Scottish Music In 2014 (Part 2)

Emma Pollock

Harris Brine continues his look ahead to the forthcoming musical calendar and looks back at the most memorable moments in cinema to be captured by Scottish soundtracks, while Skinny writer Bram E. Gieben discusses the rising stars of Scottish hip-hop and Glasgow musician Colonel Mustard gives his top tips for a certain upcoming awards ceremony…

Read Part 1 of Scottish Music In 2014 here.

July – Cracking open an Egg? How about cracking openers on Eigg?

Looking across the vast stretch of sea before him at the sweeping Hebridean coastline, Johnny Lynch decided to pack up his belongings and drastically transform his whole life. Within a flurry of months, he had become the humble Isle of Eigg’s 84th inhabitant, setting up shop on the remote island after relocating from the bustling belly of the central belt, to have days busied with sheep gathering, trough knocking and drinking booze” (as well as other matters, of course).

Lynch – AKA The Pictish Trail – departed with Fence Records after a ten year tenure, though admitted the formation of his own imprint Lost Map was roughly “a continuation of the label as it had been for the past ten years”.

Many of Fence’s roster travelled across to Lost Map with him, including Kid Canaveral, eagleowl and Monoganon, and after LM’s first few waves of well-met releases, Lynch announced the isle would play host to Howlin’ Fling, the first major event through the Lost Map moniker.

Eigg’s population is set to treble in size as Lynch comperes a showcase of his own label, as well as tantalisingly presenting two headlining acts he admits are “two of the biggest bookings Lost Map, or Fence, has ever had”.

Howlin’ Fling will take place on the Isle of Eigg between 18-20 July. Details can be found here.

August – There’s One Direction in Glasgow this year: East…

20 years ago, a group of friends put the finishing touches to a song they’d been working on, and wondered how they should send it out into the world. Normal convention was to send it spiralling through the post, in an envelope replete with portrait photographs, to a record label, in the hope that an exec would pop it in their CD player, like it, and contact them.

But Alun Woodward, Stewart Henderson, Emma Pollock and Paul Savage had a different idea. For ‘Monica Webster/ Brand New Car’ – their debut single – they set up their own record label, not knowing it would shape their lives, even after two full decades.

The debut from The Delgados, as the four were collectively known, were caught on quick by John Peel (the late DJ was an avid fan throughout their career), and it wasn’t long until The Delgados were turning more heads, and they expanded their label to include some new names, ones now iconic in Scottish music. The success of two bands in particular, Mogwai and Arab Strap, helped establish the label as one of the most respected independents in Scotland, if not the UK.

In 1996 they relocated the label to Bridgeton in Glasgow’s east end, and have remained there since, nurturing artists both emerging and long-standing.

Dismayed at the how culturally under represented their home has been in comparison to its north, west, and south-side counterparts, the label decided to embark on an ambitious project aiming to reign in the easterly quarter to the rest of the city.

Through a multitude of music events and community programmes called The East End Social, all based in areas including Calton, Easterhouse, Dennistoun and Rutherglen, Chemikal aim to shatter stereotypes still tethered to the region. Through both their reputation and ability to lure to events the best musicians Scotland has to offer, the label veterans hope to entice Glasgow’s inhabitants to visit while supporting the local population and providing a new face for Chemikal itself; that of the “community-engaged arts organisation”.

In an online interview recently Stewart Henderson said Chemikal wanted the focus to be as much on the community as they do on music, whether that’s “younger people in schools, teenagers or elderly people in care homes”.

With a thriving Commonwealth Games running simultaneously to the East End Social, this will guarantee a feast of exciting and stimulating events, as well as serving as the prototype of a future model for record labels all across the UK.

Chemikal Underground’s East End Social runs from April to August 2014. Details can be found here.

September – Being Independent.

With the amount and calibre of events spattered across the country this year, the calenders of avid culture revellers will be quickly filled up. In September this year, 700 years after the Battle of Bannockburn, there’s also the small matter of voting ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on a referendum paper.

