Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Donna Maciocia | Session

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Dark romantic pianist and former Amplifico singer Donna Maciocia joins Myke and Stew of in the studio for a track-by-track discussion of her new EP Fists at the Sky. Also, chat about her Mashup Session with Mike Kearny Ka-Tet, and then gives a live exclusive ukelele performance.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Long Time Coming - Precious & Grace

Precious & Grace are something of an oddity amongst Edinburgh's younger bands. Their approach to pop-infused rock music with big choruses doesn't subscribe to "the current sound" in the way similarly aged Scottish guitar bands do, with a distinctly American slant that has been more or less constant since their inception years ago, despite this EP being their first major release.

Curiously, with Long Time Coming the band are drawing from their newest material, despite having amassed a considerable repertoire over time. It weighs in at a lean 12 minutes, and of its three tracks, two are brand new ones that few had heard prior to their release, certainly a bold creative decision.

Opener All America Long more or less summarizes the record- a big chorus with big echoing guitars, well-placed harmonies and twinkles of piano. It's an interestingly meticulous pop song, with various melodic and rhythmic twists that work really well. The band's songwriting is the most prevalent strong point of the EP- it's refreshing when young musicians punch above their weight, and unashamedly aim for the classic rock highs a lot of their peers would be too nervous to even dream of. And for the most part, it works well.

Generally speaking, this EP is a commendably mature and self-confident work that stands on its own two feet, regardless of the age of the musicians that crafted it. The hallmarks of a young band still trying to find their feet are visible throughout, however, with all manner of devices being experimented with underneath the unifying musical palette. From shameless wah guitar solos to gang chants, it feels as though Precious & Grace still aren't 100% sure exactly what they want to be. However, the musical output speaks for itself, and as a solid release and indicator of future potential, Long Time Coming is a successful debut.

Stewart McLachlan

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

High Five: Roberta Banana (Red Dog Music / The Banana Sessions / Unpeeled)

High Five is a brand new feature where gives a "high five" to people we think are doing an awesome job at promoting great Edinburgh music, by asking them to share their top five tunes by local artists, and why they love them.

Smashing the proverbial bottle on the proverbial bow of this feature's maiden voyage is Roberta Pia (aka Roberta Banana). Roberta (pictured) is frontwoman and co-songwriter of "Acid Skiffle" quintet The Banana Sessions, and is the organiser and promoter of musical showcases Unpeeled at The Jazz Bar. In her role as in-house "Dog Evangelist" (marketing?) for musical instrument shop Red Dog Music, she's launched and now edits The Dog magazine, The Red Dog Blog, and has organised regular live events including Hair of the Dog Sundays and The Dog Show. Most recently, Roberta has joined three-part harmony vocal outfit The Bevvy Sisters. Here she gives us her High Five:

Sunshine is one of these tunes that can bring a whole room together. What I like most about it is its simplicity; one verse, one bridge and one chorus. And repeat. And repeat again, if you feel like it. To hear a recording of this song doesn’t really do it justice; it needs to be heard live and with a bunch of people singing along with it. The lyrics are perfect because they encapsulate a moment that everybody can relate to - that moment where you take a look around you and realise that everything is ace and you’re exactly where you want to be. Maybe you’re stoned. Maybe you’re not. Take it literally, take it metaphorically, take it whatever way you like; it’s a tune that, by the last chorus, everyone will be singing along with a massive grin on their face. And I mean everyone.

2. Super Adventure ClubTommy Sheridan
I love everything about Super Adventure Club, and I think this song says everything that you need to know about them, especially when you see then perform it live. I’ve no idea what most of the lyrics are, but when I do happen to catch them, they come and give me a proverbial punch in the chop. I think what’s amazing about SAC is that they’re mental, and their music is mental, and when you watch people’s faces as they watch SAC live, they almost have a look of wild bewilderment; widened eyes infused with a crazed smile. This tune is hilarious and manic and totally rockin’ and I’m pretty sure, this one time, I saw somebody’s face melt off somewhere around the 1 minute 50 second mark.

3. Austen GeorgeOn My Way
I watched two grown heterosexual men fall in love with Austen George once during one of his live shows. Funnily enough, it happened while he was singing this song. On My Way is probably the most heart-melting song I’ve ever heard. It’s a combination of a fantastic chord structure, a hypnotizing melody, a beautiful voice and lyrics that will tug at even the thickest of heart-strings. Honestly, I could say the same thing about every single one of Austen’s songs. You can hear bits of The Beatles in all of them (right up my cuppa tea) but with the magical Austen George touch deeply embedded. I said it once, I’ll say it again, and I’d even say it again after that - he’s magic. Go see him live and I challenge your legs not to turn to jelly. In fact, I dare you.

4. Donna Maciocia - The Nothing & The Numb
The first time I heard this song, it totally floored me. I must have listened to it hundreds of times now and it still has exactly the same effect. I've watched rooms of people go completely silent to this song. I even saw a standing ovation for it once; it's THAT good. I've never heard another piece of music like it before and to see it live is pure mind-blowing. It's the vulnerability of the lyrics that draws you in at first and then, once its lured you in, it begins to soak you in really beautiful harmonies and it layers and layers and it layers and suddenly you'll find yourself completely overwhelmed by how powerful it is. It's pretty loop pedal reliant so you really have to see it in action to "feel the full effect of this" Moochacha classic but I can almost promise you that by the end, you'll be totally speechless and probably in need of a big cuddle. What a tune.

