Album Review – Ardentjohn

Ardentjohn – ‘Malin Head.’ (Adulation)

So, it’s technically summer, although in the British Isles, that’s always a bit of a gamble if you’re hoping to get decent weather. Still it gives us something to talk about, right? And while Metronomy may have delivered the track of the summer in ‘Salted Caramel Ice Cream,’ before long, the nights will be noticeably drawing in, and it will need a suitable soundtrack of Scottish melancholia.

Well, never fear, your next dose of magnificent Scottish melancholia is here. Opening with ‘Magic Everywhere’ the soundtrack is bittersweet, that feeling that things are coming to an end, or at least, not standing still, as long as you might like. And all you can do is revel in the beauty of the sunset, or you might cry. Well, hell, you might just cry anyway. It’s been a long day.

The strength of the opener is such that the title track and ‘I Wasn’t There’ (the latter with a Doves meets Coral feel, for those of you who can still remember 2002), can take a few listens before they gel as much. But like many great albums, this is one where repeated listens reap the benefits within.

Comparisons with Mogwai might not immediately be accurate or entirely spot on, but the ‘gwai can capture an emotion in a way that has a similar feel to this record. And it’s that feel that is also evident in the likes of Frightened Rabbit (sigh), The Blue Nile or Meursault. It’s those acts that show the power of sadness and somehow make it a truly beautiful thing. This is evidenced on tracks like ‘Longing To Fly’ with its repeated refrain of ‘no I won’t be afraid.’ Sometimes it’s all so, well, pretty, like on ‘Daydreaming.’ It’s just such an impressive whole as an album.

Spend forty-five minutes with this album, and the chances are those minutes will be repeated many times over…

****

Malin Head is released by Adulation on July 12.

Album review – Hackney Colliery Band

Hackney Colliery Band – Collaborations: Volume One

It’s now twenty years since the Fast Show with its mockery of the jazz scene ‘Niiiice.’ etc etc. But if that’s affecting how you view jazz, never mind or listen to it, then you need to get a different take on it.

Of course, the big name over the last twelve months has been Kamasi Washington, whose album Heaven And Earth did well in the rock press end of year polls, and there’s been a fair bit of focus on British jazz groups too – Sons Of Kemet and Ezra Collective- that makes it seem jazz is being covered in a way not seen since Courtney Pine released his acclaimed Journey To The Urge Within.

So let’s focus on the Hackney Colliery Band. This year they made their Glastonbury debut and celebrate their tenth anniversary. This album is an exciting mix of jazz styles that is accessible and welcoming, without ever stopping being special.

The first music to do the rounds was the single ‘Netsanet’ featuring Mulatu Astatke. This is an exploration of Mulatu’s trademark Ethio-jazz, which he pretty much invented. The album opens with ‘Mm Mm’ featuring Angélique Kidjo, who was once described as Africa’s premier diva.

The longest track within is ‘Climbing Up My Own Life Until I Die.’ A spoken word collaboration it can be extremely hard work (this listener would prefer it as an instrumental), but it still fits into the album.

Sure there have been Nirvana and Prodigy covers in the past, but this sees the Hackney Colliery Band step into the light, with collaborations but no compromise. A thrill from start to finish.

Collaborations Volume One is out now

Forthcoming from Karine Polwart

Karine Polwart will release her new album Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook on August 2. The album features eleven songs which were written by Scottish artists performed in her own style.

While she’s generally considered to work in a folk idiom, these songs generally come from the rock scene over the last fifty years (though Gerry Rafferty and John Martyn would be considered to have had a connection with the folk scene). The album tracklisting is as follows:

The Whole Of The Moon (originally performed by The Waterboys)

From Rags To Riches (The Blue Nile)

Dignity (Deacon Blue)

Since Yesterday (Strawberry Switchblade)

Swim Until You Can’t See Land (Frightened Rabbit)

Chance (Big Country)

The Mother We Share (Chvrches)

Don’t Want To Know (John Martyn)

Whatever’s Written In Your Heart (Gerry Rafferty)

Machines (Biffy Clyro)

Women Of The World (Ivor Cutler)

The album was recorded at Chem 19, the studio owned and operated by the Delgados, where numerous Scottish artists (and firm favourites of 17 Seconds), including the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai and Arab Strap have recorded.

There will also be live dates around November:

14 November ABERDEEN Music Hall
15 November PERTH Concert Hall
16 November EDINBURGH Usher Hall
27 November LONDON Barbican

Some of the tracks are available to listen to already:

‘Women Of The World’ by Ivor Cutler has been covered by other artists including YACHT and Jim O’ Rourke.

‘Dignity’ by Deacon Blue is one of those songs that has become a classic, despite only being a small hit at the time. The album artwork references their debut, Raintown.

The album opens with Karine’s version of the Waterboys ‘The Whole Of The Moon.’ Radically different from theirs (no trumpets here), the prettiness of the essence of the song comes through.

Finally, Big Country’s heartbreaking ‘Chance’ is handled gently, dealing with concerns that are still very vivid in the minds of many people in this part of the world.