Category: releases

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

Interview: Appletop

All the way from Toulon, in the sun-kissed South of France, Appletop have been pleasing our ears lately with their forthcoming album, Brave Mountains which will be released through Armellodie Records, on March 10th. Drawing on influences from Teenage Fanclub to Pavement, this is alt-rock at it’s most catchy. It’s easy to see why not only I love it, but also why 6music have taken an interest too.

Appletop - Promo 3

We had a chat to singer Pierre (in impressive written English, très bien!) who told us a bit about their music, their forthcoming album release and details of a Glasgow gig which is happening in April (further details to follow soon). You can also grab yourself a download of Madonna in Love, taken from their forthcoming album, at the bottom of the interview.

This is your first UK release, how long have you guys been making music together, and how did you meet?

We have been making music together for a looong time. We’ve been friends since high school, and released our first EPs in 2008/2009 and our debut album in 2010. Quite a classic story. Friends before bandmates, meeting at schools and gigs we were going to.

What’s your local music scene like?

It’s…unexpected. In the south of France, there is not quite a genuine rock n roll tradition. To be honest, not many people are into indie music or just music (if they are, it’s mainly reggae/rap), so it’s quite hard to find an audience, and in this respect, we’ve been relatively lucky I’d say. On the other hand, we’ve seen some quite amazing bands (in quite different styles), coming from our hometown, writing/playing fantastic music : Mina May, Mystik Motorcycles, Hifiklub, Tatiana Sauvage and Bokanosvky. Well, okay, even if they have remained (for now) rather confidential, these are brilliant bands, we grew up amongst them, which is definitely an inspiration.

On top of this, we now have good festivals, and in particular two great festivals directly in our hometown (Midi Festival and Rockorama) with outstanding line-ups every year.

You’re co-releasing the album on A Quick One Records in France and Armellodie in the UK. How did the link with Armellodie come up and why did you want to work with them?

Our first album was released on quite respected French label, but for reasons beyond our control it closed. At the same time, we were playing our first gigs in the UK, and somehow, we felt like we really wanted to give it try over there. Olivier Cancellieri (bass), who has also been mixing most of the album, is a total nerd. He’s often buying and selling gear online, and I think at some point he traded something with Scott Maple from Armellodie, and we started checking out their roster, so finally sent some sounds. They were cool enough to give us a shot.

We reckon we can hear a bit of Teenage Fanclub in your sound, which for us is never a bad thing. Are they an influence? Who else influences your musical style?

There is probably no point hiding that we are HUGE Teenage Fanclub/Pixies/Breeders fans. Well, we grew up in the 90’s, and it’s definitely the kind of music we all love, and where we met. At the same time, I don’t think we are really trying to write/play/produce music from the 90’s. We don’t make music to pay tribute to the past. To us, we are just trying to make music we like, it’s not like we thought about it and gathered saying “let’s make this kind of music”. Its just what happened, it’s selfish : us making music we like!

What are you listening to right now?

We all really dug the latest Mac Demarco, all three of us fell in love with St Vincent, so we’ve been checking out her new album. I heard Olivier (Cancellieri, Bass) is into Holograms, and Nicolas (Faou, drums) really enjoyed the latest Kurt Vile and Violators. (I also recently discovered Vampire Weekend, years later, so it’s a bit in my ears right now)

Have you got any plans to visit the UK? What about a summer holiday to Scotland?

This is happening pretty soon. I heard we might play Glasgow on Monday April 14th – check out www.appletop.eu, we’ll put that on very soon!

Finally, we have to ask, where does the name come from?

This is too silly to give an honest answer. For the most curious reader, the answer is inside our new album “Brave Mountains”, so I guess if you purchase it, you’ll know. HA! (Or maybe I’m just lying, and then you’ll never know. I guess you’ll just have to give it a try)

Brave Mountains is released by Armellodie Records on March 10th. You can pre order your copy here.

