I forget how good this band are. Never forget seeing them at Barrowlands. Amazing.
It really is a bad month to be broke. There are a number of great albums coming out in February that I want to get my hands on but in reality will have to wait until March or later to buy. It’s become a real fact of life recently but pay day comes along and the money that goes into my account just gets sucked straight back out by various things. The cost of a baby. The cost of owning a flat. The cost of recording an album. In February and March you can add the cost of friends stag do’s. Money comes in and then money goes out. In the blink of an eye I go from having lots of cash to having no cash. And I’m going to have to get used to this feeling on a monthly basis for a while. It’s ok though. I’m not complaining. I guess I’m just disappointed that I will have to wait to buy the records released in February. I could always buy Roddy a present of the new Midlake record on Monday? I think he’d like that.
Anyways, my priority, without a shadow of a doubt, is the new Fionn Regan record due to be released on the 8th. His debut record ‘The End Of History’ is one of my favourite records. It’s brilliant. A lovely record drenched in Irish folkyness. Lyrically, Regan is a master of his trade. Lyrics can make a song or record. Just think of the brilliance of Withered Hand’s lyrics on debut album ‘Good News’. Well, Fionn Regan has always had that same magic in his words. Far from the same style, but the same impact lyrically. He draws you into his world and he holds you there until his last breath. It’s a skill not many people have. He’s a bit of a poet really, and poetry is something I’ve been getting more and more into of late. My friend Fraser lent me a book of poems by American artist Patrick Porter and I’ve been reading it constantly since. I love the way words work together. It’s fascinating. Anyways, so yes, I will buy Fionn Regan’s new album when it’s released on 8th. However, the others will have to wait I guess. Which sucks, because the others include artists such as Midlake, The Unwinding Hours, Nils Frahm (I own this digitally but not physically), Errors, and The Album Leaf, to name a few. So yes, February is a good month for music but most of this music I will have to wait to own. At least until next pay day. Although even then that might be a struggle unless it’s all for Roddy.
Check out Fionn Regan here. Enjoy.
So it’s been a quiet week for me in terms of posting on the blog. I think after my flurry of posts of modern classical albums I just needed a wee break. Been a bit ill as well with a stupid chesty cold so the desire to sit in front of a bright computer screen after a day of sitting infront of a bright computer screen has not appealed.
However, I thought I would post this morning to let you all know that my debut solo EP to be entitled ‘Memorials’ will be released on Too Many Fireworks later in the year. If you go here you can download a free label sample of new stuff and old stuff. On it you will find the beginnings of ‘December’ a track off the EP. It’s in a pretty raw form. Just me an piano. Whilst there won’t be much more added to it, there will be bits and pieces, the idea was that the sampler would have it in its rawest form. So do pop along and get your free music. When the EP is finished it will be a digital release only as Too Many Fireworks do not do physical releases.
In Kays news you can also expect a digital download single in the very near future. Mixing is well under way and our lead of single ‘the hours’ will be available as a free digital download from various sources. Keep an eye out on this page for more news of how you can get your first taste of the Kays record.
For now, I’m going to stare at a computer screen for the day, then head off home to do as little as possible all weekend. 8.30 on Sunday morning for Andy Murray in the Oz Open final. Come on Andy.
2010 has marked a new start for us. We relaunched our website, a podcast (which we’ll discuss later, I’m sure) and kicked off a couple of new projects. Every month we will alternate between curating an individual photographer’s exhibition and a group exhibition based on a theme. The first solo exhibition is by our friend Alan Campbell. The photography is primarily architectural and is very eyecatching. At the same time, we launched our first exhibition of the new year which is the first in a larger body of work called Elements. This exhibition, Water, is the first in which we’ve married the photographs we’ve created with a piece of music I’ve written and with a poem written by another friend, Rhys Baker of the band Wild Dogs in Winter. I’m very proud of Water and I think it looks and sounds great. We’ve another four to come of the same format over the course of the year so I’m excited to see how it grows.
Why do we do it and what are we trying to achieve? I’m not really sure why we do it. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a lot of work. Heidi and I have both, I’m sure, sat down and thought “what HAVE I got myself into this time?” It’s a cliché but it’s a real labour of love for us. We both love photography and we love music and we’re not the kind of people who can just sit back and enjoy, we have to be involved for better or for worse. My first love in photography is photojournalism and street photography and I saw a collaboration with Heidi as a way to look upon things with a more abstract eye and take photographs in a different way, thus the pinhole. As far as I’m concerned, and I say this with sincerity, if people enjoy and appreciate what we do then I feel we’ve achieved. There’s nothing better as a photographer or musician than someone telling you what you’ve done means something to them. All that hard work is vindicated and forgotten.
