Hilltown Disco – HIL003

A final frontier, an inter-galactic space trip, it’s a freaky kinda spooky opener to this disco compilation from Crossmods with ‘Visualised’.

The next two tracks have the same feel and come from the same artist, ‘Yearn’is a little more upbeat with ghostly like sampling; the build ups are subtly executed and the neat little fade that follows further adds to the spirit of the tune.

‘Jive’is more of a throwback to the 80s with its dominant synth tone and repeated feature, while we get a bit more of that house style feel weaving in and out of this one.

Moving onto something a little more 8bit with a pretty glock on display, it’s a bit more funky and less full of that eerie air.

The tune is artfully layered with real gritty low synth tones coming into play as it builds, while the middle section has more of a dancey feel.

Aurora Borealis’mimics the space voyage that we were just transported on in the previous tracks, Edmundy plays around with a lot of different ideas in this one while still keeping the feel consistent throughout.

Finishing with some strong beats, ‘Digits’conjures something of a mythical creature with what sounds like an alien cry.

It’s almost whimsical and has a vague sense of deep space; it’s got that rolling house beat that keeps you tapping along, waiting for a drop, waiting for a change of rhythm.

It’s full of keen anticipation and cracking, solid bass beats juxtaposed against light little breaks before hitting back hard with the opening repeated pattern.

Hilltown Disco is an unexpected flavour of house and nu-disco that succeeds in being unique and colourfully successful.

Words: Rachel Cunningham

The Spook School – Could It Be Different? [Alcopop]

This is The Spook School’s third album and it still holds a very youthful, carefree buoyancy that stays a float above a catalogued amount of music that is as deep as the ocean.

Released by Alcopop, Could it be Different?is another cry out for their influence of finding their own identity, not just musically as a band but in their sexuality.

The album itself is another pass over for The Spook School’s noisy, tuneful and victorious pop queer songs, that the band has melodically strung over two previous albums, and it is still ever so present in their newest installment.

However, before the release of the album, the videos came first.

‘Still Alive’, which was the first of three videos to be released, came across as comedic in which someone puts the band members through their misery and silences them because of the racket they have been making in the cupboard.

The song itself echoes the experience of being in an abusive relationship as frontman Nye Todd explains “my tendency was to blame myself for not seeing the signs or leaving sooner which wasn’t helpful or fair”, Todd sends this message very clear through the lyrics of “fuck you, I’m still alive”.

‘Less Than Perfect’ is the follow up and is ranked as the third track in the album, it feels as if to portray the want to have made better use of your younger life and not have been so caught up in growing up, but still being loved for who you are and, for still being wanted at home.

The video makes use of a rewind feature where Adam Todd eats a bowl of noodles and Anna Cory wipes away at the tiger that has been face painted on.

The last video to be released before the premier of the album was ‘Body’ and I have no idea why but the aesthetic to the video reminds me of Saved By The Bell.

It has that 90’s colourful retro vibe where the only body part used by each member is there head, their own bodies are created through cut up, pop culture images.

For me ‘Body’ is the flagship for this band’s self image of getting accustomed to the skin you are in, trying not to be unconfident, while everyone around you seems cozy and at ease with who they are.

Could it be Different?should be hailed for its approach to songwriting and making it relatable for everyone no matter what your gender, sexuality or feelings are to being human and how you express yourself, as Todd rightly says “we want our shows to be fun. There’s a bit of party in our songs, no matter what the subject matter is.”

Words: Craig Carrington-Porter

Blue Rose Code – ‘Ebb and Flow’ [Navigator]

Four months on from the release of his brilliant album The Water of Leith, Blue Rose Code, aka acclaimed singer-songwriter Ross Wilson, releases his new single ‘Ebb and Flow’.

Having picked up the award for Scottish Album of the Yearfrom The Skinny and earned comparisons to John Martyn and Van Morrison, he’s built a reputation as an accomplished and thoughtful songwriter and ‘Ebb and Flow’ is another excellent addition to his canon.

Speaking about the single Wilson said: “above the entrance to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art there is a neon sign that exclaims “Everything Is Going To Be Alright!”. The problem that I have with that is I wasted so long waiting for everything to be alright, waiting for something to happen but now, the truth as I see it is that everything is alright. A subtle but powerful difference. There is nothing wrong with right now, that’s what the song is about.”

As for the tune itself, it’s a darting romp built on sprightly piano and saxophone that brings to mind early Springsteen.

Wilson’s playful voice darts about over a lush bed of harmonies as he quips “never try to find troubles, trouble will find you”.

It’s a bold choice to release a song with a whistling break in the middle of winter, but the message here is to keep up hope.

Life itself will ebb and flow and good times will come again.

With tracks like this Wilson is more than ready to seize the day when they do.

Words: Max Sefton

The HD Project – ‘Buzzin’’

A hip hop record with its roots in reggae and it’s soul in Glasgow, that’s where we find ‘Buzzin’’ the first track off a forthcoming EP, The Beautiful Struggle, launched by multi-instrumentalist The Henry Davis Project but under the moniker The HD Project.