However, while Scotland will soon decide on whether it should be untethered from the union, we’re looking ahead at five unsigned Scottish acts who’ll hopefully be permanently tied to an independent record label soon.

FOREIGNFOX

Barely out of their packaging, this brand new Dunfermline bunch released the stunning single ‘Yoghurt’ in January, and will see debut EP We Float Like Sinking Ships launched in their home town, with support from Glasgow’s Friends In America and Hector Bizerk.

Eugene Tombs

A mesmeric, psychedelic clump who cavort around their frontman’s cracking, snake-like vocal hisses. Armed with an accordion, they recently supported Monoganon as they unfurled F A M I L Y at the CCA, and from the three numbers available on Soundcloud, their hypnotic music oozes as much confidence as a snake charmer.

Sothko

Lurking deep within the shadows is Sothko, an immensely talented Glasgow-based animator and musician. Only two tracks have leaked online; the first, evocative of a wry, melancholic meander around a modern city – ‘Everything Is Fine’ – was enough to highlight his potential. Follow up ‘Pitch Black’ delved further into his umbra.

Turtle

“We are but complex arrangements of microscopic cells traveling beautifully through space,” say Turtle on Soundcloud. The same can be said for the debut EP Who Knows, if you replace ‘cells’ with electronic layers. Turtle, Jon Cooper’s ambient project, draws comparisons of Jon Hopkins and Emancipator, yet with personal soft vocals and the occasional guitar flicker.

Laura St. Jude

Ok, we’ve cheated. While she’s technically tied to Oligo Records, it may not be long until Laura St. Jude is pulled into a bigger label’s orbit. Sultry, crisp vocals well beyond her years, St. Jude toys with the listener like a femme Black Widow does her mate just before entirely devouring him.

October – Scripts for reel life: The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival…

Creativity and mental illness have long been considered synchronised. There’s even existent theories which suggest creativity is a symptom of mental illness, in some misunderstood form.

Whatever the connection, the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival have acknowledged the link, and throughout October will again present a dynamic selection of films and event based around literature, music, theatre and art, all of which are aiming to illuminate the dimly lit room that can be mental illness. Recently partnering with AyeWrite!, the festival is growing and last year had just short of 300 events taking place.

With this in mind, Scottish musicians have soundtracked many a film, so we take a look at five of the most memorable…

Romeo + Juliet – Craig Armstrong


Cinematically, Baz Luhrman’s adaptation danced skilfully between modernity and classical, and its soundtrack was no different. In between Radiohead, The Cardigans and the unromantically named Butthole Surfers, were beautiful, moving compositions by Glaswegian Craig Armstrong. Alongside the director, Armstrong scored the movie, and earned himself a BAFTA and an Ivor Novello Award in the process. Few film scenes stir the heart as much as his oeuvre ‘Balcony Scene’, as Romeo and Juliet make their famous speeches, which also featured on Armstrong’s album The Space Between Us.

Trainspotting – Primal Scream

Trainspotting’s massive cultural impact is undeniable, and both the film and novel are still revered by most critics and the public alike. However, the film’s soundtrack was one of the best selections ever seen (and has been officially ranked so by many publications), with Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Underworld, Leftfield and Brian Eno’s songs now scored into our brains alongside scenes from Danny Boyle’s pièce de résistance. Bobby Gillespie’s group also staked a subtle place, their opener from Screamadelica being the insidious soundtrack as an air-rifle armed Renton and Sickboy take pop shots in the park.

Juno – Belle and Sebastian

This quirky 2007 movie has one of the most memorable soundtracks in recent years, partly down to the conscientious picks of its composer in order to keep it both eccentric and reminiscent of adolescence. Alongside the sugar-soaked duo of The Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Sticking With You’ and ‘Anyone Else but You’ from The Mouldy Peaches, Belle and Sebastian have two numbers included, with ‘Piazza’s’ wistful, kooky reveries especially fitting right in.