5. Stanley OddBroken Has Morning
Stanley Odd’s newest EP The Day I Went Deaf is probably the best record I’ve heard this year. The beats seem to be getting heavier as time goes by, which, in my book, is nothing but a good thing (what can I say, I was raised musically on The Fugees and The Prodigy). My personal stand-out track on this EP is Broken Has Morning - the moment I heard this tune, I fell head over heels in love with it. It’s beautiful and pure filth in equal measures (and by pure filth, I mean pure bangin’). It makes me want to throw shapes on the dancefloor at the same time as sit back, relax and get high, so high. It’s the last 52 seconds that get me the most... I find the mix of the thumping, crackly beats and the ascending, heavenly chords a little overwhelming. One word: goosebumps.

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Saturday, 1 October 2011

People - Trashcan Sinatras

The very warm and bright studio sound puts an oil lamp glow over Trashcan Sinatras’ single People, the third single off of their 2009 album In The Music. A melancholy synth-glum Echo and the Bunnyman-influenced verse is followed by a major key love song response with a rich vocal harmony for the chorus refrain “People, people will fall in love”. It’s the sort of chorus where people join hands and sway. There’s a heart-warming understatedness to the single, which makes it easy to listen to but at the same time somewhat mundane and hollow in sentiment. However, the song progresses nicely and the instrumentation is expertly arranged; it’s a tough song to dislike.
Myke Hall

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Ever/Girly - Dead Boy Robotics / The Machine Room

Edinburgh's Tape Studio have worked with acts like Amanda Palmer and have two Studer tape machines to make your inner audiophile's mouth water. They've also recently unveiled their new Singles Club. The concept for the Club is simply intermittent releases of split 7" vinyl singles featuring two local artists that Tape have worked with previously. The idea itself had enough potential to attract our attention, but the pairing of Dead Boy Robotics and The Machine Room is a match made in heaven for lovers of electronica-tinged indie.


Dead Boy Robotics are first up with Ever, taken from their upcoming debut album (which was recorded at Edinburgh's other great treasure trove of analogue equipment, Chamber Studios, then mixed at Tape). DBR have been plugging away for quite some time, with a slot at T in the Park in 2009, a well-received debut EP in 2010, and the album to be delivered later this year, their dark synthesis of electronic loops and guitars becoming more and more defined over time. 'Ever' is a promising glimpse at the upcoming record, strongly evoking Pure Reason Revolution's most recent material with its overlapping vocals and deep synth textures enveloping the solid core of gritty bass and percussion. The song benefits from a fairly unusual structure that stops and starts where lesser songwriters would just keep powering away. 'Ever' is a dense piece of work, at 5 minutes in length and with a deliciously dark character that makes it an unusual choice for a single in some ways, but a great song in its own right. The album it serves as a preview for can only be just as good, and we look forward to hearing it.


The Machine Room, unlike DBR, are newcomers to the Edinburgh scene. They seem to have done pretty well so far in garnering some buzz, and attracted enough attention whilst recording their debut EP at Tape to be included in the Singles Club. Their track, Girly, certainly comes from the brighter, more "indie" shade of the spectrum, especially when compared to 'Ever'. Glittery electronics twinkle over a fairly catchy, delicate vocal line, and the whole thing is quite... well, girly. It definitely feels like more of a "single" than its counterpart, but does a lot less to grab you by the head. That's not to say it is a bad song, however; the production is punchy and the vocals sit at a perfect, inoffensive level, letting the sound fill up during the choruses for an admittedly quite powerful effect, particularly towards the end of the track. The Machine Room do sound like they would be great fun to watch live, and fair play to them to at least hold their own when back to back against Dead Boy Robotics, a unit that has been together longer and been able to really hone a sound of its own. Ultimately, 'Ever' stands out considerably as the better song of the two.
Stewart McLachlan

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Council Wedding Band - Tam's railways

Nine months ago, wrote about Tam’s railways official return to the stage as a three-piece, with all new tunes and a tight look. The audience and the band had a very special time together that hot, passionate night. In a way, their debut release The Council Wedding Band was conceived that evening, as now, nine months and one day later, the seeds they planted have grown into a well-developed little body of work with five healthy, pink tracks.

The EP opens with the softly delivered, new wave mid-tempo Let’s Go To Town, which sounds like it’s been recorded by a band in their 40s, and this mildness is a little at odds with the theme of revolution. In spite of this, the track actually sets the tone well for a developed and considered grouping of tunes, it's just surprising for a band who can rock out onstage like CBGB punks.

Barrel of Irony is a bouncy wee rock and roll tune that owes a lot to fellow Leith residents The Proclaimers. The lyrics have a cheeky politically-left facetiousness that, through vocalist/guitarist Leigh’s charismatic delivery comes across as charming and agreeable, especially when the kazoo solo kicks in.

With its sliding bass lines, low frequency oscillating processed guitar that sounds like a synthesiser, and dancey hi-hat beat drums, Man Up the Stairs is a groovy little ditty with an air of introspection and a faint whiff of 80s dance revival.

Cream of the Crop is a clever song, as the structure is reflected in the lyrical theme. As the song describes growing up and your life changing, the song develops through a variety of different musical styles. Careful listeners will hear The Beatles and The Beach Boys in the intro harmonies, Primal Scream-adelica in the bridge, followed by a little a bit of funk in the first verse, and it goes on. When the song gets going, it proves to be the standout track from the album.