Peter Dyer was born Henry Davis in Holloway Prison, where his mother was resident, and was fostered for six months before being adopted by a family in Scotland.

He was brought up on a diet of classical music before discovering more diverse tastes with a love for Jazz and being drawn to music from black and mixed race artists such as Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Sam Cooke, BB King etc.

Dyer and his wife have recently travelled the world for a year and a half where he would busk or gig every day; necessary to put food on the table but at the same time developing his art.

It’s clear these travels have influenced his music and its difficult to identify his Scottish roots.

What is clear is that he is comfortable mixing musical genres, but by his own admission his visit to Bob Marley’s birthplace in his teens had a profound effect on his musical direction.

‘Buzzin’’ has a modern fresh sound where you can clearly hear elements of rocksteady, ska and Reggae; a very positive song telling of the good feelings from the love of another.

His talent as a singer/songwriter is clear to see and the modern sound combined with traditional elements could easily find itself in the mainstream amongst the best that Scotland has to offer.

Words: Derek McCutcheon

Gift Horse –  Meat, Jelly and Fat

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, the saying goes.

But when was the last time someone gave you a horse for your birthday? The old adage certainly doesn’t apply to this Glasgow two-piece, whose debut short-player offers up more deliciously toothy gemsthe more closely one scrutinises it.

I have a real soft spot for drums ’n’ guitar duos; the performance of both musicians becomes deeply necessary andnecessarily limited by the bare-bones approach, but within this limitation lies the potential for true innovation and communication; this is an area in which Gift Horse excel.

Guitarist Audrey Bizouerne serves up more heavy, wonky riffs across this EP’s 20-minute runtime than I’ve had dinners at any temperature, but more than that: she’s nailedthe art of using a loop pedal (an Electro Harmonix 45000, to be precise) to organically and effortlessly layer up multiple guitar parts on the fly, making the band sound substantially bigger than they are.

On ‘Reverse Lobster’, Bizouernelets a twangy lead shimmy over a pitched-down bass part, with neither line resolving into perfect harmony, keeping the tune in ambiguous fifth-interval territory.

Drummer David Maxwell accentuates the rhythm of the melodies brilliantly, with a bouncing snare and steady cowbell teasing ‘Reverse Lobster’s sweet syncopation to the surface like a perfectly caramelised onion.

His playing is impressively tight, considering he’s keeping time not only with another person, but with the multi-layered guitar loops as well: it’s here that the duo’s almost telepathic communicationwith one anotherbecomes evident.

Gift Horse aren’t one-trick ponies, either (hey, puns = clicks), there’s a remarkable amount of variety on this short EP, with slinky, sexy, somnambulant surf-rock songs (‘Gift Horse Dream’); sludgy Sabbathisms (‘Je Suis A La Porte’) and ‘Turn It Up’s expansive post-rock heft, which evokes the classic Mogwai of Young Teamand packs an unexpectedly emotional punch.

Both Maxwell and Bizouerne share vocal duties, and there’s a rich contrast between them in terms of delivery and lyrical style.

Maxwell is delightfully, often hilariously surreal: he does an Ivor Cutler-esque turn on closing track ‘Difficult Glasgow Hair’, the protagonist of which resolves to“jump down the swimming pool plug / to the brand new flats with a view”.

On the other hand, Bizouerne’s lyrics are vaguer and tenser, with a sense of uncertaintyundergirding the situations she describes – as on ‘Gift Horse Dream’, in which she dances “in a room full of strangers”, seemingly malevolent, who “kick and chase”her.

Meat, Jelly and Fatmarks an authoritative debut from an innovative new Glasgow band, deserving of attention from music fans and labels alike.

Gift Horse makes tempestuous, unpredictable rock music, with splashes of surreal wit and shades of genuine, disturbing darkness.

Heavy isn’t a distortion pedal, it’s an attitude, and these two have it in spades.

Gift Horse is on tour throughout April 2018; catch them in Glasgow (Bloc+, 18/04), Brighton (The Pipeline, 20/04), London (The Amersham Arms, 21/04) and Bristol (The Old England, 23/04).

Meat, Jelly and Fat by Gift Horse

Words: Graham Neil Gillespie

Savage Cut with Leyla Josephine – ‘Andy From Finance’

On the rare occasions that artists from different disciplines collaborate if its good it tends to be very good and this is one of those occasions.

Leyla Josephineis a rising star on the spoken word scene having had a successful year with her one person show ‘Hopeless’ and many other events.

Livingston post punk outfit Savage Cutoperate as collaborators and co-conspirators with other artists whom they seek out.

Having seen the spoken word performance of ‘Andy From Finance’ by Josephine it was a true pleasure to discover this gem of a track/collaboration.

An all too real story we may have witnessed or participated in (think office Xmas party!) and we all know somebody like ‘Andy’.

