The Unwinding Hours

I’m going to make a bold statement.  I’m really not one for making bold statements usually.  But in this instance I’m going to make an exception.  And the statement is:  this record is by far and away my favourite record by a Scottish artist for as long as I can remember.  This record is simply stunning.  Not many records move me in the way that this record does.  When The Unwinding Hours unleash the noise they do so in such a wonderfully explosive and creative way.  When they strip it back to pure, simple song writing, like on the stunning ‘There Are Worse Things Than Being Alone’ and ‘Solstice’, this band are as good as anyone I can think of.  I’ve listened to this over and over and over since I got my hands on it.  I’ve been moved to tears actually.  It’s that good. 

Aereogramme were never a band that I got into until later, after they split.  I love them, but in a ‘I’m a bit late for the party but I’m still going to enjoy this’ sort of way.  Their last album is a lovely record but this record blows it apart in terms of quality and maturity in my opinion.  It sounds like the time away allowed Craig B and Iain Cook to find themselves as song writers.  This record sounds like an artist who has had time to reflect on what once was and has come back stronger for their experience.  I heard Vic Galloway say on Glasgow Podcart that not everyone instantly writes a stunning album.  In fact, few do. Well Craig B and Iain Cook have, without a doubt, produced something quite stunning with this album and that’s 9 years after they first wrote a record.  I have to keep catching my breath as I listen to it.  From the first notes of ‘Knut’ to the last note of the quite mind blowingly amazing ‘The Final Act’ this record oozes class.  It’s song writing at its finest.  It’s arrangement at its finest.  It’s music at its finest.  If this is not on my top ten list for 2010 I’ll eat my hat.  But I’ll make an even bolder statement right now.  If it’s not on my top 10 of 2010- 2020 I’ll be in shock.  For this record has left me stunned. 

I’m not saying that everyone will agree with me.  But this is what music is all about for me.  This is the kind of music I love to immerse myself in.  Simply wonderful.  You can check them out here.  Enjoy.

Ink Me

I read a fabulous article today.  For those of you who are completely incapable of clicking on links and would rather I just give a quick run down on the article, basically there’s a bloke from near Dundee who has decided that he wanted to raise money for the Haiti disaster. Great.  Much respect.  So far so good.   He decided that he’d get a tattoo.  Again, this is no big deal either really, though I immediately started to wonder how getting a tattoo would raise any money for charity, let alone £25,000 for Haiti.  Well the answer is simple really.  His idea was to set up a website and for a small donation anyone can enter their name into his competition.  I think it’s just over a pound to enter.  For example, The Steinberg Principle could enter.  You see, this lad has decided that once he’s raised the £25,000 target he will draw a name from the hat randomly and the name that wins, he will have tattooed onto his body!  He will then post lots and lots of pictures of this on a regular basis providing large amounts of publicity for the winner.  So lets say Tesco win.  Or Starbucks.   Or some other multi national corporation.  This lad is going to have their name tattooed on his body for life.  And he doesn’t even like tattoo’s!

Lets get something straight.  I love tattoos.  I always have.  I wanted one from the age of about 15 but I waited until I was 29.  I guess the reason for this was that I never knew what I wanted.  I spent a lot of time thinking about it but knew that when I eventually bit the bullet there would be no turning back.  It’s not something to take lightly.  It’s permanent body art so it should be special and mean something, like all art should.  So, to read that this guy is willing to walk about with a company’s name branded on his body for the rest of his life is quite amazing.  I actually have a lot of respect for him.  His comment that he won’t regret it as it will always remind him of what he did is really admirable.  I can’t ever imagine having to take my shirt of, say to go swimming, and walking into the pool with TESCO emblazoned across my back.  I can imagine the looks and the reaction to something like that.  It wouldn’t always be pretty of that I’m sure.  Walking about with a multi national’s name on your body really wouldn’t be a good feeling would it? 

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is an interesting and original idea for raising money for charity but I think I’d stick to shaving my head or running a marathon or something similar.  At least my hair would grow back and my bones/muscles would recover from the pain.  Mind you, I am tempted to enter The Steinberg Principle in this contest.  Most people don’t understand what that is anyways, so it’d be funny to see the guy trying to explain what it is and why he has it on his body. 

