Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

It’s been 15 years since Scottish duo Arab Strap released an album — 2005’s The Last Romance — but Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have picked up right where they left off for As Days Get Dark. Quite literally. For a band that traffics in sad, lonely people living mundane lives, it’s almost like you can see the discolored dent in the sofa made by the same characters from their debut single “The First Big Weekend,” who’ve just been sitting there doing nothing for a decade and a half.

Well, almost nothing. Moffat still paints lurid portraits of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, just ones set in neighbourhood pubs, and shitty apartments (sorry, flats) with florescent lighting and drop-ceilings. “It’s about hopelessness and darkness, ” Moffat says. “But in a fun way.” If you know what he means, As Days Get Dark does not disappoint. The scene is set with opening track “The Turning of Our Bones,” a tale of “resurrection and shagging” that is clearly about the band (and also shagging): “I don’t give a fuck about the past, our glory days gone by / all I care about right now is that wee mole inside your thigh.” Moffat’s voice has dropped an octave in the last 15 years, and his thick accented delivery, somewhere between a growl and a whisper, is in full sex machine mode, set against a sleek, sultry mix of drum machines, synths and dark guitar lines.

Moffat and Middleton, working with regular collaborator Paul Savage, luxuriate in this mode for much of As Days Get Dark, making one of their richest sounding records, and bringing a lush faded glamour to these stories about “what people turn to in times of need, and how they can hide in the night.” Nowhere is this theme more apparent than on “Another Clockwork Day” where a man staves off boredom by masturbating while his partner sleeps — he’s given up on porn, though, and has turned to “folders within folders” of unnamed digital photos from their past. Depressing, yes, as he flips through IMGs, but the song also manages to push complex nostalgia buttons too.

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Another vivid highlight is “Kebabylon,” with sweeping strings and soaring saxophones, that makes obvious but effective metaphors out of a late-night street-sweeper crew cleaning the gutters of a bar-crowded neighbourhood: “And you’re already dreaming as I claw up your condom, as your syringe cracks underneath my boot / you’ve crashed on the couch, passed out on the porch, such a lover, such a liar, such a brute.” Also great: “Here Comes Comus!” prowls like peak Sisters of Mercy (big gloomy guitars, bigger drum machines) as Moffat faces “nocturnal excess and my inability to ever refuse him”; and “Fable of the Urban Fox” that shines a light on the racist treatment of immigrants against backing that somehow successfully splits the difference between celtic folk and funky disco.

his is an older, wiser and more weary Arab Strap. There are still rough edges, seedy corners and shocking words, but Moffat and Middleton are more comfortable in their skin and still have something to say. As Days Get Dark is not just a skillful return, it’s also one of their best-ever records.

It’s about hopelessness and darkness,” says Aidan Moffat. “But in a fun way.” Arab Strap are back!

The Snuts, 2018

West Lothian’s The Snuts have been creating a buzz throughout this previous year, capping off the year with a run of  sold out dates. They issued their “Manhattan Project” single in September and have already lined up shows at Austin’s SXSW . The Snuts released their raucous, hook laden debut album, W.L. on Parlophone Records.

Hailing from Whitburn, West Lothian, The Snuts have well and truly found their stride on W.L.. Produced by Tony Hoffer (Beck, Phoenix, M83) and recorded at the Firepit London, the album encapsulates the band’s journey from four working class kids growing up with a dream in Whitburn, to becoming one of the UK’s most exciting and vital bands of the new decade. The album opens with the poignant track ‘Top Deck’, winding through a voyage of genres including the raw, rousing, hip-hop driven ‘Elephants”, heart-wrenchingly honest ‘Boardwalk’, the undeniable pop banger ‘Somebody Loves You’, the hauntingly heartfelt anthem ‘Always’ and the main stage festival ready hymn, ‘All Your Friends’.

Guitar music may be out of fashion, but Scottish band The Snuts are on course for success in 2020 with their fluid brand of blues and hip hop-driven rock. The four-piece’s debut EP reached number 14 in the charts back in March but, of course, their live dates and release schedule were halted by coronavirus. But now their debut album, WL, is slated for release in March and they have a sold-out gig at legendary Glasgow venue Barrowlands in the diary, things seem brighter.

Their debut EP, titled Mixtape, was overseen by Inflo, the producer behind Michael Kiwanuka’s Mercury Prize-winning Kiwanuka and Little Simz’ Grey Area. This should be a hint towards their evolving sound – experimental, atmospheric, raucous. Adored up and down the country for their uninhibited, sweat-drenched live shows, the band have also announced a UK tour for May/June 2021.

Following the release of critically acclaimed new album ‘The Weight Of The Sun’ back in the Spring, Modern Studies used the time they’d have usually spent touring to create new music, resulting in two new EPs soon to be released on Fire Records.