Pregnancy jokes aside, this EP certainly represents the culmination of a deliberate relaunch for Tam’s railways, and if they proceed in this direction, these three skilled musicians will achieve the success that they have the potential to achieve. The EP is out today and the band are celebrating with a gig at Sneaky Pete's, including face painting, yes, face painting, and an aftershow party at The Store which will host the debut screening of the band’s brand new music video for Let’s Go To Town. Support is provided by The 10:04s and The Remnant Kings.
Myke Hall

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Bootleg: Franz Nicolay - PJ Molloys, Dunfermline 11 May 2011

Franz Nicolay (photo by Last Year's Girl) playing between Ben Marwood and Frank Turner, recorded live at PJ Molloys, Dunfermline on 11 May 2011.


Sunday, 7 August 2011

Plastic Animals @ 'A Dark Spring' EP Launch - Wee Red Bar Edinburgh 8 July 2011

It’s a muggy July evening, and the audience are overheating in the Wee Red Bar in the bowels of Edinburgh Art College, but hey, the beer’s cheap! What else do you need on a night out to see some local bands?

A table of plastic toy animals greets you on entry; it’s quirky, giving the impression that something is going to be different about this band. Waiting for the band to set up, with the rumblings of Primus and other alternative bands from the 90s coming through the PA, the crowd gets in the mood for what promises to be a great set.

A promising board of guitar effects are employed and about to be used by a left-handed guitarist sporting a Status-Quo t-shirt?! What the heck is going on? The crowd are beckoned to come closer, come closer.... and we’re off! Straight into 'Fridge Buzz', a straightforward, no-messin’ early 90s punk/grunge assault reminiscent of Nirvana’s Insecticide/Bleach era with a bit of The Vaselines thrown in. Then we’re immediately into 'Shotgun', with its driving drums, and the audience clearly loves it.

Things slow down a touch for 'Grey Blood' from the band’s EP A Dark Spring (pictured), released on 1st July 2011. Images of speeding around city centres adorn the back of the stage, adding to the effect. This is a track you can lose yourself in, and the lead singer of Plastic Animals clearly enjoys the instrumental parts of this song; at times it’s clear he’s happily in his own special place with his guitar. Kudos also goes to the drummer and bass player who add some great groove-styled atmospherics. The singer combines vocals with the bass player towards the end, bringing the crowd further into that special place with them.

'Green Light', also from the band’s new EP, continues the chilled-out theme with a slightly progressive feel about it. The build-up to the bridge provides swelling harmonies before repeating “hours, hours and hours”. It would be nice to sit in a spot for hours being transported to the world of the Plastic Animals, it’s a shiny place. Green Light builds towards the end with a driving instrumental supported by an excellent bass line.

Next up is 'Gold Medallists', which sees the introduction of a llama head for one audience member. Picture this: an epic sounding melodic trip with someone dancing in a llama head – no drugs required! This is one heck of a melody-based track and definitely a highlight of the set. Plastic Animals are certainly in a league of their own with this track. Superb harmonies inform the crowd, “we keep on falling in the same way.” However, this is a local band in ascendance in Edinburgh and you can’t help but wonder what’s up next for these three not-remotely-plastic animals. Next up is the final track from the EP, 'It Fell Apart'. Again, it’s a slow burner which results in some fantastic use of the guitar board, to end things on a high.

Penultimate track 'Maybe Tomorrow' has a build-up reminiscent of 90s Swedish band Kent and their track '747'. 'Maybe Tomorrow' is one of those tracks that will remind you of how you can daydream about your life. It gives the listener hope that something better will come along tomorrow.

Final track 'Pirate DVDs' brings with it a treat of guitar effects that are never overused. It can be tricky (and tempting) when you’re a guitarist to go too far with your use of effects. Just because they’re there doesn’t mean you should use them all at once. 'Pirate DVDs' includes a well-balanced use of guitar tomfoolery. This is a track that slows the pace right down and then assaults you with a punk- infused firestorm. Superb atmospheric vocals start to loop towards the end and that llama head is seen swinging continuously. It’s almost like a pagan ritual with a llama in charge and the band providing the ultimate audio sacrifice, but hey, if this is how you’ve got to lose your soul then it’s a pretty awesome way to go!

This band are highly recommended, yet another gem in Edinburgh’s music crown. The EP A Dark Spring is available on Bandcamp at a mere £5 for a hard copy, but for that price you also get the digital download so you don’t have to wait for it to hit your letterbox. Their next gig is in Glasgow at Bar Bloc on 10th August. If you’re in Glasgow, get down there and check these guys out.

Now, where’s that llama head...

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

In Debt - Black International

Two thirds of Black International are Edinburgh College Of Art graduates, and that's a good place to start when describing their sound. Their debut album In Debt has a stripped-back sound that displays heavy post-punk and art rock influences.

Opener A Million Mouths sets the tone for the rest of the album, with an extended build-up that ushers in 3 minutes of unrelenting, jaggy chords. This is followed by the pounding Destruct, which offers a satisfyingly cohesive extension of the same ideas, but with a different dynamic. It works better than A Million Mouths, sounding very reminiscent of a recent The Fall track at points, with a perfect instrumental section that comes together with a darkly catchy vocal hook from frontman Stewart Allen. This darker tone continues into Dread, which ebbs and flows and creates a real feeling of tension, before releasing into a passage that actually sounds quite like Arctic Monkeys, but in a good way.

