KRAUTROCK/ALT.FOLK THE PHANTOM BAND Oran Mor, Glasgow, Sun 21 Nov
Glasgow Krautrock/alt.folk splicers The Phantom Band have arguably bettered their 2009 end of year lists-scaling debut Checkmate Savage with their sophomore set The Wants, which is among the most critically-acclaimed albums of 2010 according to review aggregator websites. The List caught up with them during their first American sojourn, supporting Frightened Rabbit. ‘We played Detroit last night and the crowd was great,’ reports guitarist Duncan Marquiss down a crackly phone line from a diner in Chicago. ‘The city as well, it was like the set of 28 Days Later or something.’ A slippery, experimental masterpiece, The Wants’
sonic unpredictability may have something to do with the band effectively piecing together the songs blind
in the studio. ‘A lot of Checkmate Savage was written over a few years and refined live,’ explains Marquiss. ‘This album, we went into the studio with just a few ideas, then fleshed them out and changed them as we went. We were only hearing full songs for the first time during the final mix.’
Marquiss concedes that there’s ‘no way we’d be here’ without the support of Chemikal Underground. They must be glad to be repaying their label’s faith in them? ‘Anything we can give back I hope we are, because they’ve done a lot for us and for a lot of musicians.’ He parries the suggestion that The Phantom Band may even represent the label’s biggest triumph since Aereogramme or even Arab Strap. ‘I’m very reticent to say that we’ve been a success where other Chemikal bands haven’t,’ he responds, cautiously. ‘I don’t want to tempt fate.’ (Malcolm Jack)
DREAM POP SMALL BLACK Captain’s Rest, Glasgow, Wed 1 Dec
Josh Kolenik has just finished lunch at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon, where he and band Small Black are playing later that night. (‘They make these really amazing doughnuts with bacon on them’, he exhales.) In Kolenik’s head, there is a strong connection between the Pacific Northwest arts-and- music hipster hub of Portland, and Scotland. ‘It’s something to do with its temperament, and the weather,’ he explains. ‘I don’t know – I guess they’re both super-relaxed places, with down to earth people who have a good sense of humour. Being here really reminds me of Glasgow.’
It was during a three-month stay in Portland that Kolenik came up with the name Small Black for the lo-fi, mechanical, scuzzy synth-pop band he launched with a self-titled debut
EP last summer. The fuzzy tracks, recorded in the attic of Kolenik’s surfer-dude uncle Matt’s house in Long Beach, New York (uncle Matt also stars in the video for their addictive summer anthem, ‘Despicable Dogs’), quickly made their way onto blogs. By February they’d been signed to Indiana indie label, Jagjaguwar, who put out their first full-length album, New Chain last month. Although the original duo of Kolenik and his friend Ryan
Heyner has since expanded to include Juan Pieczanski and Jeff Curtin, the songwriting process is still basically the same. ‘I use Pro Tools software now, which is new, but the Casio keyboard – that’s still in there. That was the first keyboard I ever had, I got it when I was about 8. When I was younger I used to find those beats really dumb, but now I really love that back-to-basics sound. There’s a lot to be said for the minimalism and simplicity of them.’ (Claire Sawers)
NUALA KENNEDY She’s worked with Will Oldham and Norman Blake: now ace flautist and vocalist Nuala Kennedy is collaborating with a bard from the Appalachian Mountains . . . Sorry?
‘I’ll be playing with my usual musical cohorts plus AJ Roach – a great singer from Virginia who makes Willie Nelson sound like he hasn’t hit puberty. Our music ranges from plaintive, sparse ancient Gaelic songs, experimental compositions and progressive trad- dance music. In places it’s kind of quirky, traditional music with a retro-pop sound.’ What’s all this about Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy?
‘I met Will [Oldham] through touring as part of the Scottish Arts Council’s Tune-Up scheme in 2006. We became friends, sharing a predilection for Scrabble and Islay malts. He sang on ‘Astar’, my 2007 commission for Celtic Connections, and when I was recording [excellent current album] Tune In, I thought the part of the evil sea captain on the traditional ballad, ‘The Waves of the Silvery Tide’ would be perfect for him!’ And Norman Blake, you say?
‘Norman and Ziggy Campbell (from FOUND) plus me and a bunch of other writers were guests at the fantastic Burnsong songwriting residency in 2008. I was blown away by them, how passionate they were about music. Norman and I sing a duet on Tune In: ‘The Books in My Library’.
Any chance we’ll hear the magic rock duet you played with FOUND at the Fence Homegame? ‘Absolutely: we’ll be doing versions of all sorts of songs, maybe with some unexpected appearances. Jedward, anybody?’ (Nicola Meighan) ■ Stereo, Glasgow, Fri, 26 Nov; Bongo Club, Edinburgh, Sat 27 Nov. www.nualakennedy.com
18 Nov–2 Dec 2010 THE LIST 63