Based on stray threads and thoughts from this period, Modern Studies reworked these seedlings remotely over the turning of seasons from Summer to Autumn this year. The EPs were recorded partly at the Glad Café in Glasgow with Emily Scott and Joe Smilie laying down piano melodies and percussion. Rob St John added guitars and modular synth, and an ambient track came from the processing of an accidental export of each ‘The Weight Of The Sun’ track playing at once.

Inspired by this collaborative process Rob and Emily began writing vocal melodies and collaborating on lyrics whilst Pete Harvey began mixing the new ideas in his Pumpkinfield studio and recording the basslines, cello and musical saw. “We shook off our usual song structures in favour of something repetitive, slow and heavy; life flows in endless song. We added chopstick drums, prepared guitars, harmonium, xaphoon, bowed clock gongs, chimes and violins from our homes.”

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Split into two parts but arriving separately, Modern Studies first EP ‘Life Flows In Endless Song’ is diaphanous, adorned with the expansive sound of their recent releases whilst the second EP ‘The Body Is A Tide’ carries you into more ominous darker terrains providing another fine addition to the experimentalists’ expanding catalogue.

Modern Studies ‘Life Flows In Endless Song’ EP is digitally released on 10th December with the second EP due out in 2021. 

Released December 10th, 2020

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Long-time misery botherer and harbinger of melancholy Josienne Clarke brings you a new collection of rare early demos and song-writing sketches. It contains fragments and songs previously unreleased and entirely unheard by ears other than Josienne’s, alongside some early originals of well-known Clarke Classics.

A real collector’s collection, or “the contents of a folder that should have gone directly into a f**king skip” as the artist herself explains. “It’s the audio sketchbook for most of the stuff I’ve ever made. I record song ideas and sketch arrangement/production ideas, either sung in or attempted on the instruments I have to hand, before showing them to anyone. If I’m selling these off, then things have got pretty bad or I’ve gone f**king mental.”

Spanning the many years of her career, it starts with a recovered low-grade recording of the artist aged 3 doing an early cover version then wends its way non-chronologically through the various years’ releases and unreleased compositions in a double volume of 53 tiny songs at a total running time of 85 minutes.

Tracks such as ‘i never learned french – original demo’ expose the roots of Josienne’s production ideas and choices, such as the hummed string lines and mouth trumpet solo, that would later appear re-packaged on the 2015 release ‘Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour’. A treasure-trove of original ideas, a burgeoning song-writing talent, brimming with Clarke’s irrepressible originality.

This is the artist alone in her bedroom-studio-office, it’s where the magic lives, the bits you don’t normally get to hear, that first spark of an idea as it appears, complete with missteps and mistakes and the frisson with which such creativity is charged. It hisses and crackles with pure, imperfect, creative endeavour, the nearest you’ll get to seeing how it’s really done. Take a peak over the fourth wall, behind the stage curtain, way beyond the dressing room and into her home to take a seat with a view over her shoulder as she pens some of the finest songs in her catalogue, a catalogue which is among the finest original song-writing this country has to offer.

“It is a candid and exhausted documentation of a whole life spent in song and how utterly, beautifully pointless that is.” says Josienne.

The cover of Historical Record Vol 1 & 2 was designed by photographer & videographer Alec Bowman, using a photograph taken of Josienne in 2009 during a shoot for her debut album ‘One Light Is Gone’. Alec explains “Josienne is almost lost in a fog of digital degradation, but not quite; she’s standing, still, defiant in the face of all the noise. I used a hex editor to violate the integrity of the file & create the impression of a slow data collapse out of which Josienne appears, a quiet ghost in a static roar.’

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Historical Record vol. 1 & 2 will be released on Corduroy Punk Records on 15th May 2020. It will only be available as a digital download & only on Bandcamp. “It will not be available on any streaming services, I’m sick of other people making more money from my creative endeavour than I do…”

All songs written, composed, arranged & recorded by Josienne Clarke
Vocals – Guitar – Recorders – Clarinet – Josienne Clarke

Released May 15th, 2020

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Scottish  indies The Snuts keep up their non-stop run of releases with today dropping thumping new Tony Hoffer (Beck, Goldfrapp, M83)-produced track ‘Elephants’.

Premiered by Annie Mac on BBC Radio One last night, the track is the band’s first taste of new music since the release of their ‘Mixtape EP’ in March.

Recorded at The Firepit in London, ‘Elephants’ sees The Snuts hit a new gear. The unashamedly raw, rousing track sees the band continue their cross pollination of genres, with singer Jack Cochrane’s candid vocals becoming a staple of the band’s sound.
Speaking of the track, the frontman said: “’Elephants’ is another twist on our ever growing diverse catalogue. The song in whole features a change in lyrical style leaning more towards referencing.” He continues, “The main theme of this track is about believing in your own ability in times of struggle and diversity.”

The Snuts are already beginning to craft an undeniably magnetic following, having captured the imagination of fans across Scotland with their early demos and infamously anthemic, all-encompassing live show. The band performed their much-anticipated debut headliner at Glasgow’s legendary King Tuts in December 2017, having sold out in a matter of hours.