Appletop will also be playing in Glasgow on April 14th but as this is just ‘hot of the press’ news, we’re not entirely sure of all the details, I think it’ll be in The Roxy though! So yeah, keep your eyes peeled and definitely go along.

Sampling Samplers 13-14

‘Tis (has been) the season to download free samplers from labels, ‘zines and other such online outlets. So as well as unwrapping Christmas presents, we’ve been unzipping folders best essay writing service reviews of mp3’s and giving them a listen, and the nice thing that we’ve found, is that it makes you remember some of the great music from last year as well as getting you excited for the year ahead.

Case in point #1 comes from Armellodie Records [FREE SAMPLER HERE]. An assortment of what’s to come as well as some older gems and some ‘rarities’, make this a pleasing listen. I hadn’t listened to The Douglas Firs or Conor Mason in a while and it was very nice to become more acquainted with their newest signing, Appletop. They’re from France, which the label tells us most helpfully, is in Europe. The following track has really whet my appetite for their album, which will be released in March.

Another album that I’m rather looking forward to, which is due out this year, is by Now Wakes The Sea. We put on what I think was their first gig as NWTS back in 2010 and I still remember some of the cool shit they did with noises and looping a transistor radio with a cassette player (i think that’s what it was anyway). They’ll be releasing the follow up to ‘Fluoxetine Morning’ this year on Edinburgh’s mini50 records who handily also give you a bit of an insight into their label with a sampler [DOWNLOAD HERE]

Another local label dishing out the free stuff (well, this one came out in Nov) is Olive Grove Records [FREE SAMPLER] who seem to be going from strength to strength, indeed, their release of Jo Mango’s ‘When We Lived In The Crook of a Tree’ EP and her subsequent performance of it at The Glad Cafe were two highlights of a very good musical year for us at Elba in 2013. In fact, if you’d like to see this sampler in the flesh (sort of), then the Olive Grove roster will be putting on a label showcase at the Oran Mor on January 25th. (Yeah, we know this track is not on the sampler!)

Finally, we couldn’t really leave it without mentioning the ever delightful Asthmatic Kitty seasonal sampler. Just look at the cat gif on the download page! [FREE DOWNLOAD HERE]

Re-Mogwai-ed

I like my title for these words. If you consider that a first listen of the band would be to be Mogwai-ed. There would be no state of undoing.  But redoing?  Huh.  I’m not certain.  I’m quite sure that you can’t be Remurdered, in medical terms anyway. What a name though. The first sound of The Rave Tapes came on Monday and can be heard below, courtesy of Rock Action.

 

There are signature Mogwai noises. It’s a teasing build. There are little flares of guitar, the way Mogwai do them best. Where other guitarists would cease their melodic song, here more thought is added; an answer to the question being posed. The percussion jumps in as it pleases. Then, after three minutes of beautiful and sinister sound the moment comes that will have you devoted. Nothing else will matter to you but this song for at least four days*.  Oh and at 3:20 you will find the sound that will deafen you when this track is played live.

Mogwai have announced live dates, beginning in the new year after an ATP appearance, including Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 28th January 2014 as part of Celtic Connections.

The band’s twitter is promising even more news in mere hours. This leaves a little time to head to the band’s website and get a free copy of Remurdered. The Rave Tapes is available for pre-order now and will be released on 20th January 2014.

 

* based on the number of days that have passed since the test group** first listened to the track

** the test group is one person***

*** okay, the test group is me

Over The Wall loveliness from Gerry Loves Records

I think one thing you seem to be guaranteed when Gerry Loves Records announce a release, is that it’s going to come in some cool format, be it nicely packaged or some such thing. Their latest release is no different with green vinyl being the choice for the split John Knox Sex Club and Over The Wall single, released 7th October. ‘Tell Her I Love Her’, the Over The Wall side, is a bleary eyed, wistful, after-hours song which is punctuated with electric blips and almost Local Hero-esque guitars. It’s been a winner with us at Elba over the last couple of weeks. You can pre-order your limited run copy on the Gerry Loves Records site.