Lost in Translation – The Jesus and Mary Chain

What did he say? What did he say?! Even professional lip readers have struggled to pick up what Bill Murray whispers into Scarlett Johanssen’s ears at the end of this idiosyncratic gem of a tale, which focuses on two alienated tourists who fall in love in the Land of the Rising Sun.

In an instant it stretches surprisingly from Tokyo to East Kilbride, with its subtle but powerful closing scene soundtracked by ‘Just Like Honey’, a reverb-laden jewel from The Jesus and The Mary Chain.

The World Is Not Enough – Garbage

Not content with only having the sleaze-hop ‘#1 Crush’ on Romeo and Juliet and ‘When I Grow Up’ feature in Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy, Shirley Manson and co. got to join the echelons of Sir Paul McCartney and Shirley Bassey by having their own James Bond theme song, which perforated charts all across the world and earned them serious coin.

The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (SMHAFF) returns in October. Details can be found here.

November – How To Spice Up The MTV EMAs, with Colonel Mustard…

Probably the only person in the world to have ever surprised people by puffing on a Jamaican baton in Amsterdam, Miley Cyrus isn’t short of controversy. And neither is the event at which Cyrus went from being teenage Disney sensation to ‘teenager who disney have a clue what happened last night’.

Unless Kanye West’s agent accidentally books him into a hostel or Daft Punk remove their helmets and reveal to a duped world they’re actually The Krankies, the Clydeside MTV EMAs will have to pull out all the stops to outdo the headlines of last year’s Dutch do.

Therefore, for all those attending the glitzed up ceremony this year, we’ve enlisted the help of musician Colonel Mustard, the city’s most bizarre creative native; an astral traveller who’s beamed these five tips back from the dark depths of whatever solar system he’s currently in…

The MTV EMAs (aka The Minuscule Talent Vortex Early Myocardial Attack) is happening in the spiritual home of the heart attack, my fair city Glasgow.

It’s going to bring a host of starsholes to the shores of the Clyde this November, like the equally unwanted nuclear warhead that currently patrols its waters. The baton has passed from last year’s hosts Amsterdam to Glasgow like a joint of the whacky at an Ajax-Celtic game (alright it’s more likely to be a flare), but the Hydro will certainly be a whacky joint that night.

As usual the European awards will reflect the best in American corporate rap, rhythm & blues (or R&B as the young wans say) and rock’n’roll. Of course there will be the odd token European thrown into the mix.

I’m European; I’ve been doing my shnecking from Auchterarder to Ecclefechan, so this makes me the best placed person to give my five top tips for the EMAs…

Tip 1: What to wear?

Preempt the fashion world by a whole year by wearing an iconic 1980s movie costume, just as Robin Thicke did with Michael Keaton’s stripy Beetlejuice number. Perhaps dress as Doc Brown from Back To The Future.

Make it even more realistic by hooking up a power cable between the Hydro and your Dad’s Skoda in the SECC car park. Stand on his car roof with jump start leads hooked up between his car engine and the Hydro roof and attach the crocodile clips to your nipples.

You can be sure this will be the following year’s summer look. For authenticity shout “1.21 gigawatts Marty!” at passers by, alternatively wear a Ghostbusters outfit, because no one is cooler than Bill Murray.

If man of the people – and in no way deluded – narcissistic chap Kanye West is at the awards, the Doc costume will be his outfit of choice. If you want to be like Kanye, spout some nonsense about not getting respect off of big corporations and other everyday problems.

Tip 2: Be a good role model to the youth…

Remember being a good role model is all about being sexy and there’s nothing sexier than sex! Wear a clingfilm onesie, get a suitable retro prop (a vuvuzela, an Amiga, a Rubik’s Cube, or a Monopoly board would do) and use this to simulate pleasuring yourself. Cut your hair into a Mowgli from Jungle Book style, then dance against the oldest pop star in the building with delusions of sexiness.

Tell everyone the next day you were ‘mowging’ and watch the Twittersphere go wild. Expect an entry into next year’s Oxford Dictionary.