These three strong tracks highlight one of In Debt's key strengths- rather than doing as Franz Ferdinand et al have done, and fashioning these influences into a more pop-orientated shade of post-punk, the record feels more akin to the gloomier, grittier sounds of Joy Division and Wire. The former's classic album 'Unknown Pleasures' in particular can be heard throughout, particularly in drummer Craig Peebles' frantic, hook-based approach to drumming. The album is produced in a pleasingly lo-fi fashion that suits the stripped-back instrumentation and songwriting.

However, this approach to writing music doesn't always translate terribly well into the format of an 11-track album. Indeed, at points In Debt feels like it is retreading the same ground, and would very probably have benefited from a more concise tracklisting. That said, one of the band's understated strong points, Stewart Allan's guitar work, helps add longevity to the record. His cyclic riffs and chords display some real musical depth at points, for instance on Know You Exist, which echoes Joy Division's 'Disorder', and Idle Worship, which is a late highlight.

Overall, In Debt is a satisfying debut album. Whilst it arguably gets tired midway when viewed as an overall piece of work, the individual tracks themselves are concisely written and energetic, and give the impression that Black International are well worth checking out as a live band.
Stewart McLachlan

Friday, 15 July 2011

Hagana and The Fire & I - A Night of Astounding Revelations - Cabaret Voltaire Edinburgh 1 Jul 2011

The underground caverns of Cabaret Voltaire can be whatever you want them to be. To some bands the venue is a gallery, and to others an amphitheatre. To some it is a dungeon and to others it is a refuge. After eleven, it is the pulsating heart of Edinburgh’s electro club scene. Support act Hagana’s (photo on right) set had an intimate environment, as the room was packed with friends and fans of the band alike, all along to show their support. The band look at home on the stage, loosening up in a way they haven’t often done before, showing more potential still to be tapped.

By contrast, headliner The Fire and I’s (photo on left by Edi Pyczek) set is the well-polished, confident presentation of rigour and near-palpable performance experience, and the crowd greets them like the rock stars they are. The gig marks the end of the band’s tour in support of their fantastic debut album, Stampede Finale, and the effective homecoming for the Bathgate-via-Mexico City energetic alternative rock duo, who have been touring not just Scotland, but Italy too. It will also be the last gig the band perform for at least a couple of months, as the band take time off to write some new songs, and work on a side-project; more on that to follow.

The other big reason for the animation of the gathered audience is the first live performance and unveiling of Hagana’s secret new bassist, which can now reveal is Death Trap City drummer Michael Field (photo on right by Edi Pyczek).

“There was a couple of interesting moments when I was loud as hell when I shouldn’t have been,” Field confessed after the show, “but that’s cool, it’s a learning process.”

As a drummer, Field was impressed by The Fire and I. “Their drummer’s cool. All of his stick tricks are ace! Proper out of the hand stick tricks that’re ridiculous! I don’t have the balls to throw any of those down on stage.” As a bassist, Field feels he’s just a newbie. “Having to stand up and not having anything to hide behind is f***ing terrifying. Proper terrifying.”

Hagana’s lead singer and guitarist, Leo Fox (left), was overjoyed with the performance. “Our new bass player done fantastic, he only had one practise with us, and he fitted like a glove, basically. He done fantastic.” Drummer David Chisholm (right) agrees. “Good considering I came back from Asia on Wednesday night and we had one practice on Thursday night and then the gig on Friday night. It was good all three of us having fun on stage, which I think has been missing the last couple of months. Obviously we miss our old bass player; he’s been with us for so long, but I think all three of us could use a fresh band, I think we’ve got a nice but of fun and enthusiasm to the band that was missing before.”

Fox also mentioned he was happy to see The Fire and I play again: “They’re old gigging chums of ours, we’ve gigged with them many times, great showmen, and I think they’ll go on to great things.”

Cheering on Field’s first bass show was Death Trap City lead singer and bassist Craig Robson (left). “I thought he was rubbish. No, I’m just kidding... I thought he was fantastic and I’m very, very proud.”

“Didn’t really watch much of The Fire and I if I’m honest,” Robson admitted. Immediately regretting it, he added. “Please don’t put this quote on your website, because I do actually think they’re awesome but I was otherwise occupied talking to people and things like that.”

Who could he have been talking to? Perhaps a very drunk Matthew Bakewell (right), lead singer of A Fight You Can’t Win, after whom Hagana have named a song in their set. “I think that Hagana’s bass player is a cross between the one fellah from Soundgarden and Gary Glitter,” Bakewell stated. “Which is, in my opinion, the best thing that ever happened. I think that he is both an excellent bass player but clearly fiddles kids.” Presumably, this is an endorsement from Bakewell, who is referred to affectionately by his friends as ‘Edinburgh’s favourite sex pest’. He went on to describe similar affections for The Fire and I: “I initially wasn’t entirely sure but actually they are the s***. Really, really good, and I want to f*** both of them in the ass, hard.” Hmmm.

The aftershow party is less than a minute’s walk away. Down Blair Street, across the Cowgate, up the alleyway stairs towards Guthrie Street you’ll find The Store. The VIP room upstairs is complete with low-sitting couches, a pool table, full service bar and Golden Age comic book artwork of Wolverine and Spider-Man (left) adorning the walls. Not to mention banging tracks and more faces from the Edinburgh alternative scene.

