Alright…’fess up!

bengtsarvet

A mysterious email arrived in my inbox a couple of hours ago, purporting to be from a band called Bengtsarvet.

Thing is, even the email says ‘With a little bit of research you should be able to work out who we are.’

They are, apparently, Swedish and remind these ears of the likes of Mogwai, M83 and a little bit of Sigur Ros. They are instrumental and sound a little ‘prog’ but in a good way, rather than wanting to make me scream.

I have tried googling Bengtsarvet – with no result. They do not sound like any Swedish band I have ever heard.

Doubtless, this is a clever ploy to get us wondering (maybe I should try and do something similar to market 17 Seconds Records acts. Suggestions on a postcard please). Or are they a new band with an interesting ploy to get written about?

Either way, it works. The sole track on their myspace ‘Slutet’ is great and you should go and listen to it.

Bengtsarvet’s myspace.

Oh, and if you’re so bloody clever, stop being so smug and share it with us.

Presenting…Louise McVey and Cracks In the Concrete

louise-mcvey

Towards the very end of last year, Louise McVey and Cracks In the Concrete released their debut four track, self-titled EP. It’s absolutely brilliant.

Hailing from Glasgow, and Stirling, and signed to Glasgow’s hip Optimo label, these guys have rightly been picking up some serious blog love in many places (see here, here and here) and quite rightly too. There’s a colly, cold gothic element to these four songs. Don’t think freezing your butt off at a Sisters or Nephilim gig, think the soundtrack to a David Lynch film, set in Glasgow. Think Tori Amos, without the histrionics, or the kind of goddess that Florence and the Machine can only dream of being. Think someone who has the potential to be as groundbreaking as PJ Harvey or Patti Smith.

You heard.

There’s a kind of audio vampire thing going on here, in that once heard, you’ll be bitten and forever smitten. I have been in touch with the lady herself, and she asked me extremely sweetly and politely not to post any mp3s but was fine with streaming.

So, check out the myspace and here on youtube and then go and buy the EP, from iTunes or eMusic and get the vinyl when it comes out.

She is also playing at Limbo tonight in Edinburgh, and it looks like there are upcoming performances in Glasgow and Aberdeen.

Go on…

Presenting…Dum Dum Girls

dum-dum-girls

Dee Dee, Jules, Frankie Rose and Bambi are the Dum Dum Girls.

With a name that nods to both the Vaselines and Iggy Pop, what you get is msuic that evokes both those artists, as well as fitting comfortably alongside the likes of the Vivian Girls, The Raincoats, Best Coast, Crystal Stilts and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Indeed, Frankie Rose was previously a member of both The Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts. Clearly, Indie-pop (as opposed to indie being dull, mainstream guitar rock) is back, and it means business.

Hailing from LA, and signed to legendary indie Sub Pop, their forthcoming album is entitled I Will Be. At the moment the only track of theirs commercially available in the UK is ‘Longhair’ on the recently released Rough Trade shops compilation, this surely cannot remain that way for very long.

Their music evokes the best parts of 60s girl groups and garage bands, s70s punk, 80s DIY, 90s riot grrl and timeless tunes. If these guys do not clear up this year…more fool the general public, frankly.

‘Jail La La’ is forthcoming as a single and is out on February 15, I will Be is out on March 29.

Dum Dum Girls -’Yours Alone.’ mp3

Dum Dum Girls -’Catholicked.’ mp3

Dum Dum Girls -’Jail la La.’ mp3

Withered hand Interview

withered-hand-3

Withered Hand’s debut album, Good News, rightly gained excellent reviews across the board when it was released in September last year. One of many people who’d been blown away by it when I heard it, I got in touch with Dan Willson to meet him face to face for a chat.

When I meet him at Edinburgh’s Southern Cross cafe, Dan comes across as a very warm, friendly guy. Now aged thirty five, he’s been in Edinburgh for thirteen years, living here with his young family. The fact that he’s doing Withered Hand at all is quite some considerable feat. He relaxes during the course of our interview but admits “I wasn’t the one expected to do this. If you’d seen me at school you wouldn’t have thought I’d be doing this.” Dan’s a shy man, and admits that he had to force himself to get on stage.

It’s been an interesting path that’s brought him to Edinburgh and to performing as Withered Hand. Born in the Hertfordshire town of Bishop’s Stortford, he moved to London at Hornsey School Of Art, part of Middlesex University. Not before having experiences that shaped his writing.