HK: Neil has done a good job at answering the first part of the question, so I don’t have anything to add to that. Why do I do this? There have been plenty of times when I have wanted to sleep or watch a film rather than arrange photos on our website or contact photographers. I’ll admit that. But there has been more times when I have been really proud at what we have created. Each online exhibition, and now a podcast, is a small victory and an achievement and I enjoy that feeling. What am I hoping to achieve through We Sink Ships? I want to showcase other photographer’s work by creating hopefully interesting exhibitions that people enjoy looking at and I want to take photos and have a reason and focus for my photography. Most of all I just want to do something creative as it makes me happy.
TSP: The photographs you take and the music you listen to seem to be inextricably linked, in my opinion. There’s something simple, haunting and beautiful in many of your images which evoke the same emotions in me as much of the music that we share a love of. Is this a conscious decision? Do the photography and the music go hand in hand for you?
NSM: It’s definitely a conscious decision. I’m first and foremost a music fan above and beyond anything else I do. I come from a fairly musical family and was exposed to it at a very early age. It sounds pretentious to say but everything I do is infused with that love for music. From my early teens I was learning instruments by my early twenties I was in bands and had my own record label and even when I began photographing I’d shoot gigs and band promos whenever possible.
A huge influence on the beginning of We Sink Ships was Jónsi & Alex’ Riceboy Sleeps collaboration. While a vastly different style, the fusing of visual art and music was something I wanted to do. As an example of this, I think the first exhibition we did, Talvi/Winter, I shot all the photographs while walking around with the iPod feeding me what I would deem to be “winter music”. It just seemed to fit. I’ve never really thought too much about the emotional impact of our photographs before but it is nice to think that the emotions of the music we’re listening to at the time might come through a little in the final images.
HK: No, it is not a conscious decision for me. I have never sat down and decided that I want my photos to evoke the same emotions as some of the music I listen to. Sure I’m influenced by things that surround me, and music is a huge part of my life, but I listen to a wide range of music from ambient, more experimental music to noisy stuff, and I can’t really see the influences of those rougher, louder bands in my photos. The biggest link between music and my photos is how music evokes emotions and those emotions influence whether I want to take photos or not. After saying all this, I do sometimes take photos that are specifically inspired and influenced by certain pieces of music. Earlier last year, I took photos inspired by Found Songs, an album by Olafur Arnalds. He released a song a day for seven days and encouraged others to take photos or do art inspired by each song. Unfortunately none of my photos were picked for the album artwork, but I found the experience challenging and I was really happy I followed it thought. I also took album artwork photos for Wild Dogs In Winter. They sent me a couple of unfinished songs which worked as a brief for me. I like working that way so yes, in that way, photography and music go hand in hand for me sometimes.
TSP: For those with a real interest in photography whose work would you recommend people check out? Feel free to mention both well known and less well known and less well known artists?
NSM: Names that come to mind are Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, Elliot Erwitt, David Alan Harvey and James Nachtwey – all remarkable photographers. The surrealist photographers are an influence on me in other ways, especially the photos of Man Ray. What about around Glasgow, well, other than Alan – mentioned above, David Gillanders is a photographer whose photos had a massive effect on me when I was starting out. Neale Smith is another local. He’s been about on the scene for as long as I can remember and his gig photos are wonderful. I’ve known Neil Thomas Douglas for a few years and I’m quite a big fan of his “A Stranger View” project. He ties a disposable to a bench and leaves a note asking passers by to shoot a photo. The collection looks great. While not a photographer, Jenny Soep is an artist from Scotland that pitches up at gigs and rather than photographing the bands, she takes a pencil or some paints and creates some gorgeous images from the photo pit. I’m a huge fan.
instinct rather than decision. I am not interested at who took the photo and what they used to take it. It is all about the end result to me and while the story how they achieved the image could be interesting, the qualifications and megapixels are irrelevant. I have a friend who takes really interesting photos using a camera phone and a filter. It doesn’t make his photos any less powerful than photos taken with a Hasselblad. A good photo makes you feel something. It moves you.
So each month we have 4 podcasts going out, one each Tuesday. On the first, we will feature something that we love – it might be a band, a label, an artist, a gallery or a venue – then I get to play out with 45 minutes of electro-disco-wonk-pop. The following Tuesday each month, we invite a guest DJ to record a set and before we play that out we give them a little introduction to the audience. Next, Heidi takes her turn to play some music but not before She and I discus a monthly Nick-Hornby-esque top 5. The end of the month is a bit different; with the return of my record label, We Sink Ships is presenting the Too Many Fireworks podcast, which will feature music from the label, past and present, plus any of my latest ambient, minimalist or alternative-classical favourites.
