A Christmas Carousal with Malcolm Middleton, MC Almond Milk, Jo Mango at Platform, 15/12/17

Platform’s Annual Christmas Carousal presents an evening of incredible Scottish musicians whose songs confront feelings of comfort and joy in a year that seemed bleak and hopeless.

Each songwriter explored the expectation of being happy in the harshness of winter, and questioned the conflict of feelings that seem to appear during the festive period.

Jo Mango kicks off the festivities; inspired by Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire, Mango’s second song describes a scene of looking out at bright snow from the darkness of a living room setting.

Mango quotes the novel’s opening lines, exploring the connection between future and past, and darkness with light: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / by the false azure in the windowpane”

Continuing with the wintery theme, Mango describes her next song as “a Christmas song for a foetus,” explaining a conversation she had with a colleague who became tearful that his unborn baby was yet to experience the beauty of the world.

Mango triggers a waltz beat on an omnichord, and uses the touch plate to produce a gorgeous swell of notes.

The refrain of “I can’t wait until you see” allows for contemplation; that Christmas is perhaps a time for reflection and appreciating the world around us.

Continuing with the festive-theme, Mango delivers an incredible and captivating version of Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Only at Christmas Time’, which is accompanied by the ringing of desk bells.

Next we hear ‘Evermore’, a song that describes the therapeutic sound of ice flowing on a river, as well as the devastation of a house fire.

The song begins: “December, in the year the kitchen burned / floorboards creaked like ice-bergs”

Although the contrast of ‘fire’ and ‘ice’ demonstrates feelings of conflict, the song takes these contradictory terms and encourages their co-existence.

Reaching the end of the set, Mango sings a mash up of the traditional Christmas carol ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ with Brian Wilson’s ‘Love and Mercy’.

Loosely aimed towards Donald Trump, the song presents a resistance and alternative to hate, and finds light in darkness.

Comfort and Joy, and Love and Mercy: the final sentiment of the incredibly talented Jo Mango in what has been a whirlwind of a year.

Next to the stage is MC Almond Milk and with the usual live drummer contractually obliged to play at a pantomime this year, James Scott takes to the stage himself.

Even without “Little Drummer Roy” as Scott refers to him, the set is bursting with bright electronic beats combined with a confident delivery of realist Scottish lyricism.

Opening with ‘Yuptae Dollface’ the MC professes his “disregard of what the mood of the nation is”, relating to the bleakness of 2017, as suggested by Mango.

Performed with an acoustic guitar complimented by a drum machine and haunting synth sounds, the song demonstrates a disdain for the modern world, with references to social media and youth culture.

A stand out track of the set is ‘1995’, which tells a nostalgic tale of growing up in Scotland.

The song is self-reflective, and contains a multitude of relatable cultural references from shopping in Argos, to the first time hearing Kurt Cobain.

As the timeline progresses, the music gets more chaotic, mirroring the tumultuous journey of those formative 10 years.

Not wanting to disappoint the crowd, Almond Milk finishes on his festive song ‘Black Friday’; fist pumping, and sampling the BBC’s Grandstand theme tune, the crowd cheer as Scott raps: “down to the bookies for a white Christmas bet / this is gonna be the best Christmas yet”.

The song seems to mock the elaborate consumerism over the Christmas period, and ties in with the over-arching themes throughout the set in which the MC satirises and holds disdain for modern culture.

With contempt and disdain firmly in the air, it seems like the right time for headliner Malcolm Middleton to take to the stage.

“Is everyone ready for Christmas… or are you all here ‘cos it’s shite and you know it?”

Like Jo Mango and MC Almond Milk, the juxtapositions and mixed feelings of Christmas become apparent even before Middleton plays his first song.

In ‘Devastation’ we hear contrasting terms: “I’m sorry for the silence, I’m sorry for the noise”.

He proceeds, “You know I’ll make it up to you with a million steak McCoys.”

Similar to MC Almond Milk’s pizza crunch anecdote, Middleton portrays themes of love and redemption in this poetic reference to an exquisite Scottish delicacy.

The third song of the evening ‘Like John Lennon Said’ is a poignant moment of the night, where Middleton repeats “above us only sky”.

This could revert back to Jo Mango’s ‘Christmas foetus song’ where we are reminded that the value of life is sometimes measured in the grandiosity of our surroundings.

In keeping with the festive spirit, in true Middleton style, he sings ‘Burst Noel’, a Christmas song where he finds himself helpless on the bathroom floor.

Though the subject matter may seem depressing, it would be foolish to view his songs in that way.

Middleton’s lyrics are from a realist, romantic, and perhaps unfulfilled idealist perspective in which honesty and humour play a vital role.

Continuing with the Christmas theme, the band kick in with ‘We’re All Going to Die’ that had a strong backing in 2007 to become Christmas number 1.

The melody is cheerful with a fast, persisting drumbeat, and a catchy refrain, which contrasts with the subject matter.

Middleton finds joy in sadness, you’ve got to laugh into the dark”, summing up the Christmas spirit of 2017; in darkness, there will always be a bit of light.

Words: Marie Collins


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