One of the points I made when I reviewed Good News was that key song ‘Religious Songs’ has “the sense of someone who has found himself trapped in an evangelical church during a communion service comes across very strongly in this album.” It appears this is very much the case.

“ I was brought up as an evangelical Christian. I used to knock on doors: “Do you want to be part of paradise?” That line [in 'Religious Songs'] where I sing about “I’m knocking on Kevin’s front door.” That really happened, I remember thinking “I’m going to die at school.” But it was okay, though.”

Of course, teenage years are sometime behind him now, and he agrees with me when I say that this seems to be written very much from the point of view of someone in his thirties. It’s only really in his thirties that he’s started writing songs. When Withered Hand started, he started on his own “going out on a limb. People encouraged me to do it. They offered to play with me and it would help.”

Though Dan is the main person focus of Withered Hand, there are other people who have helped to bring his music into being and reach the public. Sometimes live ‘it’s just me – and if someone else comes then it’s a nice surprise.’ Neil Pennycook from Meursault is “really skilful at recording.” Bart from eagleowl was “really encouraging” and the album was recorded with the help of Pete Harvey (of The Leg and Meursault) and Alun Thomas (The Leg). Alun Thomas’s bedroom proved to be the location for the recording of the album.

Two other people have also helped birth Good News. The album was produced by American producer Kramer, who has worked (amongst others) with Galaxie 500, Low and Luna. “I put demos online and got a message from him. He [Kramer] must sit in doors all day…’ he marvels. “He said that if I had more songs like (album track) ‘Cornflake’ he’d work with me.” And indeed he did. While there is no question that Dan’s work is born of the D-I-Y ethos, he states quite simply ‘I can’t record myself to my satisfaction.’

Another person who is singled out as having helped him along is Ed Pybus, of Edinburgh’s SL Records. Having put out records by Misty’s Big Adventure, Saint Jude’s Infirmary, Dawn Of the Replicants and most famously, Ballboy, Ed Pybus has been running one of Edinburgh’s most successful labels for over thirteen years. Although the first EP ‘Religious Songs’ came out on Bear Scotland, it became an exhausting process putting out his own records. As Dan puts it ‘I got fed up with making trips to the post office.’

The thought being on a major label doesn’t appeal to him much either. ‘Being on a major label…you get chewed up and spat out,’ he shudders. ‘If you get signed to a big label, you lose all of your creative control. I might become a celebrity, but who wants that, truly?’ The D-I-Y ethos seems to be strongly ingrained within him. When I ask him if he feels that even in this day and age there still seems to be a bit of a boy’s club feel to the music industry, he stresses that he ‘feels no need to be part of that mentality.’ He adds: “It’s important that people don’t lose sight of what they’re doing and become what they were in opposition to in the first place.’

Edinburgh’s music scene has really developed over the last few years. I ask him what he thinks has helped create this. It’s not that there hasn’t been a music scene here, but at time’s it’s seemed positively subterranean. ‘There’s more accessible venues. And for me personally, D-I-Y promoters. Emily from Tracer Trails has been very supportive. And Bart [Owl] has been putting shows on in Leith.”

Yet he’s clearly breaking through to a wider audience, and those people who have heard him hold him in high esteem. ‘I’m intrigued by people’s reaction. It’s different now I’ve been produced by Kramer. Between Kramer and Kenny [Anderson, aka King Creosote] I’ve been able to bend people’s ears about what to do. This album has broadened my audience. If I go back to making scratchy stuff…maybe some will stick with it.”

When I ask him what he’s up to for the rest of 2010, it seems what he’s really like is a break. There’s upcoming dates both in England and further afield in Europe. He will also be making a return to Homegame, the Fife Festival in Anstruther, put together by the Fence Collective.

We should not, however, take a second album for granted. The upcoming Withered Hand tour supporting Benny Hemm Hemm in Europe is, he admits, a massive pressure on him. He clearly isn’t relishing the thought of being away from his wife and children for any length of time. Then of course, there’s the matter of actually writing one. “ I write at a glacial pace. I’d rather not write anything than just because someone wants me to write something.” He adds, dreamily, “What I’d really like to do is to write a graphic novel.”

Dan Willson, ladies and gentlemen: treasure him in whatever form you have him.

Withered Hand -’Religious Songs.’ mp3

Good News and the two EPs ‘You’re Not Alone’ and ‘Religious Songs’ are out now, on SL Records, including from iTunes or direct from SL records.