Band Members:
Jack Cochrane,
Joe McGillveray,
Callum Wilson,
Jordan Mackay

Cocteau Twins The Spangle Maker

The Spangle Maker EP

The addition of Raymonde in 1983 solidified their final line up, which produced The Spangle Maker EP (containing their biggest hit in their native United Kingdom, “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops”, For a band with a reputation for being esoteric, the Cocteau Twins have crafted some truly memorable, rousing choruses; for example, “Pearly Dewdrops’ Drops”, with its joyous refrain of ‘dizzy, dizzy, dizzy, paddy, paddy, paddy, bicycle and tulips-eh’, or something.

Cocteau Twins Lullabies

Lullabies EP

“Feathers Oar Lands” from follow-up EP Lullabies stands up a lot better. Is that… a riff? A muscular bass-line? Are the Cocteau Twins rocking out? Yes – and I love it. It’s perhaps the only Cocteau Twins song you could start a mosh pit to, albeit a fey, wistful one. You also hear Elizabeth Fraser sounding kind of aloof, which makes for an interesting contrast with her later, more earnest, style.

Cocteau Twins atmosphere is unmistakably present. The bass and drums are the main drivers of this atmosphere. The guitar and vocals are almost like fluttery accents, swirling in and out through the background.

In 1983, the band released a second EP, “Peppermint Pig”, the eponymous title track of an 1983 EP, also sounds surprisingly aggressive. Given how dreamy their later output is, it’s easy to forget that The Cocteau Twins emerged in a post-punk context, but here it’s really apparent. It sounds like Siouxsie and the Banshees, if that’s what you’re into.

Head Over Heels

“Head over Heels” (1983)

The band’s next full-length LP record, Head over Heels, relied solely on the latter two, following Heggie’s amicable departure after the tour that followed the release of Peppermint Pig This led to the characteristic Cocteau Twins sound: Fraser’s voice, by turns ethereal and operatic, combined with increasingly effects-heavy guitar playing by Guthrie (who has often said that he is far more interested in the way the guitar is recorded than in the actual notes being played, though he later admitted that his reliance on effects and layering was initially due to his own technical limitations). Opening track When Mother Was Moth sets the tone, with a slow drum machine drenched in improbable amounts of reverberation and Liz Frazer cooing strange nothings over the top. The effect is magical if you’re hearing it for the first time in 2009. In between this and the closing Musette and Drums is a sequence of often brilliant tunes. Some, like the single Sugar Hiccup are sedate and almost poppy, whilst the fabulously titled Glass Candle Grenades and Tinderbox of a Heart are of the more swirly and adventurous variety.

There is not one duff track on the whole LP, and it all culminates in the simply incredible Musette and Drums. A looping, dramatic guitar phrase underpins one of Liz Frazer’s strongest vocal performances on a killer melody. Robin Guthrie tops even this with a rare screaming guitar solo that sounds like nothing else I’ve ever heard before or since – barely a recognisably melodic note in it, yet full of intense drama, angst and melancholy. It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Elizabeth Frazer is one of the most influential vocalists in rock history, and the band that she fronted was at the forefront of one of the many psychedelic-rock genre offshoots – ‘dream-pop’. Frazer consciously appropriated the voice as an instrumental appendage. The Cocteau Twin’s melodies are sublime which Frazer delivers by way of an ethereal and other-wordly contralto. Frazer’s ‘voice instrument’ is wrapped in layer upon layer of Robin Guthrie’s shimmering oneiric guitar and keyboard lines.

“Head Over Heels’  blends celestial singalonds, middle-eastern psalms, majestic spirituals, vibrant melismas, tinkling guitars and neo-classical keyboards. Cocteau Twins‘ songs exhibited the levity and grace of madrigals but also the gloom and pomp of requiems. The dream-pop of the Cocteau Twins shares the contemplative quality and the passion for textures with ‘shoegazing’ bands like ‘Slowdive’ and ‘My Bloody Valentine’, but diverges from this genre in terms of both narrative development and emotional intensity.

Cocteau Twins Sunburst And Snowblind

Sunburst and Snowblind (1983)

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“Treasure (1984)

Taken from 1984’s Treasure LP, “Ivo” is so grand and operatic that it becomes slightly farcical, an effect not helped by the almost yodel-like backing vocals. Still: it’s great. Please forgive me but I have also included their partly terrible, partly charming cover of “Frosty the Snowman”. If nothing else, it’s a testament to the fact Cocteau Twins don’t take themselves too seriously.

I haven’t discussed the album Treasure much but it’s a lot of people’s favourite and when you listen to “Lorelei” you can understand why.; I once heard someone describe it as “what falling in love sounds like”, which is as good a description as any. There’s a deeply poignant emotional intensity to it – it would also be a great soundtrack for a heartbreak.