Nils Frahm is a german pianist. He is on the wonderful Erased Tapes label, home to TSP favourites Olafur Arnalds, Finn and Peter Broderick. Indeed, on this new album he works with Broderick, who apparently took on the roll of a creative director of sorts during the making of this record. It seems that Broderick would instruct Frahm to write a piece, often on the spot, giving only guidance such as “write something I can rap over” or, in the case of the track ‘Peter Is Dead In The Piano’ making Frahm imagine that Peter was indeed dead inside his piano. Such is the brilliance of this record that Broderick, himself a highly skilled pianist, recently proclaimed that he could spend 10 years working on a piano track and never achieve the beauty that Frahm has in these improvisational works.
I’m stunned by this record. I really am. If you want to hear somebody who is a master of their instrument then I would suggest you buy this record immediately and turn on the track ‘Down Down’. Stunning is the only word I can find to describe this work. Modern Classical? Maybe, but this is pure and simply somebody playing piano. There’s no need for other instruments. It’s just Frahm and his piano. Sometimes it’s beautiful. Sometimes the aggression pours from the keys. As a pianist myself I’m a little in awe of this. I mean, I know there are plenty of people out there who can probably play piano in this manner and this well. Many wonderful pianists who can sit down and play highly technical works by the likes of Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. However, Frahm made all this stuff up himself. He didn’t sit and score it either as far as I can make out. He didn’t take loads of time over it. He just played and played and let the music pour from him. What he has created is, without doubt, one of my favourite records for a long, long time. It’s simply stunningly beautiful. If you do like classical music in any way, then this record is a must. You can check out Nils Frahm here. Enjoy
What a stunning picture this is. Taken by my friend Dylan Matthews it features Neil Pennycook of Meursault at the Roxy Art House, Edinburgh. It’s just stunning. People who dish out awards to people for taking pictures like this. Dish out an award please. Thanks.
Pic: The Union Chapel, London.
Big thank you to Billy Hamilton of Under the Radar for his write up of Saturday’s night Trampoline show at the Wee Red Bar. It really is appreciated and it’s lovely to see them taking a more active role in reviewing live shows these days. I do hope it’s not completely at the expense of unearthing new bands though as their contribution to Scottish music on this front is invaluable, in my opinion.
Anyways, reading the review it was interesting to note Billy’s thoughts on the layout of the Wee Red. In my opinion, the way it’s laid out can be both a negative and a positive thing for the night. When people arrive at Trampoline, it is true that they often grab themselves a beer then find themselves a seat and often remain seated for the whole night of music. Some times this works. In fact, sometimes we set out rows of seats depending on the style of music that is on offer. Sleepingdog for example requested the seats be laid out to create a more relaxed, intimate and informal atmosphere. At Glissando and Trespassers William nearly the whole venue sat on the floor and watch cross legged. That was lovely. When the music is more intricate and delicate it is often the best approach to things. Perhaps for Thomas Western’s set it would have been appropriate on Saturday? I don’t know. However, there are other bands like Over the Wall, Cancel the Astronauts, Broken Records and Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers, to name a few, who would undoubtedly prefer the seats to be removed and the venue to be standing room only, or so I would assume. Of course, it would be totally possible to get rid of most of the chairs and tables, but as the venue doubles up as a club there’s no way we’re moving the sofas! I guess it’s down to the people watching though. Like at most gigs, there is a tendency for people not to want to get too close to the front and, if chairs exist, then to sit down. Over The Wall dealt with this beautifully by asking people to move forward. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Sometimes all it takes is one or two people to make the move and others will follow. It’s a tricky one though. I love the Wee Red for the staff, the sound system and how it looks when the lights are low. Like other venues it suffers from not having a stage and without doubt it suffers due to the sofas etc. Then again, I’m sure they’d argue that they have more club nights than gig nights so the chairs, tables, sofas all make perfect sense. It’s certainly something I’m comfortable living with.