He is playing live as follows
28 Jan Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen; 29 Jan 17:00 rpm records, Newcastle; 29 Jan 2010 20:00 Morden Tower, Newcastle; 25 Feb London Popfest @ Cafe OTO (solo set) w/ Rose Melberg and more; 18 Mar 2010 Mono, Glasgow; 20 Mar Limbo @ Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh w/friends

He is then on tour with Benni Hemm Hemm in Europe as follows:
5 Apr Bibelot, Dordrecht; 7 Apr D:Qliq, Luxembourg; 14 Apr Chelsea, Vienna; 16 Apr E-Werk, Erlangen; 17 Apr Glashaus, Berlin; 18 Apr Hafenklang, Hamburg

Withered hand website/Withered Hand myspace

17 Seconds Records update

dirty-cuts-banner

All busy here at 17 Seconds Records. Today sees the release of the first release of the new decade for us ’2 Page Spread’ by The Dirty Cuts. it’s out now on download and should be available on 7″ shortly. More news when we have it. Try the usual suspects for the download. This is actually our eighth release as a record company. There is a facebook group set up here, too.

Over the next wee while…

Next week sees the release of the Factory Kids’ EP1 on February 1, while February 15 sees the re-release of the Wildhouse’s first two albums digitally; Hyenas and Poet:Saint.

It then gets totally Chris Bradley-tastic with the release of ‘Waltzing’ on February 22 on download and the long-awaited To The Outpost album on download and CD on March 29. We’ve had some nice reviews coming in so far, so long may that continue.

Not only that, but 17 Seconds Records and the artists involved are also going to be bringing their wares to places across Scotland and Ireland. See the myspace for details. What we are particularly excited about is two 17 Seconds Records nights coming up over the next two months:

February 28 will see 17 Seconds Records at Mono (Glasgow’s cool record shop, run by none other than Stephen McRobbie of The Pastels!) with The Dirty Cuts, X-Lion Tamer and The Wildhouse. Not only that but the Factory Kids will be DJing. This night is being put on by Silence Can Break your Heart. UPDATE: This night has been postponed due to factors beyond both our and Silence can Break your Heart’s Control. Apologies. We are trying to reschedule it and will let you know asap.

April 17 sees a 17 Seconds Night in conjunction with Limbo in Edinburgh at the Voodoo Rooms, with X-Lion Tamer and Chris Bradley.

Not only that but may will see the return of Tigerfest. Yours truly is involved helping Neil and Stuart ruun it this year, and local music makers and promoters are being approached as we speak. No names confirmed as yet – but 17 Seconds are likely to have two nights!! It will run in the capital from May 7-May 15.

There’s a great feature on X-Lion Tamer here and a wonderful piece on both us and Song, By Toad Records here.

And let’s just say that Aberfeldy and Escape Act are up to fabulous things.

Phew, rock’n’ roll…

Dirty Cuts -’Lips.’ mp3

Factory Kids -’They Used To Call Me Baby.’ mp3

The Wildhouse -’Hope Is How You Control me.’ mp3

Presenting…Galleries

galleries-ep

Glasgow band Galleries have managed to reach an interesting point with their first, free EP. Namely, they are at that juncture where post-rock and shoegazing and indie rock meet. Over the course of five tracks the band lay out their stall and do it most impressively.

The band, made up of David (Guitars/Programming/Vocals), Adam (Bass), Paul (Guitars), and Andy (Drums) – no surnames here! – may be staring at their feet but the music they are currently making sees them reaching for the stars. This is music that shows it can be arty and ambitious. They list a number of influences on their myspace and while I don’t hear much of Jimmy Eat World or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I certainly do hear the likes of Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai, Sigur Ros and particularly Mew.

2009 saw the scottish music scene perhaps the healthiest it has been for many, many years. And in 2010, on the strength of their debut EP, this band show that the sick man of Europe is fighting fit when it comes to wonderful music.

A band to watch very closely indeed.

Galleries – ‘+ Danger.’ mp3

Download the entire EP here

Galleries’ myspace

More exciting music for 2010

stephen-malkmus

Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus looks ahead to 2010

January can often seem like a fairly dead month for new music. Part of the reason for this is that people invariably have less money and aren’t going out. I’d be willing to bet that for many whilst resolutions about losing weight, drinking/smoking less etc.. go by the wayside fairly quickly, the money-spending stays low because, well, there isn’t much of it.

