reminiscing and some things what are going to be on

I reckon well over 50% of blogs have some sort of post on there somewhere which says “it’s been ages since I wrote”, just like a letter to your primary school penpal. To be honest, 50% of the writing on this blog probably carries that message in some sort of way! However, life does get busy and you’ve got to pick and choose your moments. The good ship Elba is no longer manned by energetic spring chickens (if it ever was) but we are still unwavering in our love for music in it’s many forms.

The ‘getting older’ and time aspect of music has really got me thinking lately. I’ve always maintained that I probably had an earlier introduction to certain types of music than I maybe should have. As a child 8 years the junior of my sibling I would always look up to them and try to be like them. At that age, the main thing you can do is like the same things as them. Luckily my elder brother was a total muso (there has to be a better way of saying that) and was always buying new tapes, then CD’s then vinyl. I’d consume loads of it, not knowing what it was I was listening to but finding out years later just what an impact it had on me. I begun to join all the dots.

Now that I’ve arrived in my early 30’s, I’ve forged my own paths through new music, amassed my own library of sounds and attended more than my fair share of musical events. I also now find myself looking at the beginning of the calendar year and wondering which albums have a 25th anniversary in the offing so I can see which bands I can cross of the bucket list. Of course, I know that I’ll have an ally in my brother who I can go and see them with, always asking the same question, “Did you think when you were 17 that you’d go and see Dinosaur Jr play in the Arches in 20 years? Or EPMD. Or the Jesus and Mary Chain.”

I’ve even looked ahead to think, how old will I be when ‘x album’ is 25? However, something seems to be taking hold and anniversary shows no longer seem to be confined to 25 years. No, in the last few months I’ve started seeing 15 year anniversary shows for albums. Albums which were a big part of me growing older yet I don’t immediately feel full of nostalgia. 15 years doesn’t really sound like a suitable point for a celebration? It’s not one of those landmark ages, like 25 is. It gets me wondering, is it as simple as these musicians wanting to ‘flog another horse’ again because they’ve no longer got new stuff to tour and need the bucks, or is it more probable that music has changed dramatically in the last 10-15 years so records now have a shorter shelf life? Records which are released now need to be immediate. Consumers download it, listen to it and in many cases, it’s then forgotten about. The album is less revered than it used to be. Music is so much more accessible and more people are able to find a wider selection of listening. No longer does everyone just have the choice of the top 20 in Our Price. In having a wider choice of listening, the amount of people behind one album will diminish or you’ll move on to the next new thing before the last album has achieved legendary status in your collection.

Two such 15 year anniversary shows which I’ve notably seen advertised recently were for Badly Drawn Boy’s ‘Hour of the Bewilderbeast’ and the Polyphonic Spree’s uplifting debut ‘The Beginning Stages of…’. In a heartbeat I bought tickets for the latter for their live show at the QMU (not all that long ago, honest!) was really a musical highlight in my life. However, it got me thinking later that 15 year anniversaries sounded odd. Was it that long ago? Am I getting old?! There’s no doubting the two albums are both excellent works but it is probably an indicator of how music has changed that come the 25th anniversary of these two albums there would be less than sufficient interest to make a tour happen. We know that music has changed but I do worry that we place less value and meaning on the albums which we enjoy.

Looking ahead through my gig calendar I see a few anniversaries on the horizon. Notably in June, the celebration of Mogwai at the Barrowlands and Nas playing Illmatic. However, if nostalgia isn’t for you, there is still plenty to be getting on with.

In June thee mighty Bdy_Prts will play Stereo on Friday 12th of June in what promises to be the perfect way to boogie yourself into the weekend.

And if you’re looking for something a bit different where culture meets fashion and music, then grab a ticket for the next Lighthouse Late event which happens on Friday 29th May. Musical treats are abound from Prides, KLOE and the irrepressible Nicola Meighan (DJ) as well as an upcycling t-shirt workshop, an Instagram photo booth and the Tea green Summer Makers market. Throw in a couple of treats from Innis & Gunn and Brugal Rum and it sounds like a pretty good way to spend payday. The fun kicks off at 7:30pm.

Museum Lates: Game Masters

‘F​or me, growing up as a human being on the planet Earth in the twenty-­first century was a real kick in the teeth. Existentially speaking.’

Wade Owen Watts is the protagonist of Ernest Cline’s 2011 dystopian, 80s obsessed, gamer novel, Ready Player One. Wade is a teenager experiencing the sort of angst-­ridden life you might expect of a slum resident, alienated from his peers in the virtual school he attends, only feeling content when free to roam as his alter ego, in armoured guise, Parzival. This is the new everyman.