There was an interesting comment left on this blog recently about how Glasgow had better venues, better bands etc etc, than Edinburgh. Personally, I think Edinburgh has a plethora of decent venues but could benefit from more. Though I’d be the first to admit that I am not a fan of the Bowery in terms of sound quality and lack of stage, the actual space itself is bursting with character and with a bit of a cash injection could be the perfect gig venue. Old churches are without doubt lovely places to play and convert beautifully into gig venues. The Bristo Hall above the Forest Café, though a sound engineers nightmare, is another lovely space with bags of character and atmosphere. I remember playing a show there with Thomas Traux. On that occasion, the venue made the gig. The Wee Red has character as well, but as mentioned above clearly suffers from doubling as a club. I have never really been a fan of CabVol as place to watch gigs (cost of beer is outrageous!) but there is no doubt that Edinburgh’s underground network of caves do create a special atmosphere. The same applies to the Caves themselves which have the same sort of vibe on a larger scale. Electric Circus is a bit weird. Really cool stage and screens behind the stage but the swanky ness of it might put many people off. Personally I like it (perhaps cause I rate Solen as a top, top promoter) but I have heard rumours that it’s still open to anyone even when gigs are on, which can really impact on the noise during performances. When we played there people spoke all the way through Wounded Knee’s set. It wasn’t cool. The Voodoo Rooms is a big old room with loads of character but also suffers from the table and chair issue present at the Wee Red. I miss Henry’s Cellar Bar. When I first moved to Edinburgh it was a smokey old jazz club but also ran loads of gigs. I might just be out of the loop (I really do feel it sometimes) but I don’t think it’s used as much these days, which is a real shame. It was a nice size and though it was awkward in terms of layout I always enjoyed watching and playing shows there. I’ve also witnessed lovely shows at both the Collective and Stills Galleries on Cockburn. Rob St John’s show at the Collective is maybe still one of my favourite ever gigs. Tiny space, amazing atmosphere, intimate and lovely. What I do wish Edinburgh had more of is venues like Stereo, Mono and the 13th Note in Glasgow. When I’m through there I love passing the day sitting in those bars with their lovely relaxed atmospheres, good food and good music. There are really no places like that in Edinburgh where you can just go and chill out and then go downstairs to see a gig. Well, not that I know of. I wish there was.
I guess above all what I wish for most of all is more venues in Leith. The Leith Tape Club operates successfully out of the Iso Lounge. However, in terms of catering for larger gigs there are not too many places I can think of. The Leith Theatre is an amazing venue but in real need of restoration and really doesn’t appear capable of dealing with shows as yet. This is a shame as it’s the perfect space for larger events like an all day festival. The Leith Dockers club does seem to be a good place in terms of stage, layout etc, but it does have a Phoenix Nights feel about it, which might not appeal to everyone. I enjoyed seeing the Wave Pictures there though and Withered Hand’s album launch took place there also so it might be a venue on the up in terms of putting on gigs. Other than that though, my knowledge of venues in Leith is limited. I believe the Kays might be playing the Queen Charlotte Rooms in Feb – but I have no idea where that is or what it looks like but perhaps this could be a good option for gigs down Leith way. It would be lovely to have more spaces though. Quite a lot of musicians live down Leith way so it’d be nice to have a bar/venue like Stereo/13th Note to chill out and put on good shows.
So yeah, what are people’s thoughts on Edinburgh venues? What are we missing? What do people like/dislike? Just thought it’d be good to have a chat on this front. Nothing too controversial for a Friday.
Le Lendemain is rather interestingly Danny Norbury and Danny Wenngren (Library Tapes) 2 people whose own music I have already reviewed this week. They have worked together in the past on the Library Tapes record ‘Sketches’ where Norbury has added string accompaniment to Wenngren’s subtle piano pieces. On this outing under the moniker Le Lendemain it is Norbury who is mostly to the fore on cello producing some lovely sounds throughout. However, despite this, for me this record does retain a certain Library Tapes-esque feel/influence to it with Wenngren’s piano flirting in and out of pieces in a staccato like fashion as all the while static flickers and crackles and Norbury tells his tales on the cello. Listening to Wenngren play is fascinating. It actually sounds like he could be hitting notes at random, flitting in and out underneath the lovely layered cello. It adds such a rhythmic quality to the music without ever really creating a melody or anything of real substance. Wilco did an exercise like this during the making of ‘A Ghost Is Born’ where Jeff Tweedy was in one booth playing a song and everyone else could only hear what he was playing and nothing else. They had to improvise along with the tune and see what everyone came up with and how it all sounded together. This record, at times, makes me think of that exercise. When piano takes lead, Wenngren can really play, but where the pieces are lead by the cello he is truly at his most inventive and interesting creating lovely texture and atmosphere.
One thing about this record is for sure. If you listen to Library Tapes ‘Fragment’ EP and then Norbury’s ‘Light In August’ (which I highly recommend that you do) you will hear how the 2 main components of this particular record break down as individual artists. This is really quite a lovely coming together of their 2 worlds. One world where melodies reign supreme and one where the scattered fragments of songs are pieced together to create ambient sound scapes. In the world of Le Lendemain both worlds combine creating a great piece of music that I would once again highly recommend, if the minimalist modern classical world is something you are fond of. You can check out the wonderful Le Lendemain here. Enjoy.