Cocteau Twins Aikea-Guinea

Aikea-Guinea (1985)

Tiny Dynamine / Echoes in a Shallow Bay (1985)

The Cocteau Twins‘ record company 4AD put this out, a pairing of two of their best mid-eighties EPs . However, in 2006 they released two double-CD sets which comprehensively collected single and EP material covering the band’s entire career from 1982 to 1996. Lullabies to Violaine volume 1 contains all of the music on this CD — in the same track order, even — plus 25 other songs recorded between 1982 and 1990.

As for the songs, well… if you’re at all interested in finding out what the Cocteau Twins were about, then you will want to hear these eight tracks one way or another. I think these two EPs mark the point where the band really began to come into their own unique musical sound — from this point on, for about five years, pretty much everything they touched turned to gold. They had clearly moved on from their early post-punk clumsiness and were really learning how to use sound in the studio. From the ambient soundscapes of ‘Pink Orange Red’ through to the tribal drum patterns and symphonic sweep of ‘Pale Clouded White’, it’s pure Cocteau Twins magic. ‘Melonella’, my favourite track, showcases Liz Fraser’s euphoric glossolalia technique like nothing else I’ve ever heard (here, she seems to be incanting in something vaguely related to Latin). Nobody else could have made this music.

“Victorialand” (1986)

Victorialand released the same year as The Moon and the Melodies, is a stripped-back affair in which Cocteau Twins‘ characteristically expansive soundscapes are often reduced to Fraser’s vocals and a single guitar line. From the former album, it’s remarkable how fresh “Why Do You Love Me” still sounds. With its wailing, siren-like feedback, it reminds me of Mica Levi’s soundtrack Under the Skin.  Victorialand, was Cocteau Twins’ fourth album, was released in spring 1986. The largely acoustic, non-percussive album was made with Elizabeth and Robin, while Simon was working on This Mortal Coil’s second album. Dif Juz label mate Richard Thomas guested on tabla and saxophone. The Guardian said “It’s not quite ambient, but it’s definitely not rock’n’roll even by the Cocteaus’ standards, building on the moments of guitar shimmer from the previous years’ EPs, while also stripping back at points to where it’s nothing but a Guthrie guitar line and Fraser’s voice.”

Raymonde temporarily left the band during the recording of their fourth album, Victorialand. For the 1986 album Victorialand Fraser said, “The lyrics are words I’ve found by going through dictionaries and books in languages I don’t understand. The words don’t have any meaning at all until they’re sung.” In fact, her unique method of songwriting derived in large part from a lack of confidence in her ability to write conventionally: “Looking back, [it] was a tool to help get things out. I didn’t have the confidence just to sit down and write something. I was always running away from that.”

Victorialand, was the Cocteau Twins’ fourth album, was released in the spring of 1986. It’s largely acoustic, non-percussive album. The Guardian said “It’s not quite ambient, but it’s definitely not rock’n’roll even by the Cocteaus’ standards, building on the moments of guitar shimmer from the previous years’ EPs.

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“Blue Bell Knoll” (1988)

In 1988, Cocteau Twins signed with Capitol Records in the United States, distributing their fifth album, Blue Bell Knoll, through a major label in the country. My all-time favourite Cocteau Twins song, “Carolyn’s Fingers”. In its final chorus, two different Fraser vocal lines are laid on top of each other to create one of most exquisitely yearning sounds I’ve ever heard.I defy you to watch the intense sincerity on Fraser’s face (she’s decked out in a prim Victorian gown which makes it even more endearing) and not be moved. There’s an intense vulnerability and earnestness to her performance; at times she seems to flinch from the camera, but there’s a suggestion of joy, too. “Carolyn’s Fingers” speaks to me of endurance, hope and rebirth – which is, of course, pure speculation.

The brilliance of Cocteau Twins is that they capture the lightness of dreams. Their pop sound is like they’ve dipped into your reveries and are playing them back to you. By the time Blue Bell Knoll, the Scottish band’s fifth album, came out in 1988, they had cemented this meld of glittery guitars and avian vocals, this talent for finding pure white in the black abyss of goth. This album, however, was their first significant U.S. release, introduced with their bewildering single “Carolyn’s Fingers.” On it, Elizabeth Fraser’s words are impossible to understand: Either they’re being spoken in another tongue, or you’ve temporarily developed aphasia and can’t compute them. Throughout the record, the trio strip back to their basic groundwork of bass-guitar melodies, a pattern they’d continue on Heaven or Las Vegas two years later. Blue Bell Knoll is not as dynamic a listen as that masterpiece, but its exploration of widescreen space is essential, and set down the canvas for glorious colors to come.

“Heaven or Las Vegas” (1990)

After the 1990 release of their most critically acclaimed album, Heaven or Las Vegas, the band left 4AD Records for Fontana Records, where they released their final two albums. The group released Heaven or Las Vegas in late 1990. The most commercially successful of their many recordings, the album rose to the higher reaches of the UK Albums Chart immediately after its release.