Such as lead singer of Scrap Brain, Angie Clarke (right). On the subject of Hagana, she exclaimed: “Loved them! It was really much more energy and stuff, I really liked it.” Then, as the token girl, Angie offered some beauty tips: “The Fire and I were good as usual... lots of energy, very sweaty, and what’s his name? Gordon? Very good, however, needs to work on his hair as it looks like a wig on back-to-front.”

Martina Cannon (right of photo on left) disagrees, “They’re tidy! The two of them are quite tidy. Good looking, aye,” she proclaims wistfully. Scene darling Martina Cannon is a regular sight at alternative gigs in Edinburgh and can be seen here as part of A Fight You Can’t Win’s stage invasion. She was impressed with Field’s debut appearance as well. “He was s*** hot, he moves like a panther. And there’s going to be a lot more of that, I can imagine, in the next couple of gigs.”

A panther? That doesn’t really match Angus Ross's (right of photo on right) description. “I quite like the way that his head still moves the same way when he’s playing bass as when he’s playing drums. Just a little bit of leg action on top so what more do you want?” “Jumpy-aroundy,” Chris Elsheikhi (left of photo on right) adds. Chris and Angus run Bainbridge Music, and they put tonight’s gig together. They were very pleased with their headliner’s performance. “Brilliant, really, really good. Energetic, in a word,” Chris says succinctly. “Well, what did everybody else think of The Fire and I?” Angus asks rhetorically. “You heard the crowd, you’ve got it on record, they were unbelievable... even the monitor mix sounded amazing”.

Hooligan Sadikson (left), ever-smiling drummer of The Fire and I, strolls into the afterparty fashionably late with a grin even wider than usual. “Today it went like a Super Pot Noodle when you’re hungry; so, really good. Of course it’s good to be back, I miss all the passionate fans. Although, they’re passionate over there as well.” By “over there” he means Italy, where the band have been away on a manager-free, entourage-free, girlfriend-free two-person tour. So used to being joined at the hip to his bandmate, Sadikson found the idea of a new member in Hagana a little hard to digest. “He must have been the real bassist originally. Surely he did not learn all those songs in one day. That’s f***ing crazy. I love him!”

The night gets later, and people either go home or get drunker. The other half of The Fire and I, bassist/singer Gordon Love (right), is a lot more timid and patient than the screaming rocker we see on stage, and he is looking forward to the future. “We are going to be writing a lot, we have been writing a lot, and we’re going to write some more and do a lot of demos and work on the next album, which is going to be, hopefully, out next year.”

“Just now we are taking a wee break from gigs for the next couple of months. We’ve got a side project happening. Me and Hooligan are both involved in it.” Interesting, tell us more. “It’s a quite established band but I can’t tell you the name just yet as we’re not allowed to announce it. You’ll probably hear next week.” So what can you tell us? “It’s a band that already exists and we’re kinda mixing things about and getting two drummers and I’m now going to be the bass player and the bass player is going to play guitar. So we’re looking for a bigger sound and it’s exciting, I’m f***ing excited, I want to tell you who it is but I cannae.”

Well won’t keep you in suspense. It was announced five days later that Love and Sadikson of The Fire and I were joining Sucioperro onstage at both T in the Park and the 2000 Trees Festival.
Myke Hall

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Precious Time - The Last September

Precious Time, the new single by The Last September, opens with the sound of your mind trying to work out where you’re headed and a journey of self-discovery.

“I know my confusion is my own and my heart’s beating faster than before.”

The Last September are taking you on a road trip, and it’s time to saddle up and enjoy the ride. The listener is taken on a sweet car ride through America: luscious fields of corn as you drive through deserted roads aiming for a destination. The scenic picture presented is reminiscent of Americana Springsteen; you don’t know where you’re headed but you know that when you get there, it’s going to be beautiful. As the song progresses, the journey gets more colourful. Each chorus sees the pace pick up a notch and the storyteller sounds like he’s getting closer to what he’s searching for as time goes by.

Pete Deane has the kind of velvet vocals that even Willie Nelson would shed a tear over, and Precious Time gives a fine introduction to the band.

The single is from the forthcoming album 'As The Crow Flies', and if Precious Time is anything to go by, then the album will be incredible, and well worth a hearty listen. If you like your music meaningful and heartfelt, then The Last September are the band to watch.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The First - Her Royal Highness

A first listen on PC speakers is not the way to hear this album. Get yourself a bassy set of cans and slap in a jack for some cyber-Thai punk rock beats dusted down with a sprinkle of Goldfrapp.

Opening track Canary gives you an indication of what you are in for. There’s a lot of styles going on here; think Adam Ant in a blender with some drum n’ bass thrown in and Blondie on steroids – that would be some party. No doubt this image alone would make you sing like a canary. After being audibly beaten with a very large stick, Her Royal Highness take you straight into another stomper: Cherry on Top. Bands don’t like to be compared to other artists, but this one just makes you think of Goldfrapp getting jiggy with Marilyn Manson, an image most of us don’t really want but oddly can’t turn away from. This is a stand-out track with some great bass lines going on and you can see this being a real crowd-pleaser at gigs.