With both bands having gained a pretty formidable live reputation, it’s good to know that a few launch shows have been planned nearer to the release date. In Edinburgh, both bands will play as part of The Pleasance Sessions on Friday 11th October and over in Glasgow on October 19th the bands play at Stereo with the addition of the Book Group to the line-up. Full details of the gigs are below.

Fri 11th October 2013 – Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh
Part of the Pleasance Sessions
Doors 7.30pm

Sat 19th October 2013 – Stereo, Glasgow
Doors 7.30pm

Interview: Bergen

Bergen released their eponymous debut EP in January of this year. Thanks to the low-fi offerings and recommendations of the band, Elba have since become rather addicted to the Italian indie scene.  The four well crafted snippets of dream pop on the Bergen EP are as comfortable in their adopted home of Glasgow as their mythological Scandinavian origin but their true lineage derives from the collaborative efforts of Italian duo Nicola Galati and Alberto Bagarello. Their romanticized landscape of sound soars highest on track Wake Up; a flighty and positive highlight with choral rhythm and echoing vocals providing ground for a restless guitar pattern to leap around.

The Bergen EP has been playing on the Elba stereo for awhile now and Nicola was kind enough to reveal, in his own charming turn of phrase, a little of what is behind those luscious tones.

Bergen

How did you and Alberto meet and when did you start making music together?

We met each other around 2009 in Padova, our hometown in the noth of Italy. Alberto replied to my ad on Mercatino Musicale, a sort of local ad site for musicians.

When we think about how we met it seems unbelievable and we always laugh about it. I never saw Alberto before that time which is even more strange considering the fact that we were living quite close. We started playing with a few other guys, doing some covers, spending great times together but in the end, our first project didn’t work much. We kept in touch and we became really close friends, we always shared the love for gigs and several drinks.

Has music always been a part of your lives?

Alberto has played guitar since he was child. He has been involved in different projects and he’s actually helping in another band called The Clockmakers.

I started producing electronic music with an hardcore electronic duo called Orgoglio Mvtilato and then I produced some techno house tracks with the alias Ramadash. I listen to a lot of electronic music and I’m still making beats with Ableton. From 2010 we both worked more on Bergen, which is actually our main project.

Can you tell us a little more about the origins of the band name?

When we were thinking about our name, we felt really inspired by geographical names, towns, mountains and lakes. We both like travel and nature so we wanted to give to the band a foreign name, which would take the mind away from our home country. In the last two years I’ve been traveling around Scandinavia and I was becoming absorbed by this culture. One day, we were both making lists of dream cities in order to find a good name and surprisingly we both wrote Bergen on the top of the list.

Have the sounds of Scandinavia been an influence on the direction of your music?

We would say no, we like to think about Scandinavia more as an ethereal place, a state of mind. We’d like to take our listeners to the Norwegian mountains through the sound of our dreamy guitars, atmospheric synths and effects choirs. Then again, of course, we love a lot of bands from those countries. Among the most we love is The Radio Dept and their sounds but in terms of influences we feel more inspired by other bands.

What would you say your influences are and what motivates you? 

We both like the eighties sounds of The Smiths and The Cure. We listenend to a lot of Captured Tracks releases, especially the firsts from Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing. Ducktails and Real Estate influenced us also, we love their gentle layers of guitar and rhythms. There is a great scene in Italy with lovely dream pop bands like Brothers in Law that we appreciate. We feel motivated by improving our productions year by year and by all friends around us that support our project. When we released the Bergen EP, we received good feedback from a lot of blogs and some small labels from different countries. To be honest we have not attracted as much interest in Italy as we did in the UK.

 Where did you record the EP?

We did our first EP last summer without spending any money using a DIY philosphy. We recorded four tracks in my parent’s mountain house, which is located in a really suggestive town in the Alps called Andalo. Stefano and Guido helped us, providing their great equipment and we transformed the house into a recording studio. Alberto recorded guitar takes in the children’s bedroom and I recorded vocals inside a wardrobe. After that, another cool friend with a long beard called Cristopher mixed the tracks with Francesco Bruni in his professional recording studio (Studio 2) in Venice.