Despite the success of the record and the subsequent concert tours, not everything was well with the band. They parted ways with 4AD following Heaven or Las Vegas partly because of conflicts with the label’s founder Ivo Watts-Russell, and were close to breaking up over internal problems due in large part to Guthrie’s substance abuse. “Heaven or Las Vegas”, which was their biggest hit. It’s extremely accessible and probably the best place to start if you’re a complete novice to the band.

While on their international tour supporting Heaven or Las Vegas, the group signed a new recording contract with Mercury Records subsidiary Fontana for the UK and elsewhere, while retaining their US relationship with Capitol. In 1991, 4AD and Capitol released a box set that compiled the band’s EPs from 1982 to 1990, and also included a bonus disc of rare and previously unreleased material.

Heaven or Las Vegas. You’re either in the good place or a gaudy replica designed to trick you. Sweet relief or a desert mirage. It sounds like a trap, doesn’t it? That’s kind of what the record was for Cocteau Twins, too. Six albums in, the gothy cult heroes of 4AD Records gave in completely to the pop urges they had flirted with on 1988’s Blue Bell Knoll and 1984’sTreasure. Happily, the resulting masterpiece not only defined the Scottish trio for good, it established an ethereal blueprint for dream pop. While there are countless examples of indie bands struggling to marry their deep weirdness to pop structures, the Cocteaus’ version of a slightly more commercial sound did not compromise their individual idiosyncrasies. Rather, it distilled them into something painfully gorgeous and utterly mesmerizing.

Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie, and Simon Raymonde were each going through heavy periods when they wrote and recorded Heaven or Las Vegas at their own September Sound Studios in London. Raymonde, the keyboard player and bassist, had just lost his father, composer Ivor Raymonde. Guthrie, the guitarist and drum programmer, was at the height of his cocaine addiction, and his partner, vocalist Fraser, was a new mother keeping things together. Fraser had been known for her impressionistic approach to melody, focusing more on the sounds of the words and effortlessly bending them into evocative gibberish with her piercing soprano. On Heaven or Las Vegas, though, you can actually tell that she is singing about her relationship and her daughter, still in an oblique and conflicted way but still with a newfound confidence she attributed to her pregnancy. At the time, dream pop was one of the few rock subgenres where overt femininity was not only tolerated, it was necessary. Fraser had already redefined how operatic vocals, glossolalia, and a vaguely new age aesthetic fit into the ’80s alternative world, but here she was being newly direct with declarations of motherly love—building hooks out of them, in fact, like on the effortlessly cool dance track “Pitch the Baby.” Arranging her peerless voice into more elaborate layers and flows, Fraser centered herself at the forefront of a band now pushing the limits of lushness.

The crucial counterpoint to Fraser’s voice can be found in Guthrie’s elaborate, effects-laden guitar loops, which sent reverb through the songs like an industrial fan whipping air around a warehouse. As a guitarist, Guthrie is to dream pop what Kevin Shields is to shoegaze. But by adopting a dazed, dreamy slide technique on songs like “Cherry-Coloured Funk,” one of the best scene-setting opening tracks ever, Guthrie cemented another aspect of his signature guitar jangle; it’s a tone you can hear traces of in everyone from Lush’s Miki Berenyi to the xx’s Romy Madley Croft to the Weeknd . With Guthrie providing the blissful wave of noise, Raymonde adding the crucial ominous undertone, and Fraser tending to the otherworldly drama, the band reached the heights of their mood-setting abilities while still keeping most of the songs around three minutes. Not that you’d necessarily notice the song lengths: Heaven or Las Vegas is less a collection of tracks than a 37-minute journey to a surreal realm. You don’t know where you are, exactly; you just notice the warm feeling that washes over you when you arrive. Heaven, after all, is subjective.

“Four-Calendar Café” (1993)

Fraser and Guthrie ended their 13-year relationship in 1993, and by this time had a young daughter, Lucy-Belle, born in 1989. The band’s seventh LP, Four-Calendar Café, their first since Fraser and Guthrie’s separation, was released in late 1993. The band explained that Four-Calendar Café was a response to the turmoil that had engulfed them in the intervening years, with Guthrie entering rehab and quitting alcohol and drugs, and Fraser undergoing psychotherapy.

“Bluebeard”, written as her relationship with Guthrie was disintegrating, is often held up as an example of Fraser at her most forthright and confessional. Even though it features lines like “Are you the right man for me? Are you safe? Are you my friend? Or are you toxic for me?’, it’s surprisingly light and breezy.

“Love’s Easy Tears”, along with its music video makes me want to go to the flat of someone who owns a massive television and take psychedelics for several days.