Things slow down for You’ve Got Something and it’s got a nice variation of synth sounds going on; perfectly placed on the album to break up the pace from the first two tracks. It’s almost like a soundscape that you’d expect to find in Blade Runner... or a film about kitsch Thai robots trying to take over the world with their visceral pop sounds, whichever you prefer! Then we get to One Night in Berlin. It reminds me of the time I went to see the ‘Rhythm Drum and Dance’ show at the Fringe Festival last year. I went for the drum element but ended up being assaulted with the trashiest Euro-pop combined with disco lighting; it was like a timewarp! One Night in Berlin opens like a sequence from that show, so it seems that was HRH’s plan. They’ve certainly captured that Berlin feel but the lyrics weren’t really capturing anything more.

I’ll be honest, I was a little apprehensive about reviewing HRH; mainly because this doesn’t tend to be a genre that I know a great deal about but, having said that, I can feel the quality present on this album. It’s a brave step for most bands to want to do something different and break traditional band setups without a drummer in tow. It could well be the case that to fully experience HRH, you would need to see them live, which is true for most bands. I’d be interested in witnessing that event as I do believe that HRH have something to offer. The First has given a good introduction to the band and is a testament to the ever-increasing Edinburgh music scene. I look forward to seeing Her Royal Highness ripping up the dance floor in a venue soon.


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Friends are Friends (née Epic26)

The scene-veteran Edinburgh dance-punk band Epic26 have decided to re-launch the band under the new name Friends are Friends. Is this just a simple rebranding? Or is it a whole new band? contact frontman Nick Paterson for the answers. Where did the new name come from? Is this just a name change? Or does it mean something specific for the band?

Nick Paterson: We decided we fancied a fresh challenge. We had a lot of amazing times with Epic26, but felt that it was perhaps time to move on to a new project since our sound, and line-up, had evolved so much from when we first started.

The idea of being able to start again was appealing; a chance to change direction and make a fresh start. We'd learnt a lot from being in Epic26, so we know what mistakes not to repeat. We're a bit older and wiser now!

The name Friends Are Friends, I suppose, was inspired by our song Our Friends Are Friends. It means something different to each of us individually and will probably mean something different to everybody who is interested in our music; that’s what we want.

How much of your set now will be Epic26 songs and how much of it is new?

Our current set includes some of our previous tracks like Sorry It Hurts purely because it’s a great live song to play and also, if we never played it, I’m sure we would get some grief. Anyone that has seen us this year will have heard our new tracks like LIDO, Our Friends are Friends [where the new band name comes from] and Losing My Head which are planned for release in the next coming months. So in answer to your question, 50/50, but we're going to be introducing new tracks as much as we can.

Epic26 went through a major change in core sound over the years—what do you attribute this to, and is it changing again with Friends are Friends?

Our sound has developed so much over the years due to developing an appreciation of dance/house music, that and the fact our line up has changed. When Kelvin joined it gave us the opportunity to have a more modern sound and improved us technically. Also, supporting bands like Everything Everything and Fenech Soler have inspired us to write in a more intelligent manner. Our sound seems to be evolving all the time. Expect more melody and generally better crafted songs. We like a good groove these days.

What is the ‘Friends are Friends sound’ in your own words?

Our live sound definitely has a pop feel to it; it’s upbeat, exciting and most importantly, entertaining.

You mentioned a few line-up changes. What is your current line-up and what are the new members bringing to the table?

Our current line up is Allan - bass/synth, Kelvin - guitar/synth/vocals/programming, Euan - drums, myself (Nick) - vocals/guitar/synth. We were all brought up on completely different music but we all appreciate similar modern stuff. It helps when it comes to writing as we're all on the same page. I suppose I bring a pop/R&B sound to the band whereas Kelvin likes alt-dance/ math rock with odd timings and complex arrangements, Allan likes a nice groove and Euan brings a bit of a trad rock feel to our sound. We all enjoy a good beat, a sweet melody and a catchy chorus though.

Epic26 were well known to have a loyal fanbase, what has been their reaction to the rebranding?

So far we have had a good response from our fanbase in regards to our name change. They seem to understand that some things need to change in order to develop and evolve rather than stay the same and they hope things work out for the best. We are happy with the feedback we have had and hope that people will carry on enjoying our music.

What’s next for Friends are Friends? Gigs? Releases?

We are recording as much as we can at the moment. We just released our first track Losing My Head, which you can get if you join our mailing list or you can find it on iTunes etc. We're planning on releasing a few tracks over the next few months two of which will be LIDO and Our Friends Are Friends, and as always anyone on our mailing list will receive it pre-release.
Myke Hall

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Haddowfest Acoustic Sessions 2011

In April 2011, Edinburgh's music venues were host to Haddowfest 2011, and in the smoking shelter out the back of The Liquid Room, recorded live acoustic performances from some of Haddowfest's performing bands. Hear the full coverage on the Day 2 webcast, and stream or download the individual tracks for free from bandcamp.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Death Trap City | Session are joined live and streaming in the Fresh Air studio by Craig and Mike of Death Trap City, who discuss their upcoming single 'Ignite'/'Fight or Fall', play a couple of acoustic tunes, and tell us about the launch party Friday 13 May 2011 at Sneaky Pete's with Hagana and Jump: Press A.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

News: Sick Kids Charity Album

When drummer Col McGregor’s Edinburgh band Frantic Chant were booted off of a charity compilation album for Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow that had decided to become exclusively Glaswegian, he decided to take doing his bit into his own hands. Together with Dom Holt of newly formed Leith-based Youngteam Records, Col has put together a compilation album of twenty-one tracks from Edinburgh-based bands.