‘Reading? You are aware that it’s the twenty-first century?’

If my friend is to be believed, I am not that everyman.

IMG_1023I do not lack enthusiasm when it comes to gaming. There is a stack of unopened games beside my console. Each was selected after a painstaking amount of research. Alas, I have spent more time considering and discussing these acquired items than I have spent playing them. As time rolls on and becomes itself a luxury, streamlining your interests becomes imperative. Ironically, I can quote a science fiction novel about a virtual world because I chose to read rather than immerse myself in an interactive RPG. The only reason that this work of fiction spoke to me is a life-long love of gaming and so called geek-ery. My misspent youth assisted my making the High Scores table in Tetris when I visited Barcade in Brooklyn last summer and outlasting, by an arcade mile (two Quarters) the locals who chose to co-op Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with me. I got game. So, whilst I may have preferred to read a hard copy of this than a digital one, I did rate it on Goodreads as soon as I had finished.

To return to the opening quote, ‘growing up’ is no longer so easily pegged to youth. Recent statistics place the average age of the UK gamer around 35. So it is perhaps fitting that the next in the series of adults-only Museum Lates events will be tied into The National Museum of Scotland’s Game Masters exhibit. From the same source, we’re told 40% of game sales in 2014 included digital content, subscriptions, apps and mobile games. Our lives are embedded. I’m curious to take a trip round this event and exhibit and consider technology’s triumph.

This Friday, the 13th (eep!), the Museum will open it’s doors with an almost rude amount of entertainment available for a very reasonable price of £12. The exhibit itself is impressive with talks on game idea origins, cosplay, and physical gaming delivered by industry and academic minds. Vic Galloway shall be compering, the synthetic sounds of The Wild Curve and Happy Meals should appeal to those accustomed to an electronic palette, VJ for the eve is Susanna Murphy and the rest of the evening will be scored by Fresh Air DJs.

Bonus level: there will be a range of consoles and retro games available to play, singstar, a silent disco, facepainting and fruit-arcade themed brooch making taking place.

Someone is going to have to drag me off of Asteroids tomorrow night…

The Scottish Bloggers and Music Sites Award 2014 (The Scottish BAMS)

BAMS2014LOGOEach year we cobble together some words on the winner of the ‘BAMS’ album of the year award and as all music fans do, lament the fact that our top ten didn’t exactly match the eventual top 10. That said, we’ve loved nearly all the winners of the BAMS so far, from The Phantom Band through to Meursault, the associated writers of the BAMS can be justly proud of their choices. In awarding the 2014 award to the sublime ‘Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave’ by The Twilight Sad, Elba feel a little bit of kinship with our fellow writers, this album also was our personal favourite of the last year. That connection continues with no less then five more of the Elba top 10, making the BAMS list.

James from the Twilight Sad with his 2014 BAMS Award
James from the Twilight Sad with his 2014 BAMS Award

However, don’t allow that to make you think that a small pool of albums were chosen this year. Music, well certainly releases were in rude health last year, personally, we could have picked twenty albums to give nods to but within the BAMS voting, 192 different albums received votes. That’s 8 more than in 2013. The 37 writers who voted, chose 27 different albums as their favourite of 2014 with 10 albums receiving multiple ‘number 1 votes’. Of course, lists are subjective but for another year, Elba were very pleased to be a small part in awarding an accolade to a very deserving album.

The BAMS Top 10 2014

1. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave

2. Mogwai – Rave Tapes

3. The Phantom Band – Strange Friend

4. Withered Hand – New Gods

5. Honeyblood – Honeyblood

6. Young Fathers – DEAD

7. Jonnie Common – Trapped in Amber

8. St Vincent – St Vincent

9. Caribou – Our Love

10. The Amazing Snakeheads – Amphetamine Ballads

The 2014 BAMS were:

Bluesbunny, Jim Gellatly, Almost Predictable. Almost, Vic Galloway, Detour Scotland, The Spill, The Steinberg Principle, Haiver, For Malcontents, Last Year’s Girl, Tenement TV, Dear Scotland, Marion Scott, 17 Seconds, Alan Morrison (The Herald), Through The Wire, Post Nothing, Podcart, Everything Flows, Avalanche, Elba Sessions, La Terrasse, Edinburgh Man, The Skinny, Alive & Amplified, Song, By Toad, The Pop Cop

5 things to see at Celtic Connections

Hazy Recollections (Sundays at 1pm during Celtic Connections) – O2 ABC

Hazy Recollections events have long been on our radar at Elba and it’s always pleasing to see them return year on year to add some Sunday afternoon respite after the Saturday night before. The first HR of the festival takes place this Sunday and features one of our favourite bands here at Elba, The Hazey Janes.