There’s been a handful of releases so far this year -both Delphic and Vampire Weekend have already cracked the UK album chart top 10 with their new releases (good, if not amazing), and there’s many more releases that will hopefully keep the Wolf from the door of your local independent record shop. Future weeks will bring forward releases from Massive Attack, The Futureheads, Liars, The Soft Pack, Kathryn Williams, The Dawn Chorus, Shearwater, Paul Vickers and the Leg, and Efterklang. Hell it’s even rumoured that the White Stripes will be releasing a new album this year. (Not to mention 17 Seconds Records coming into the album releasing fray). I was also privileged to hear the rough mixes of the new Aberfeldy album the other day, a mere 12 hours after completion was finished. It sounds awesome.

Domino Records are also extremely busy too, having released Owen Pallett’s Heartland already in January (AKA Final Fantasy), there are forthcoming releases from Quasi, To Rococo Rot, Lightspeed Champion, Four Tet, to say nothing of a Pavement best-of, which they have been running a competition to let fans guess the tracklisting. And they’ve also made the Dirty projectors 7″ available as a free download. Respect.

So feast your ears on this…

Quasi -’Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouller.’ mp3

To Rococo Rot -’Working Against Time.’ mp3

Owen Pallett -’Lewis Takes Action.’ mp3

Dirty Projectors -’Ascending Melody.’ mp3

Dirty Projectors -’Emblem Of The World.’ mp3

Pavement -’Gold Soundz.’ mp3

Forthcoming live album from Mogwai

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The news of any forthcoming release from Mogwai is always welcome. The past fifteen years have given us singles, EPs, albums, a remix album, a compilation of early singles, a compilation of BBC sessions, a soundtrack album, a fabulous re-issue…so a live album was (nicely) inevitable.

I’ve seen Mogwai live twice, on both occasions in Edinburgh and on both occasions at serious risk to my hearing. But hey. It still seems worth it, and there ain’t no better cure for hiccups than that moment in ‘Like Herod.’ I once stood next to Stuart Braithwaite at an early Franz Ferdinand gig (The Venue, Edinburgh, 2003) and was so in awe I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him. There is a forthcoming film entitled Burning and the live album is called Special Moves. The tracklisting and details of the film can be seen here at their website. As yet there is no release date for the album, other than it’s slated for the spring -oh, and the artwork is designed by one-time labelmate and collaborator, Aidan Moffat! The album is also to be available on triple vinyl. Yum!

They have made this track available as a free download.

Mogwai -’2 Rights Make One Wrong.’ mp3

Meanwhile, there is supposed to be a new studio album in 2011…

Mogwai website/Mogwai myspace

PS: all being well, my interview with Withered Hand will be on this very website tomorrow…

Latest Frightened Rabbit track!

frightened-rabbit-2010

2010 is being tipped as being the year of Frightened Rabbit. Their third album, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, is released by Fat Cat on March 1, 2010 and it is hoped that this release will be the one that takes the band into the major league that they deserve to be in.

The band – Scott Hutchison (vocals, guitar), Grant Hutchison (Drums, vocals), Billy Kennedy (guitar, keys), Andy Monaghan (bass, keyboard, guitar), and Gordon Skene (guitar, keys, percussion) showed that things had definitely moved up a notch towards the end of last year when the first single ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ proved not just a hit with bloggers but also with Zane Lowe and the NME, the latter including it in their top fifty tracks of 2009 (at #40).

You really should have heard the single by now -and if not, why not? – but here is the video:

Meanwhile, their latest single ‘Nothing Like You’ is streaming over at their myspace. It’s another cracking tune that deserves to build upon and extend the fanbase that ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ achieved. This is a song that can light up festivals and warm your heart. I’m willing to bet that in 2010 it will…and beyond.

Not only that, but Big Cat’ have also generously made another track available as a free download ahead of the album’s release. ‘Fun Stuff’ (which prat derided these guys as northern miserabilists?!) is more of an album track is more reflective than the two singles, and works best as an album track. This is not to do it down, however; it’s gorgeous and shows yet another side to this band. Update: this was the b-side to ‘Swim’ and is definitely worth hearing.

I can’t wait for these guys to have the success that they so clearly deserve, and March 1 seems just so far away right now. Let’s hope that the ‘Tall Poppy syndrome’ doesn’t kick in for them.

Frightened Rabbit -’Fun Stuff.’ mp3

Frightened Rabbit’s myspace