SCOUT NIBLETT Who is this woman? Why haven’t I heard more about her? She’s the Staffordshire-born chanteuse responsible for sparse but beautiful singer-songwriting on six fantastic albums. Despite comparisons to Cat Power and PJ Harvey she has a relatively low level, cult profile – disappointing considering the brilliance of her latest LP, The Calcination of Scout Niblett, released earlier this year. Er, calcination? Technically the heating of metal without fusion. In the metaphorical world of the soul’s deepest hopes and pain (much more Niblett’s scene) it refers to the first stage of alchemy – breakdown of elements to their barest forms – comparable to the distillation of songwriting essence that Niblett achieves on The Calcination . . . The LP is an encyclopaedia of emotional turmoil, pure in its simple use of guitar, drums and voice; hard- going, though ultimately rewarding, in its honesty. Scout Niblett – that can’t be her real name? It’s a reference to the character Scout in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Her real name is Emma Louise Niblett. A Yankophile then? More than that, she lives in Portland, Oregon, having quit sunny California which was ‘too expensive’. As with last issue’s Profile subject, Nina Nastasia, she records with legendary producer Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana, PJ Harvey) at his Chicago studio. Rumour has it that, as a keen astrologist, she only records at certain times, when the planets are at their most sonorous. Eccentric much? Why spend an evening with her? The reasons are many. Lets start with her refreshingly straightforward stage show. She sometimes backs her heartfelt singing with fumbling guitars; other times rocks out with buzzing punk progressions. Either way it’s going to being raw. Does she do any chart- topping 70s reggae? Glad you asked. Her cover of Althea and Donna’s ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ (stripped back to near- nothing) is a crowd favourite. (Jonny Ensall) ■ Stereo, Glasgow, Tue 1 Jun. 72 THE LIST 27 May–10 June 2010
PREVIEW PROGRESSIVE ORCHESTRA CHROME HOOF Hung Up! at the Sub Club, X, Sun 30 May
It’s a distinction of which they might be unaware themselves, but London-based prog orchestra Chrome Hoof are the first band to play the Sub Club’s new post- Optimo Sunday nighter Hung Up! The suspicion is that they’re exactly the type of group this virgin club night wants to promote: edgy, unique and utterly impossible to categorise.
The club was formed a decade ago by brothers Leo and Milo Smee who hail from very different musical backgrounds, Leo having played (and still playing) in doom-metallers Cathedral, and Milo preferring to make electronic sounds. ‘It’s not true that we were aiming for a combination of metal and dance music, though,’ says Leo. ‘We’re both equally big fans of Kraftwerk, progressive rock, funk, all that sort of thing.’ Expanding first to a trio
and now to an orchestra of eight core members and more than 20 regular helpers, Leo puts their decision to wear sinister silver robes partly down to a kind of shyness in the days when they didn’t have a singer and partly down to their love of the same era’s Funkadelic. The excellent 2007 album Pre-Emptive False Rapture gave the band a degree of hipster cachet for its furious and largely successful mashing of genres, while the subsequent addition of sometime Spektrum singer Lola Olafisoye – headhunted by Leo through mutual friends – has given the group a definitive personality at its head. After a year of piecemeal, DIY recording, the new album Crush Depth is now ready for release, featuring guests including James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco and members of Guapo. ‘We’ve all got day jobs,’ says Leo, ‘because this isn’t the sort of band which will ever make us money. But fortunately we’ve all got real love and dedication for it, which gets us by.’ (David Pollock)
ELECTRONICA WASHED OUT, WITH SMALL BLACK AND DAM MANTLE Stereo, Glasgow, Fri 28 May
Ernest Weatherly Greene is on the deck of his wife’s parents’ lake house in Milletsville, Georgia, soaking up the sun. He just got off tour with Beach House, and is enjoying doing nothing. ‘It’s so scenic here,’ he explains, languidly. ‘It’s pretty rural. I wasn’t even sure my cell phone would work.’ It seems apt to find the musician – who’s been ‘riding the chillwave’, along with 80s-leaning electronic acts like Memory Tapes, Ducktails and Toro Y Moi for a year now – in such a mellow setting. The 26-year-old’s music, after all, is a woozy, Vaseline-smudged, gauze of synthpop and teen romance, which he describes as ‘kinda like the soundtrack to a beautiful summer day hanging out with friends.’ Greene began making lo-fi pop last summer, while living back with his
parents on their peach orchard, which may explain the gentle dazzle of his blurry sound. ‘Lyrics aren’t really that important to me. My writing is about getting in an emotional pocket, a headspace – I look for a certain drum beat or loop that you can get lost in.’ As for the labels – besides ‘chillwave’ he’s also been stickered with ‘glo-fi’ and ‘hypnagogic pop’ – Greene has never been about climbing aboard any bandwagon. ‘I’ve always gravitated towards that type of music. I’m just lucky it’s in vogue right now. In my adolescence, I was into stuff like Radiohead. Beautiful but dark; not very optimistic. The music I make now is a reaction to that – I want the same relaxed vibe, but less of a downer; more positive.’ (Claire Sawers)