Tuesday 20th January
The Pictish Trail & Sweet Baboo – The Glasgow Art Club

Sweet Baboo charmed the pants off us when he played at Randolph’s Leap’s album launch in spring last year and we can only imagine with the added parts of The Pictish Trail that this may be akin to some sort of musically brilliant stand-up show. We mean that in the very very best way, I promise.

Thursday 20th January
King Creosote performs ‘From Scotland With Love’ with support from Tiny Ruins – Royal Concert Hall

In a year where our nation dominated headlines and an amazing sense of national pride was evident whether you were a Yes or No voter, one of the most poignant pieces of culture which grabbed the attention was the collaboration between King Creosote and filmmaker Virginia Heath. ‘From Scotland With Love’ is a collection of archive footage was bound together with KC’s trademark stylings to create a snapshot of the history of this bonnie land in which we live. Support comes from the excellent Tiny Ruins.

Thursday 29th January
Konono No.1 + Bombino – O2 ABC

There’s something for everyone in this Congolese collective. Traditional methods fused with distorted electronics and instruments made from old cars, this gig won’t be your run of the mill evening out in Glasgow.

Fri 30th January 2015
L’Homme Tranquille: Francois & The Atlas Mountains feat Sanou Darra and Djiga Boubacar with support from Kid Canaveral – The Arches

Promoters. Put on Francois & The Atlas Mountains in Glasgow and I promise I will continue to come along, bringing a new convert every time. Consistently one of the best and most entertaining live bands you’ll ever see, there is nothing that will keep me away from this gig. Support comes from the ever braw Kid Canaveral.

2014 – A round-up of sorts and our favourite albums

FullSizeRenderElba have been quiet as the proverbial mouse this year but we’ve been making plenty of noise elsewhere. Travelling to all corners of this wonderful country we call home having been invited on a musical journey as well as going coast to coast on the other side of the Atlantic, we’ve pretty much exhausted ourselves to the point of when we did actually have a minute to ourselves, we had no energy to share our thoughts. Gladly though, 2014 has again been an excellent year for music, both locally and within our wider universe.

As well as a raft of albums that we’ll hold dear to our heart for many a year to come, we’ve experienced some gigs and musical moments which will live long in the memory. Too many to mention all of, and some maybe a bit too personal to share.

We started the year off in wonder at Mogwai’s ‘Rave Tapes’ album and were lucky enough to squeeze into the CCA for an intimate performance by the band, that was broadcast live for Vic Galloway’s Celtic Connections special. We ended the year in equally mindblowing style listening again and again to the ‘tour de force’ which is The Twilight Sad’s ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave’ which was followed up by a breathtaking and emotional show at the ABC.

Along the way, we had a ball at some of Glasgow’s best ‘day-fests’. Stag & Dagger saw great performances by Honeyblood, Courtney Barnett, Jungle and Los Campesinos!, whilst in the fading summer there was nowhere we’d have rather been than at the East End Social’s Last Big Weekend. Mogwai (again), Honeyblood (again), The Wedding Present, Swervedriver and The Twilight Sad (again) closing out an excellent programme of events.

Some of our favourite local labels once again released a catalogue of gems. In the East, Song, By Toad released great albums by Bastard Mountain and Jonnie Common, whilst in the West, albums by Dan Lyth, Chris Devotion & The Expectations and The Hazey Janes made it another top quality year in the Armellodie stable.

2014 started with lots of ambition and positivity and whilst it ended in near burn-out, we had a great rollercoaster ride in between with things that we wont forget.

2015 is just around the corner and once again we have plans, we want to shout a little bit more about music, so how about we talk a little bit more next year?

Elba’s Albums of 2014

10. Sound of Yell – Brocken Spectre
9. Bastard Mountain – Farewell, Bastard Mountain
8. Remember Remember – Forgetting the Present
7. Withered Hand – New Gods
6. Dan Lyth & The Euphrates – Benthic Lines
5. The Phantom Band – Strange Friend
4. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
3. Mogwai – Rave Tapes
2. Honeyblood – Honeyblood

1. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave

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Lighthouse Late

lighthouse-lates-297mmx210mm-08Oct14In the last few years I’ve often found myself glancing enviously towards Edinburgh. This tends to happen every few months when the Museum Lates events are announced at the National Museum. There is little doubt that Glasgow gets more than it’s fair share of good musical events, which tends to keep me content, but mixing an evening of good music with exhibits and some drinks, in a very cool venue, sounds like a pretty good night out to me. Glasgow has some excellent museums and arts spaces and whilst straight up gigs are alright, it’s nice to have a night out with a bit of a difference to look forward to.