Tip 3: Create a party atmosphere…

Go mental any time a top international DJ (probably the only European performing) presses play, to showcase a song that was once good in the 90s, reworked and re-imagined for young people, with cheesemonger throwaway lyrics and a ‘mega dino star’ collaborator.

Relive this experience at home, anytime anyone presses play, to put it into context.

Tip 4: Listen to the music, don’t just hear it.

Ah yes music, low down my list of tips, just as it’s low down on the list of priorities of MTV, but crucial all the same.

Pray that in the next nine months, the pop music world once again embraces the underground and maybe books some decent Scottish acts. Paulo Nutini will have his new album out, The View or Primal Scream to bring the rock’n’roll. Glasvegas and The Proclaimers could storm the Hydro and if Eurythmics reform that would be the cherry on the cake, a shame this seems unlikely, even more unlikely than the wealth of brilliant alternative acts in Scotland or the Yellow Movement playing.

So we’ll just have to do with Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna. Good on you lad. Ironic that in the Homecoming Year lots of Americans will come home to Scotland to watch lots of Americans in a giant UFO replica!

Tip 5: The after party.

You could go and hit some of the expensive hotels and hope to bump into your idols. If I bump into Justin Bieber I’m personally going to perform an exorcism on him and if any Beliebers are hanging about, I will also attempt to get their demons out.

Seriously though, go and watch some real live, homegrown Glaswegian, Scottish, and European music.

Your Colonel has spoken. God bless you and all who sail in you.

The SSE Hydro will host the the 20th MTV Europe Music Awards in November 2014.

Colonel Mustard’s music can be found here.

December – The beat goes on with The Skinny’s Bram E. Gieben…

If 2013 is anything to go by, this year’s conclusion could well see a homegrown hip-hop act join the horde of Scottish artists on the stage of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party.

A genre that is far too often overlooked, Scottish hip-hop now has an array of intelligent artists popping up, those who not only spin dexterous wordplay and enviably manipulate syllables, but interweave both socially and politically conscious messages through the fabric of themed tracks. Fortunately, some no longer appear to be hemmed in by the stereotypes which previously constrained them, yet their talents are grossly under represented.

For a through examination of brogue beats, we’ve procured the knowledge of Bram E. Gieben, author and journalist who writes for independent cultural magazine The Skinny, and is arguably the country’s preeminent connoisseur of Scottish hip-hop…

Stanley Odd’s SAY Award nomination in 2013, the meteoric rise of Hector Bizerk, and the signing of Young Fathers to Anticon heralded a new acceptance of Scottish hip-hop as a form ready to compete in a global market.

2013 saw the return of Glasgow’s Loki. On Edging God Out, he deals unflinchingly with his battle against alcoholism. He takes on corporate greed on ‘Altar of the Swoosh’, his own ego on ‘Washed Up’, and hands out lyrical beatdowns in hyper violent, imagistic cuts like ‘Michael Keaton’ and ‘Omnilash’. It is an album of real scope and ambition, his finest to date. The follow up, Government Issue Music Protest (GIMP), promises to be even more multi-layered, tackling the independence question, Scottish identity, and political apathy.

Hip-hop’s direct mode of address, its fusion of the personal and political, make it an ideal vehicle for both protest and social realism, and Loki is Scotland’s greatest craftsman in this regard – an utterly compelling, deeply principled spokesman for the culture, as evidenced by his appearances as a commentator on TV news debates as it is in his highly technical, densely literate lyrics.

In my next National Collective column, I’ll look at two albums featuring producer Jordan ‘Konchis’ Carey, whose tight productions and canny choices of collaborator have made him one of the most admired and sought after beat makers in the country.

Buy Loki’s album Edging God Out here.

Harris Brine, Bram E. Gieben
@harrisbrine@t3xtur3
National Collective

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Photograph by Lis Ferla.

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About Harris Brine

Harris is a Glasgow-based freelance writer who's had articles published in major media publications, although he's yet not sure how or why. He's also terrified of losing his British passport, having done so twice before in taxis, but hopes next year will welcome the old idiom of 'third time lucky'.

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