What is indie music? It’s a good question especially as for most of the mid-2000s it seemed mostly synonymous with four skinny white boys with electric guitars, releasing records on nominally “independent” labels that were in practice the arms length brainchildren of some of the world’s most powerful label groups,
This compilation, volume II in what we should all hope is a continuing series, blows this question right open.
It’s far less about one particular, sound, vibe or even instrument. Instead the doors are opened for six of Scotland’s best independent labels to showcase a handful of their most exciting talents.
First up is Gold Mold, whose vibe is probably closest to the plaid and power chords sound that dominated British indie music for much of the nineties. Their star turn comes from Lovely Ladies and their single ‘Pink Teeth’, which has all the wonky charm you could hope for.
Aberdeen’s FitLike Records are significantly weirder with Tryptamines channelling the nerdy Beach Boys aesthetic of Teleman or Scotland’s own Django Django while ‘Above the Vaults’ by Kitchen Cynics suggests the lasting influence of Arab Strap in that corner of Scotland.
Make-That-A-Take are the most rough and ready of the labels on shows, flitting between the blink-182 sneer of Lachance’s ‘Shoebox’ and the proggier post hardcore of Clearer the Sky.
The final act, PMX, might be the most accomplished track on the record, with clear, punchy production and catchy riffs, like a more aggressive Twin Atlantic.
On side B Glasgow’s Save As Collective bring some slick synth pop with Bronze Wave’s ‘Waaaave’ and the equally upbeat RAZA, while Heavy Manners sound like the Purity Ring on a late night comedown.
The trio of tracks from Handpicked Cassette Tapes are some of the record’s finest, displaying an expert curator’s eye for soulful sounds in particular the startlingly assured woozy jazz vibes of Mantra’s ‘Black Lies’, which channels Portishead or Tricky’s work with Martina Topley-Bird.
Finally DTHCMP end the record with their best downtempo electronica; none of their tracks are designed to grab you by the scruff of the neck, with the style closer to gently meandering hip hop instrumentals, but the standout is probably ‘Temptations’ by Lude, which has a touch of J Dilla in its misty eyed evocation of classic hip-hop vinyl’s.
There’s probably not quite enough of any one act to turn you into a super fan and nor does it come close to offering a definitive statement on what indie culture is in late 2016, but for an insight into the sights and sounds of the Scottish Underground, you could do much worse than take a dab.
Words: Max Sefton