The profits from the sale of the album, entitled ‘No Colour Too Strong to Paint’, will be donated to The Sick Kids Friends Foundation, the registered Scottish Charity that supports the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Marchmont.

The track listing contains many of Edinburgh music’s glitterati, with a few unknown gems too. A full track listing appears at the bottom of the article. In Col’s words, “It’s a great document of what's going on in Edinburgh right now and it’s for a fantastic cause.”

The album title comes from a letter written to The Scotsman newspaper by Dr John Smith in 1859. The letter began "No colours are too strong to paint the sufferings of young children amongst the lowest and poorest classes of the population, when afflicted with disease." The cover artwork is produced by Nick Paul and the album was mastered by John Durnan, who also contributed a track.

The album will be available to download from “all the major online retailers” [iTunes, and, I guess, Amazon? eMusic maybe] for £6 from 7 May 2011. There will also be a limited edition CD of the album on sale for this one night only.

To mark the occasion, several of the participating bands will be performing at Maggies Chamber at The Three Sisters, Cowgate, Edinburgh, the evening of the launch. This launch gig is being organised by Ginger Music Promotions, and has almost sold out! Which is excellent news for Sick Kids, as the profits from the gig are also going to the charity.

Tickets are no longer available in advance, but a limited amount will be sold on the door so get there early if you don't already have tickets.

If you don't manage it and still want to get the limited edition CD on the night it is released, there is one other option. is presenting another event that will also be selling the album on its launch night. At Sneaky Pete’s, just a few doors down from Maggies Chamber, Brain Storm 3 will take place. This is the third in a series of alt-rock live music events coordinated by noise-popniks Scrap Brain and sponsored by Bainbridge Music and Great Junction St Music Studios.

In addition to Scrap Brain, who appear on the No Colour... album, the night will feature Bathgate duo The Fire and I and Glasgow pop-punks Acrylic Iqon. The gig starts at 19.00 and tickets are available from TicketWeb for £3.

After the launch, the album will still be available online, and rumour is that there will be more promotional gigs to come. You can follow their progress and hear about upcoming activities on the No Colour Too Strong To Paint official Facebook page.

No Colour Too Strong To Paint

1. Dancing Round the Nails - The Jackals
2. Tear it up - Frantic Chant
3. To Be Sad... - Steve Heron
4. If I Lived Here I'd Be Home Now - My Electric Love Affair
5. I'll Rest - The Thanes
6. Dollyrocker - The Valkarys
7. Sheltered Life - Delta Mainline
8. So - White Heath
9. First Light of Day - Matt Norris & The Moon
10. I Want You, You Want The Devil - Scrap Brain
11. Spirit Walk - Inspired
12. She Said, You Said - The OK Social Club
13. Summertime - The Steals
14. Light - John Durnam
15. Two to Tango - Epic 26
16. Traffic Management - The 10:04s
17. Eighteen Tonne - Imperial Racing Club
18. More Than I Could Tell - The Remnant Kings
19. Sick Of You - David Winpenny
20. Sewed Beneath The Fabric - Nicky Carder
21. Bicycle Day (The Hoff) - The Lunes

Launch Party
Maggies Chamber

Frantic Chant
My Electric Love Affair
White Heath
Steve Heron
The Steals
The Remnant Kings
David Winpenny

Brain Storm 3
Sneaky Pete's

The Fire and I
Scrap Brain
Acrylic Iqon

Friday, 15 April 2011

Haddowfest 2011 Day 2: Backstage Acoustic @ Liquid Room, Edinburgh

For the second day of Haddowfest 2011, go backstage at Liquid Room and record some acoustic performances from Haddowfest bands, and do a few interviews with Edinburgh music folk.


Thursday, 7 April 2011

Haddowfest 2011 Day 1: Bainbridge Alternative Stage @ The Store, Edinburgh spend the first day of Haddowfest 2011 at The Store speaking to bands and other participants at the Bainbridge Music curated Alternative Stage.


Monday, 14 March 2011

Merit/Privilege - Notebooks

Stirling's Notebooks first surfaced in 2010 and have been plugging away diligently since, on the back of a reassuringly back-to-basics model which seems to be working quite well for them. The Notebooks’ agenda is quite simple: gig mercilessly, sell t-shirts and CDs, play dark and heavy modern hardcore. And a year or so down the line, their work has culminated in their debut EP Merit/Privilege. The CD is sharply packaged and clocks in at just 17 minutes, concise in every way. Beginning with Network, featuring a sample from the film of the same name that quite neatly sums up the whole record, and blasting through five tracks of pure intensity. Merit/Privilege never lets up but never overstays its welcome, which is always a big plus.

The first "proper" song on the EP, Sorrow, serves as a nice introduction to the band's sound: a breathless rush of aggression that collapses into a brilliantly heavy groove with the furious roars of vocalist Chris Gregg unrelenting throughout. Gregg's vocals are one of Notebooks' strongest assets; they are devoid of the melodic-to-unmelodic shifts that are common in metalcore. While these shifts are not always a bad thing, staying away from this style prevents the songs on Merit/Privilege from ever falling into overly melodramatic, scene-orientated pitfalls. The songs on the EP play on the band's grasp of straight-up, deeply confrontational aggression. The structures are fairly simple and riff-driven, which does lead to structural and dynamic repetition at points. On the other hand, this allows the emotion of the songs to bleed through, putting emphasis on Gregg's passionate song writing and the sheer heaviness and darkness of the band's music. It's good to listen to a band that encroach on a scene that too often veers towards what's almost self-parody, yet emerge proudly brandishing their songs with their own sound and credibility firmly intact. The EP's highlights include the pummelling Four Walls and Being Human’s brutal, head banging intensity.