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“Milk & Kisses” (1996)

1995 saw the release of two new EPs: Twinlights and Otherness. Some of the tracks on Twinlights and Otherness were versions of songs from the band’s eighth album, Milk & Kisses (1996). The record saw the return of more heavily layered guitars, and Fraser began once again to obscure her lyrics, though not entirely. Two singles were taken from the album: “Tishbite (song)” “Violaine” both exist in two CD versions, with different A-side and B-side included on each. The band, augmented by an extra guitarist and a drummer, toured extensively to support the album, their last for Mercury/Fontana. A new song, “Touch Upon Touch”, which debuted during the live shows and was recorded later in 1996 was also one of the two songs written and arranged by Fraser, Guthrie and Raymonde for Chinese pop singer Faye Wong for her Mandarin album Fuzao released in June 1996, the other being “Tranquil Eye” from Violaine released in October 1996.

In 1997, while recording what was to have been their ninth LP, the trio disbanded over irreconcilable differences in part related to the breakup of Guthrie and Fraser. While a number of songs were partially recorded and possibly completed, the band has stated that they will likely never be finished or released in any form.

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In 1999 Bella Union, the record label founded by Guthrie and Raymonde, released a double-CD Cocteau Twins compilation entitled BBC Sessions. The collection is a complete record of the band’s appearances on UK radio programs from 1982 to 1996, with rare and unreleased material included. In 2000, 4AD released Stars and Topsoil, a compilation of selected songs picked by the band members that had been released during their years with 4AD; all recordings had been digitally remastered by Guthrie. Finally, in 2003, 4AD followed Stars and Topsoil with the release of digitally remastered versions of the first six Cocteau Twins LPs.

Later in 2005, 4AD released a worldwide limited edition of 10,000 compilation box set titled, Lullabies to Violaine, a 4-disc set that details every single and EP released from 1982 to 1996. This was shortly followed up by two 2-disc sets of the same names, known simply as Volume 1 and Volume 2.

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The new album from the Close Lobsters has been 6 years in the making. Including the brand new single “All Compasses Go Wild” The album will be released on Transparent Orange Vinyl and Grey Vinyl, it will also be available on CD.

The Scottish indie band Close Lobsters, who originally appeared on NME’s famed C-86 cassette, have just released their first album in 32 years. Post Neo Anti picks right up where they left off,
full of jangly guitars and big melodies.

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Jangling guitars the Paisley-based Scots Close Lobsters return to the fray with enough fervor and dash to make one wonder if even a single one of the last thirty-four years of calendar pages has in fact been torn from its place on the great rock wall. Rising from a growing feedback drone, the chiming dual strum of two electric guitars timed to the gallop of a rhythm section surely fueled by a transfusion of pure teenage energy, what’s perhaps most surprising given all that is that the true triumph in “Johnnie” (released ahead of new album Post Neo Anti…) is how utterly moving and elegiac it is.

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At once full of kinship, yearning, and the joy inherent in this mysterious arc of existence we all share, it is truly inconceivable to imagine a finer tribute. It’s a claim made all the more viscerally true by the fact that, by song’s end, soaked in one of ‘those’ melodies redolent of that mid-80’s golden age of which Close Lobsters were such an integral part (think the Minks the Junies the Mighty Lemon Drops et al, The power of song, it’s real and by the evidence submitted here, no one knows that better than Close Lobsters.

Officially released on February 28th, 2020.

Fickle tastes and trends aside, the Peter Wolf-produced Peace in Our Time (“King of Emotion”) was a slick, topical tour de force to mark the end of the ‘80s, and No Place Like Home (“We’re Not in Kansas”) and Buffalo Skinners (“Alone”) were all a series of terrific, hard-rocking album releases to greet the ‘90s.

But Big Country had lost its foothold on the pop charts: No Place and Skinners weren’t even released stateside, which raised the stakes for “Long Face” and tested the group’s mettle with minders, marketers, and bean-counters at Transatlantic, Castle, and Pure Records.

Formed in Dunfermline, Scotland in 1981 by the band’s guitarists and founder members Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson, Big Country quickly broke worldwide with their initial album “The Crossing”, selling over 2 million copies and receiving 3 Grammy nominations in the US. Success continued, and the band went on to put out another 5 highly regarded albums before the release of “Why The Long Face” in 1995.

With original singer Stuart Adamson at the helm, Big Country scored 17 top 30 singles in the UK, and achieved 5 gold and platinum albums during the period.

This release includes not only the full length album “Why The Long Face”, but also their live 1996 album “Eclectic”, plus a huge array of bonus tracks and band demos, including alternative and acoustic versions of classic tracks such as ‘In A Big Country’ and ‘You Dreamer’, plus a whole load of rarities including Big Country’s cover versions of Alice Cooper’s ‘Teenage Lament’, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Down On The Corner’ and Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey My My’.

All material contained within has been freshly remastered especially for this release. It Comes packaged in a clam shell box set, with booklet containing full sleeve-notes documenting the band’s activities throughout the release of the album.