What are your plans for the future? 

We are currently working on a new EP that hopefully will be released at the end of the year. All the tracks we’re actually working on were composed between Glasgow and Padova.  As a natural process, our sound is experiencing some changes. The mood of the new EP will be a bit more dark than romantic, affected by a greater use of synths and less clean guitars. We’ll never leave our chained guitars riffs and our minimalistic dry drums. After that we’re planning to film a video clip of our first single in Scotland and if people love us we’re going to play some gigs.

If the above words weren’t enough to charm you then wander over to the band’s bandcamp page where the sounds, without a doubt, will.

Author’s footnote: draft titles for this post included ‘May the interview Bergen’ and ‘A wonderful Bergen-ning.’ The sub-title is ‘Kim puts on music, falls in love… again. Get ahold of your emotions, woman!’

Asthmatic Kitty Digital Summer Sampler

It is the season for dipping your toe into some new music. Summer samplers seem to be popping up everywhere. One that covers almost all bases and never falters on quality is the Asthmatic Kitty Digital Summer Sampler.

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Asthmatic Kitty is the home of Sufjan Stevens and My Brightest Diamond. If you are not familiar with their wider catalogue then this is the perfect opportunity to remedy that by immersing yourself in this collection of artists. The beauty of this sampler is that it really does feel like a mix tape; like someone’s summer playlist rather than a clunky collection of new music. The contributions are not artists with approaching releases alone. Instead there are musicians whose last release may have been in the fall of 2012 but that sit beautifully within the mix.

Heraldo Negro’s jarring synth sashay Dance Ghost is a fitting opening. The South Florida resident of Ecuadorian descent has recorded sunshine on this track. If this is warming then Lily & Madeline’s Back to the River, from their debut EP The Weight of the World, will cool you back down again. The purest of vocals are backed by the simple yet rich tones of their alt folk arrangement of this hymnal. Other notable appearances include Fol Chen with tracks 200 Words and I.O.U. shining out. I defer to their bio to summarise: they ‘created their sound from field recordings and an electronic junk drawer, splicing compound beats and sending warped vocal transmissions.’ My kind of folk. Raymond Byron’s Death Shaker is built on the foundations of some very addictive bass notes that scrape as close to the ground as your can go. On top of all of this Asthmatic Kitty have thrown in a couple of Shannon Stephens tracks too. In her hands songwriting is at its most beautiful. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy agrees; a cover by him having led to some collaboration between the two.

The label’s uncompromising taste has given the gift of a summer soundtrack and it’s free! Warning: you will find yourself buying a stack of records after you play this collection.

Cairn String Quartet

Cairn pic 1[2]

I’m not all that knowledgeable about classical or orchestral music but I’ve dabbled in some listening and I’ve got composers I like and different musical periods I prefer to others. String music is a particular preference of mine and indeed this crosses over to the the taste in music you’d probably expect from someone writing on this blog. Many people think it’s crazy that Sufjan Stevens’ ‘The BQE’ is one of my favourite pieces of his work.

It is to my liking then, that I hear of the Cairn String Quartet and their take on the popular music of Scotland. Their recent release ‘quartet quickies‘ features tracks from Kid Canaveral, Chvrches and Camera Obscura, however the pick of the bunch is their take on ‘Leslie’ by King Creosote. It’s a nice arrangement which the vocals of Kenny Anderson would fit on top of perfectly.

Tonight (27th June), the Cairn String Quartet take to the King Tuts stage, apparently as the first act of their musical ilk to do so. They will be ‘backed up’ on vocals with various special guests including the aforementioned Kid Canaveral and Fat Goth. I believe there are still a couple of tickets available which are £6.