As a body of music, Merit/Privilege serves as an immaculate portrait of exactly why Notebooks are here. Whilst sounding very much like the work of a band still finding its feet, everything from its presentation to its songs indicate a young band who already have real depth and integrity in their grasp.

Stewart McLachlan

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Feel Safe Small - French Wives

‘Happy indie pop’ best describes French Wives’ new EP, Feel Safe Small.

The Glasgow band kicks off the EP with Big Brave Boy, an upbeat track containing clapping and a decent rhythm; the sound is a bit like being on holiday. The vocals may seem slightly irritating at points of this song, but fear not, it doesn’t last. Moving on to Purple Hell, the vocals are a lot stronger and are reminiscent of an early Maxïmo Park. This poppy, summertime sound continues in Covered In Grace, a tune that could be played at indie discos across the country.

The EP is saved from being trite indie pop by the final track. Wrapping up the record is a sweet, melodic ballad, Confidence, the EP’s strongest track. The violin, harmonies and atmosphere show the band’s potential; the song seems to have more depth and originality than the others.

The EP overall is definitely worth a listen, but isn’t groundbreaking. The array of music instruments is enjoyable; however, the violin is sometimes too dominant, although this may be down to production.

Although the whole sound is a bit too much like what has been floating about the indie scene for the last few years, the band show promise overall.
Dani Rowley

Sunday, 6 March 2011

News: New Releases Mar 2011

Keyboard-fronted trio The Marvels release their new single on 18 March 2011. With a title from a Japanese video game mistranslation internet meme, 'All Your Base Are Belong To Us' is a moody punk foot-stomper with a piano riff that is the sleek European monorail to rock and roll’s clanky steam engine. The track will be available for download on iTunes and Spotify and the B side is catchy New Romantic-inspired ‘Kisses and Breathing’.

Following their critically successful 2009 EP, Sleepless Nights, Homework are back with a new single, 'Why Oh Why' released 23 Feb 2010. 500 copies will be available as a free download in exchange for an email address until 31st March when it goes on general digital release.

Psycho-rock duo Birdhead drop their debut EPTalons’ on 16 March 2011 with a launch party at Electric Circus. Edinburgh bands Emelle and The Young Spooks, plus DJ Kris Wasabi (Wasabi Disco), will support.

Band/Arts collective FOUND release their new single, 'Machine Age Dancing', on 7 March 2011, ahead of their new album, 'Factorycraft', on 14 March 2011. These will be the group’s inaugural releases through legendary Scottish indie label Chemikal Underground, with whom they signed a deal in September 2010. These releases are available to preorder now on the Chemikal Underground online shop. Both releases will be available on vinyl or MP3 download, and Factorycraft is also available on CD.

Prog rockers Underclass released their double A side single ‘Bruised Eyes’ / ‘Sheep’ on vinyl on 26 February 2011. The record is available now at Great Junction St Music Studios for £5 and comes with a download code for the MP3 version.

The new Stanley Odd EPPure Antihero Material’ is available from 21 February 2011 from the six-piece rap collective’s Bandcamp page. CDs can be ordered for £3 while stocks last (400), and they come with a free signed A2 sized band poster. The songs are also available in MP3 form, but at a higher cost of £3.95.

Finally, Supermarionation’s EPOn The Fly’ is out now and available for £4 on CD through their website, or at Edinburgh’s Avalanche Records or Elvis Shakespeare for £2.99.

Myke Hall

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

In a World Full of Madness, the Simple Joy of Melody Can Pull You Through - Delta Mainline

Delta Mainline do have a bit of an eclectic streak running through their psychedelic rock anthems. The seven-piece (yep, seven) seem to draw influence from sources as broad as Mississippi Blues and Britpop, and this is certainly celebrated on their wordily-titled EP ‘In a World Full of Madness, the Simple Joy of Melody Can Pull You Through’.

Here Comes The Light has a warm evening country glow despite its somewhat cold The Coral-esque lyrics and melody. As the sun sets, the song moves into slightly creepy discordant trumpet fights and blustering theremines.

Hope/Grace is a gentle boat ride down a river made of reverby guitars, ride cymbals and synthesiser, with just a hint of punk screaming escaping near the end. Sheltered Life is built like a straightforward The Eagles-style country rock guitar ballad, building up as the song goes on with guitar slides and choir backing vocals.

Holy Slow Train is a much darker sonic affair. The band play with tempos a bit in this tune, leading you clattering down distorted and echoey sonic corridors, taking you to a place where all the Lou Reed lovers like to explore, the world of noise, and at 7:14 it takes its sweet time. There’s also a background noise in there that sounds like the transporter from Star Trek: The Original Series.

Between their room-filling sound and the steady rock undertone behind their experimental brush strokes, Delta Mainline have written an E.P of songs that sound good in your record player, but could also entertain live. Surely that’s a goal achieved.

Myke Hall