Suffice to say, ...Long Face didn’t broaden Big Country’s audience as intended. Following a similar fate as The Seer seven years prior, the disc—packed with muscular, melodic guitars and bold, book-smart verses—sated core fans but didn’t yield any radio hits or MTV mainstays like “In a Big Country” and “Fields of Fire.”

The album’s under-performance on the charts never really warranted it being overlooked by listeners (who by now had latched on to Nirvana, Dave Matthews, and Pearl Jam) or its dismissal in the annals of rock history.

That injustice is precisely what makes Cherry Red’s reassessment so crucial.

Handsomely packed in a sturdy yellow case (instead of original powder blue) with another photogenic Doberman on front, the 4CD set  “Why the Long Face” 2018 includes not only the remastered ’95 album, but three extra CD’s worth of bonus Big Country tracks, demos, covers, and in-concert cuts from that era (1994-1996).

Disc One contains the album proper—fourteen tracks of sparkling guitar (clean and crunchily distorted), robust rhythms, and intelligent lyrics (about love, regret, and hope), all anointed by another serving of the same hardy, anthem-like refrains that made Big Country famous.

Opener “You Dreamer” rides high on a bagpipe-esque guitar riff and rugged, dirty power chords (courtesy Adamson and Bruce Watson) before introducing Stuart’s vignette of forgotten souls in pizza shops (where “prescription junkies” “watch the window fill with flies”). It’s an electrifying ode to shattered dreams that ponders a plethora of what-ifs and what-might-have-been…yet—in true Big Country form—keeps positive rather than give up the ghost to adversity.

“Is this the way that you believed your life was gonna turn out?” muses Adamson (quite possibly about himself). “Is this the better world that you were making all those plans for?”

Then there’s the typical (but effective) valentines to both imagined paramours (“One in a Million,” “Send You”) and humanity at large (“Message of Love”), reflections on personal triumphs and private travails (“I’m Not Ashamed,” “Wildland in My Heart”), and sundry entries (“Sail Into Nothing,” “”God’s Great Mistake,” “Post Nuclear Talking Blues”) that couple the Dunfermline four-piece’s penchant for outdoor themes (nature, freedom, adventure) and affinity for its signature Scottish sound into upbeat, zeitgeist-sensitive zingers.

Disc Two is jam-packed with bonus tracks including single edits of “Dreamer” and “Ashamed,” early / alternate takes of “One in a Million,” and acoustic versions of old standbys “In a Big Country” and “All Go Together.” There’s also a bunch of extra songs that didn’t make the album (but might’ve popped up on the band’s Rarities series later), like “Crazy Times,” “Ice Cream Smile,” and “Bianca.” This is also where fans will find working versions recorded by Adamson, Butler, and company at House in the Woods studio in Surrey (“Hardly a Mountain,” “Can You Feel the Winter”).

Disc Three is a digitally-retouched edition of the in-concert Eclectic album released by Castle Communications in the year following …Long Face. Recorded live at Dingwalls in London in late March of ’96 (and long since out-of-print), the album shines with a mix of old and then-new Big Country classics (“River of Hope,” “Where the Rose is Sown”), all rendered before an elated audience. Also on the menu here is an assortment of choice cover songs that speak to the band’s early influences (The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My,” CCR’s “Down on the Corner.” The smoldering set (with bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki underpinning the guitar hysteria with glorious grooves) also features guest spots by British vocalist/actor Bobby Valentino, rocker Steve Harley (of Cockney Rebel), and American soul singer Kym Mazelle.

The Long Face prototype is represented by Disc Four: This is where collectors and curators will discover working versions of the tunes that would be polished up later for the final version of the album. Workshopped at various locations in Scotland and England (Audiocraft, Riverside, Chapel, HITW), this missing-link record presents some of Adamson’s best ideas in a stripped-down format. But most the program is dominated by near-finished “jam” versions of “Dreamer,” “Message,” “Ashamed” and other stand-outs that sound—unlike most demos or garage versions—almost as concise (in performance) and as crystalline (in production) as the finished Long Face LP.

So if you know Stuart Adamson and Big Country only by their earliest “essential” hits, now’s as good a time as any to revisit the well and get acclimated with the group’s strong, inspirational, and sorely-overlooked middle catalog. And there’s never been a better opportunity to take those first steps than with this respectfully-rendered Long Face deluxe box.

Bold, weird, wild, wired, sonically luxurious yet never losing touch with its DIY-‘til-I-die roots, Thumb World is a voyage to the outer rings of Pictish Trail’s mind at its darkest, funniest and most inventive – a plugged-in, fuzzed-out, fucked-up contemplation on, as he puts it, “life repeating and gradually degrading, the inevitable cyclical nature of things, and the sense of their ultimately being no escape.”