The subject (or victim) of the tale was she the architect of the debacle or was she the victim of something more sinister?

No matter, either way the conclusion of the tale leaves you with an uneasy feeling.

Tied in with the gritty driving rhythms of this rock-solid backing track the result is an engaging, thought provoking diamond of a track demonstrating the best of both what Savage Cut and Josephine have to offer.

Roll on the next such collaboration.

Words: Derek McCutcheon

Man of the Minch – Helping Hands

Having honed his skills playing fiddle for The Dirty Beggars, Man of the Minch sees Pedro Cameron drawing on traditional Scottish music and merging it with electronic, urban sounds to create something with one foot on the pavement of a modern city and the other in the rolling hills of a Celtic folk tale.

Helping Handskicks off with the rousing ode to mediocrity ‘Ordinary’, a stomping track powered an acoustic guitar being given the kind of high-tempo beating it will only ever take from someone with bluegrass roots.

The sound becomes gentler and more vulnerable through  ‘Wonder Why’ and ‘As The Haar Turns To Dew’.

The soft hand-claps and yearning, lost sound of the former is kept from wilting altogether by both Cameron’s yelping vocals and gravelly Glaswegian “know what I mean?” refrain from spoken-word poet Sam Small.

While the haar is evoked using the most traditional instrument-heavy sound of any of the tracks, the industrial growl of the electric guitar that punctures it begins the drive towards the more modern sound of the closing two.

‘Borderland‘and ‘WastingTime’complete the evolution with the introduction of pulsating drums and hazy synths, Cameron taking on a terser tone for the latter’s almost dancefloor-ready sound.

The olden, folkish sound of the strings is still present but mostly submerged, bursting through in key moments before sinking down again.

Through its five tracks, Helping Hands tracks a journey from the traditional Scottish landscape of strings, rolling fog and Minch Men, on to the modern city’s darkness, drums and distortions.

It’s a record which lives in the inbetween, in the interplay between past and present, and the quest to find an identity somewhere between the two.

As the contradictions roll together, the overlap creates something strange and enticing.

Helping Hands by Man of the Minch

Words: Ross McIndoe

Alastair Tibbs – ‘Eden’

Opening on a non-descript drum machine pattern, I was waiting on this to wander into a long form build up as is most often the case with drum machine focused music

My initial instinct was soon challenged though when the next sound to meet my ears is the voice of Glasgow’s Alastair Tibbs.

Resonating a tone that both sounds locally sourced and has a colour all its own, Tibbs’ voice welcomes the listener into an almost blues hue, further driven by a tube-amp guitar riff that bounces in direct proportion to a warm dubstep style filtered bass, where both sounds run a question and answer phrase against pure silence.

This is a very strong track with a genuine promise that harkens back to the first time I heard Jack Garratt’s ‘Worry’.

Make no mistake, Tibbs isn’t reliant on anyone that has come before, but he’s certainly going to take the concept and break it open and rebuild it for his own purposes, and we get the pleasure of listening as this journey takes place.

A definite one to watch in 2018.

Word: Krist McKenna

Martha Ffion – ‘We Make Do’ [Turnstile]

I fully expected this to be a singer-songwriter standard of “me and my piano” when this track first opened, which I’d have had no issue with in the least.

A warm toned and instantly engaging voice soon compliments a sort of 19th century western style tack piano with a syncopation that feeds into a melody that feels sombre but hopeful at the same time.

Martha Ffion uses a vulnerability to pass emotion over a sweeping melody, but at no point has any weakness in her voice itself.

It’s more of an opening up of the self to the listener than a shying behind the music.

Running at only two-and-a-half-minutes, ‘We Make Do’ is perfect in its form, from the hook laden chorus, to the timely middle-8 and its radio-talk vocal treatment, it sits perfectly ready for me to press play once more, which I will do repeatedly.

I’ve a feeling that Martha Ffion knows exactly what she is doing, and I’m ok with it.

Words:Krist McKenna

Makeness – ‘Day Old Death’ [Secretly Canadian]

Coming grumbling out of its little sonic cave of mystery, comes a hypnotic confluence between programmed cellos and drum machines atop a wave of harmonic distortion, all resolving to a grinding but almost gentle break-beat.

This all soon tightens in to a more defined groove that puts me in mind of Hot Chip, with a joviality in its step that I didn’t expect from a song of such a title.

There are shades of Maya Jane Coles, Friendly Fires, and MSTRKRFT here too, which are all wonderfully absorbed into the heart of this unruly yet Zen creature.

It certainly has its very own devious schemes, and with that, a hugely enjoyable confidence in where it starts off and onward to the evolution that follows.

This is a track that screams for looped replays as it changes form more times than I could count on a single listen.

For a track with no defined verses, and it is just that, a “track” as opposed to a song, Makeness have made something short, sweet and at the same time sinister and sincere, that has a way of burrowing into your skin, and you won’t mind one bit.

Words:Krist McKenna