime Scene (ECM Records) ●●●●●
Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal was an early star of the nascent ECM label in the 70s, and four decades on is still turning out powerful music. Following his Vossabrygg album inspired in part by Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, this band-within-a-band project with his quartet and the excellent Bergen Big Band nods towards John Coltrane’s later volcanic saxophone duets with Pharaoh Sanders, and throws in orchestral influences from the late George Russell to Ligeti.
Recorded live in concert, the music is mixed with spoken excerpts from iconic crime movies, which might be tiresome with repeated listening. The music itself, though, needs no props, zigzagging from dense, heavy duty guitar-driven thrashes to complex interweaving of