It goes without saying then, that I was very pleased to see that the Lighthouse was hosting a ‘Lates’ night, with an excellent line-up to boot. The Lighthouse is probably one of my favourite arts spaces in the city and this Friday it will be open after hours for a celebration of music, film and design. Heading up the musical element of the evening are James Yorkston and Ella the Bird, whose performances will be punctuated by DJ sets from Scott Paterson (Sons & Daughters), Joe Rattray (Admiral Fallow) and Iain Stewart (The Phantom Band).

There will also be the opportunity to see Stuart Murdoch’s (Belle & Sebastian) Glasgow based coming of age tale ‘God Help The Girl’ as well as a selection of GFT shorts. And of course, being held in Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, the evening wouldn’t be complete without a few talks and your chance to get hands on with some design projects. Finally, if this all sounds like thirsty work, then there will be drinks laid on by Innis & Gunn and Caorunn Gin.

Lighthouse Late takes place on Friday 24th October, starting at 7:30pm. Tickets are £15 and can be purchased at the following link.

SAY Award Shortlist vote and #pets4votes scandal…

We mentioned in our round up of this years Scottish Album of the Year long list nominees that a public vote would take place to fill one of the shortlisted finalist spots. Well, the public vote is now upon us and we’re about (checks watch) halfway through the voting period.

Until 11:59 on Wednesday, you can pick your favourite from the long listed albums on the SAY website. The winner of this vote will be shortlised as a finalist along with the judging panel’s other 9 choices.

Now, we are all too aware that we shouldn’t try to influence your vote, after all, there’s several great albums on that longlist, but please don’t be sucked in by the latest #pets4votes scandal on twitter…

pets4votes

Farewell, Bastard Mountain

Scottish indie supergroup, I’ll admit, is a phrase which makes me a bit uneasy. However, it seems to be the term that many have used to describe Bastard Mountain, a new band on the excellent Song, By Toad label featuring Neil Pennycook & Pete Harvey from Meursault, Jill O’Sullivan from Sparrow & the Workshop, Rob St. John from eagleowl & Meursault, Rory Sutherland from Broken Records & Reuben Taylor from James Yorkston & the Athletes. (super, eh?) SbTR-A-030 Outer Sleeve EXI wonder though if supergroup is a bit of a disservice. I get connotations of an experimental ego-trip when I hear the phrase but this album doesn’t even come close to falling under that category. If this weren’t members of some of my favourite Scottish bands in recent years, I’d love the album exactly the same. It sounds like they’re are a band rather than loose collective, it references the styles of their own work and ultimately it’s a Bastard Mountain record, not a record by him, her and them. Neil Pennycook and Jill O’Sullivan’s voices sound like they were meant to be recorded together with each complimenting the other. The tracks were written both individually and brought together by all and astonishingly was done in such a short period of time.

We don’t review records much on Elba Sessions which on one hand is a shame but writing reviews is not our forte and we’d much rather not churn out the same cliched dross for every review, just for the sake of doing so. However, some records deserve column inches and that’s why we wanted to feature this record. Listen to the track below and make up your own mind. If you like it, then they’ll play a few gigs at the end of this month in London and Edinburgh. Sadly though, that’s where the supergroup element seems real because if you don’t catch them now then god knows when you might get a chance again…

You can buy the album, ‘Farewell, Bastard Mountain’ here

Bastard Mountain play

London – Shhh! Festival, Sat. 24th May. Tickets here.
Edinburgh – Queen’s Hall, Thu. 29th May. Tickets here

Scottish Album of The Year Award 2014 Longlist

say logo In case you missed it, the longlist for this year’s Scottish Album of the Year was announced a couple of weeks ago and as usual there is no shortage of talent on display. Whether it be Frightened Rabbit’s anthemic ‘Pedestrian Verse‘, Tommy Smith’s National Jazz Orchestra’s homage to Duke Ellington, ‘In the Spirit of Duke‘ or Mogwai’s brooding score to Les Revenants, there is a bit of everything on the longlist of 20.