Expect alien abductions, thumping beats, Trump-haired pigs, paternal panic, astronaut sex, bad acid trips, worse hangovers, lashings of distortion and a lot of anthropomorphic thumbs. “Our opposable thumbs are the things that separate us from most other animals on Earth,” Pictish explains, of the fat digit symbolism, “they are also the things that we use to swipe on screens, to separate ourselves from our normal lives, but which in turn trap us within an artificial reality.”

Produced and mixed by Rob Jones, featuring string arrangements from Kim Moore and drumming from Alex Thomas (Squarepusher, Anna Calvi, Air), Thumb World is Pictish Trail’s most collaborative album to date.

An audio-visual dialogue with Swatpaz, AKA Scottish artist Davey Ferguson – the man behind the Turbo Fantasy series and an entire episode of cult TV phenomenon Adventure Time – furnished Johnny with not just a graphic aesthetic for the album, but even helped him to shape the sound of the finished record. “I sent Davey a work-inprogress mix of the album,” Johnny says, “he came back with sketches in which he had reimagined Thumb World as an 80’s arcade game. Some of the songs are centered around specific visual images, inspired by Davey’s sketches.”

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Due for release on Fire Records on February 21, 2020. Four years in the making, Thumb World is the much-anticipated follow-up to his critically acclaimed Scottish Album of the Year Award public vote winner Future Echoes.

Releases December 20th, 2019

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It was announced last year that Scotland’s Belle and Sebastian would be providing the score for the indie film Days of the Bagnold Summer. Last week the band shared its first single, “Sister Buddha,” . The soundtrack to Days of the Bagnold Summeris due out September 13th via Matador.

The film is the directorial debut of Simon Bird, an actor and comedian known for his role as Will McKenzie in The InbetweenersTV and movie series. The movie is based on a 2012 graphic novel of the same name by Joff Winterhart and is due out in 2020.

A press release describes the plot of Days of the Bagnold Summer as such: “It’s a tender, touching and acutely observed coming-of-age story, which tells of a heavy-metal-loving teenager’s holiday plans falling through at the last minute, leading to him having to spend the summer with the person who annoys him most in the world: his mum.”

Nick Cave’s teenage son, Earl Cave stars as the teenager in the film. Monica Dolan (Eye in the Sky) plays the mum (who’s a librarian) and the film also stars Rob Brydon (The Trip), Tamsin Greig (Second Best Marigold Hotel), Alice Lowe (Prevenge), and Elliot Speller-Gillot (Uncle).

In a press release Murdoch admits that he wasn’t aware of the original graphic novel before Bird approached the band to soundtrack the movie version. “But its style and its atmosphere set me off straight away,” he says. “I read it on a Friday, and by Monday I pretty much had all my ideas lined up. What was great was that Simon hadn’t shot anything then. You want to get in early, because that way you can start having late night conversations with the director about The Graduate, or whatever. We all have fantasies about those great movies of the ’60s and the ’70s. If you going to get involved with a project like this, you want to do it right.”

The soundtrack features re-recorded versions of two previous Belle and Sebastian songs: “Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying” (from 1996’s sophomore album If You’re Feeling Sinister) and “I Know Where The Summer Goes” (from the 1998 EP This is Just a Modern Rock Song). “Simon was adamant he wanted to use it. He’s a proper fan of the group,” says Murdoch about “Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying.”

The origins of one of the tracks, “Safety Valve,” date back even further. “That one’s ancient,” says Murdoch. “It predates the band; it’s maybe 25 years old. The only time I can remember ever playing it was in a coffee shop with a friend of mine, and people scratching their heads. There was only a verse and a chorus, so I went back to it, and revised the words. It’s a simple song about being over-reliant on a particular person – probably my girlfriend at the time. But it seems to work okay here, too.”

In terms of releasing a soundtrack vs. a regular album, Murdoch comments: “Everything we do that becomes an album is a big deal for us. We’re quietly pleased with how the collaboration went, but the truth is that you don’t know what’s going to happen when it goes out into the world, and people hear it.”

The band’s Sarah Martin adds: “It’s more consistent, probably, than most of our albums. Soundtracks are a deeper cut. They’re not a big pop statement.”

In late 2017 and early 2018 Belle and Sebastian released three interconnected EPs via Matador, all titledHow to Solve Your Human Problems. How to Solve Your Human Problems Part 1 came out in December 2017, Part 2 came out in January 2018, and Part 3 came out in February 2018. Then all three EPs were collected in a vinyl box set and CD compilation that also came out in February 2018. Then in May 2018 the band announced The Boaty Weekender, a floating festival to set sale from Barcelona to Sardinia and back again on August 8th-12th, 2019. Its initial lineup was announced in September 2018 and includes Camera Obscura, Tracyanne & Danny, Mogwai, Honeyblood, and Django Django. Also setting sail are Alvvays, The Buzzcocks, Japanese Breakfast, HINDS, Kelly Lee Owens, Nilüfer Yanya, and Whyte Horses.