Also, as part of the Scottish Album of the Year awards, the Cairn String Quartet recorded a version of each of the ten shortlisted musicians songs. You can view Django Django’s, ‘Introduction’ and the eventual SAY Award winner, RM Hubbert’s ‘We Radioed’ below or go and watch all ten over on the SAY Award youtube page.

The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Writer Of These Musings or An Ode To The Apple

Both poet and performer is how I would class Fiona Apple. I must impress that she is not a performer in the sense that she overloads visually. Well known for the angst filled lyrics that span her career, the recent footage from SXSW that fluttered across the internet documented her throaty, tendon exposing, raspy rendition of new album opener Every Single Night. She writes from the most raw and extreme portion of the female neurosis. Often, a blur of lyrics, beautifully worded, present the disastrous divinely. Her stage presence, even with her petite form, projects the unhinged emotions exposed in each song.

The little tantalising snippets from forthcoming ‘The Idler Wheel…’ drew me back to previous albums. ‘When The Pawn…’, especially, evoking my formative years. It was a device with which I could and still can relate and unburden.

I have been growing cautious of the pedestal that I was building for an artist that has been a defining musical stable of mine. Tethering my excitement, I took my first listen to ‘The Idler Wheel…’ this evening via NPR who are providing a preview in advance of the release on the 18th of

June. To use a parallel structure: Fiona Apple’s ‘The Idler Wheel…’ will be to women what The Walkmen’s ‘Heaven’ will be to men this June. Don’t think me sexist, some connections will forever be symptomatic of gender. We must consider author, audience and content. These vessels can appeal to many but may be owned by few.

The Curious Case of Kimjamin Huggon

As I researched the extensive, exclusive Record Store Day releases to try and write something about this year’s vinyl splurge-fest I was drawn to a rather strange collection of material. Usually there are rarities and new releases that I develop an intensity about owning weeks in advance. This year I imagined , the Animal Collective 12″ release of their Guggenheim performance, a new Guided By Voices single, an Of Montreal/Deerhoof split or new-favourite-band-ever-ever-Django Django’s Storm 7″ would fit my habitual pattern.

Worryingly, these did not cause anywhere near the stir that the following did. Before I proceed I wish to note that I MUST be experiencing some sort of late-twenties crisis or at least a peak in hormonal levels. Or something else. Anything else. There has to be a reason for this regression.

The first sign that something was off was my reaction to details of a ZINE with unreleased music from Dirty Projectors, Real Estate, Cass McCombs, John Maus and Villegers on multi-coloured flexi disc. You had me at zine, dominorecordco! Yet, further to this, the zine will include a

short story by James Yorkston, a poem by Laura Marling and some doodles from Alison Mosshart. Oh and not forgetting a cover designed by Bjorn Copeland. A 15 year old Kim would have squealed over a release like this and once attained would clutch the prize to her chest with crazed possessiveness shining from widened eyes. Then it occurred to me that this wasn’t a projection about my adolescent taste but an actual manifestation of my enthusiasm for the product. The picture I have described may well materialise on April 21st in Monorail.

It was mostly downhill from there. Internal bursts of delirium along with defensive thoughts bounced around my head when reading of:

David Bowie – Starman (I don’t care that it is unnecessary to own this!)

She & Him – Volume One (On coloured vinyl!)

Django Django – Storm (What? I still WANT it!)

The Supremes – Baby Love (On-heart-shaped-vinyl. LOOK at it!)

The Velvet Underground – Loaded (ON PINK VINYL!)

THE BREAKFAST CLUB SOUNDTRACK!

At this point I closed the browser tab, regained some control over my sanity and began to type. In fact, disclosing these fleeting thoughts has proven quite therapeutic. I’ve managed to go back, glance again and note that the vast material produced for this muso holiday serves many tastes and various moods. I don’t believe that I will purchase all of the above when RSD rolls around. I do, however, admit that some better preparation and planning may be required to curb any impulse buys.

Then, once it’s all over, I can relax in the assurance that I will once again regain the composure of my adult self. Until May 5th or after this arrives, whichever comes last.