I probably sound like a broken record (saves this sentence again for 2015), but i genuinely look forward to the longlist being announced every year. Not just because there are albums that I hope will be on there but also because there’s often a few albums which I’ve either never heard of or just not paid enough attention to which I’ll then go and give a proper listen to. This year is no exception. Of course, readers of this blog will have guessed that we’re very happy to see Kid Canaveral’s ‘Now That You Are A Dancer‘, The Pastels’ ‘Slow Summits‘, Rick Redbeard’s ‘No Selfish Heart‘ and ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest‘ by Boards of Canada on the list. However, we’re also delighted to see another stack of albums there, ripe to fall in love with or just give a bit more listening to.

At the end of the day, the SAY Award will go to one winner, but the fact that these 20 albums have shone through the hundreds of albums released in this country, is quite the achievement in itself.

This year’s longlist is as follows;

Adam Holmes and the Embers – Heirs and Graces
Adam Stafford – Imaginary Walls Collapse
Biffy Clyro – Opposites
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
Camera Obscura – Desire Lines
CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe
Dunedin Consort (Dir. John Butt) – J. S. Bach: Six Brandenburg Concertos
Edwyn Collins – Understated
Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
Hector Bizerk – Nobody Seen Nothing
Kid Canaveral – Now That You Are a Dancer
Mogwai – Les Revenants
Rick Redbeard – No Selfish Heart
RM Hubbert – Breaks & Bone
Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire – Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire
Scottish Chamber Orchestra (R. Ticciati) – Berlioz: Les Nuit D’été
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra – In The Spirit Of Duke
Steve Mason – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time
The Pastels – Slow Summits
Young Fathers – Tape Two

Currently the SAY website is streaming a longlisted album a day on their website. A public vote will follow for 72 hours starting on May 28th.

Process

Where You’re Meant To Be

I’ve become quite fond of Scotland lately. I mean, I’ve lived here all my life but growing up in Aberdeen, things just felt a bit more insular. Age of course has a part to play, you can’t just go roaming about the lochs of the West coast as a 13 year old, that is unless you want to get the emergency services in a fluster.

I’ve lived in cities or large-ish towns all my life and I’m now settled in Glasgow. I’m a little bit older now (with responsibilities) and I’ve got the ability to explore a bit more. Whether it be a family holiday in the East Neuk of Fife, a stormy, but gorgeous traverse of West coast peninsulas or a weekend catching up with friends in Edinburgh, this country has got the ability to make my heart grow warmer with each and every adventure, and often my first thought is my soundtrack to those visits.

Music is a constant in my life. I’m humming something when I wake up and I usually have something stuck in my head by the time I go to sleep at night. Often, I’ll associate songs with places that I’ve been or I find that when I hear something I’ll think to myself, that music really sounds like a particular place. Is that odd? Do other people do that? Tell me that when you hear The Pastels that it doesn’t make you yearn for Glasgow’s fading autumn sunlight? Just me?

And of course, this brief ode to, well, me travelling about Scotland with music in my ears is going somewhere. A film, doing a very similar thing but y’know properly and probably not in a Fiesta with suspension problems listening to songs on an old iPod or CD player, has been announced as part of the Glasgow 2014 cultural programme.

Photo by Neale Smith
Photo by Neale Smith

‘Where You’re Meant to Be’ sees filmmaker Paul Fegan, you might know him from ‘The Copper Top‘ video or pigeon fancying short ‘Pouters’, team up with Scottish cult-pop raconteur Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap) to explore Scotland’s musical and storytelling traditions. They’ll be going on a road trip with an accompanying troupe which includes, James Graham (The Twilight Sad), Jenny Reeve (Bdy_Prts) and Stevie Jones (Alasdair Roberts, Arab Strap, Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat et al.) for a set of concerts in places from Aberdeen to Oban and Loch Ness to Glasgow’s famous Barrowlands.

The gigs will have their roots in tradition with songs sung, tales told and merriment had (complimentary whisky drams will help that) and they take place at a series of iconic Scottish venues and locations.

19 April Port of Ness (Lewis) Ness Social Club 9pm
23 April (TONIGHT!) Faslane Peace Camp 7pm
25 April Aberdeen Blue Lamp 8pm
26 April Cullerlie Farm Park 7.30pm
27 April Edinburgh Caves 7.30pm
9 May Drumnadrochit Village Hall 7.30pm
10 May Lerags Kilbride Church Yard, Oban 7.30pm
17 May Glasgow Barrowland 7pm

You can check on ticket availability on the Where Your Meant To Be page.

The film is due to be released in late summer and promises a “life-affirming, intimate and irreverent tribute to Scotland, its stories, its songs and its people – and it offers a modern, vital take on an oral tradition that has endured for centuries, and which continues to influence our national identity”

I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.