Anyways, if you want some publicity for your business then this seems like a fun and charitable way to achieve it.  The odds are only about 25000/1 that you’ll win.  Good luck.  You can enter the competition here.

Interview #14: The Stormy Seas

The Stormy Seas are Edinburgh’s most ramshackle, raucous, fun loving, beer swilling, sea shanty loving, scottish folk rockers.  Their live sets are jam packed with energy and they never fail to impress with their love of playing together as a band.  Unlike most they have carved out their own little niche and get better and better as a band.  Highly under-rated, if there is any justice, 2010 should see their profile and stock rise super fast.  Early demo’s are set to turn into professional recordings and hopefully you’ll be hearing a lot more about them this coming year.  Michael Tovey from the band has kindly taken the time to answer some of my questions in interview number 14 for this blog.  Top bloke.  Enjoy.

TSP:  The Stormy Seas certainly have carved their own little niche in the Edinburgh music scene in their short existence.  How was 2009 for the band and what are the plans for 2010?

MT:  2009 was a really good year. We practised as much as we could, worked on strengthening our set and played plenty of gigs. It was great fun and for most of us in the band our first proper experience of being in a band. The plans for 2010 are the same as 2009 really. Well just keep doing what we do.

TSP:  One thing I’ve always loved about the band is the fact that the ethos always seems to be about enjoying playing music together and anything that comes off the back of that is a bonus.  Do you feel that bands nowadays often lose their focus on what’s really important about being in a band?

MT: We’ve always said that its important to us to just enjoy ourselves and enjoy playing the music and hopefully that fun and passion comes across when we play live. I don’t really think that bands have lost sight of whats important. Its important to focus on making your music as good as it can be (as we do) and to take that kind of thing seriously is no bad thing. I do however prefer watching a band when i know they are enjoying themselves.

TSP:  The EP doing the rounds at the moment is great.  Very rough recordings, but raw and honest.  Are their plans to get something more ‘professional’ down this year and if so do you intend to try and retain the rawness of the current recordings, which seems to set you apart from other artists in the city?

MT:  Yeah we recorded the ep in various living rooms with an eight track. We just wanted to have something to hand out and sell at gigs but the plan is to start recording  something professional very soon. Were just going to start recording and see where it goes and what it becomes. The hope would be to try and retain the energy of the live set without it sounding rough as arses.

TSP:  I recently caught you guys at the Leith Tape Club where you played a much more stripped back set.  What struck me most about the songs were the 3 part harmonies, which shone through and how well the more upbeat numbers translated into a more acoustic set.  Who was that experience for you and are their plans to introduce more acoustic numbers into the full band sets?

MT:  It was really nice to strip down some of our more energetic songs and play about with them.  We have always worked on harmonies but i think it came across more with the stripped down dynamic at the tape club and that is something well probably look to incorporate somewhere into our set.

TSP:  People may not be aware that you used to be one half of the excellent Edinburgh promoters Rubix.  I saw some of my favourite Scottish artists for the first time at your nights.  What was the catalyst for ending the nights and do you miss running them?  Would you ever consider restarting the nights?

MT:  There was a couple of things really that lead to us ending the night. Firstly we had put on every band that we loved and really that was our only reason for running the night. We didn’t want to start putting on bands we wouldn’t normally go and see ourselves just for the sake of keeping it running. We also felt at the time that there was too much competition between the nights that were running at the time and not really much evidence of promoters working together to improve the state of the scene which i think has come along way since. My best friend martin who i ran rubix with has gone on to create sick kids sunday which is going from strength to strength and a few weeks ago boasted one of the best line ups ive ever seen in my life.

TSP:  In terms of venues in Scotland, do you have any particular favourite places to play?

MT:  My favourite venue personally is sneaky petes. Its small dark and when its full it really has a good energy. Ive always tended to prefer the small sweatbox type venues so for me its always going to be the sneakys, henrys and wee red bars of edinurgh over the voodoo rooms and grvs.

TSP:  Scottish music seems to be on the up and up at the moment.  What’s so great about Edinburgh in terms of music?

MT:  I don’t know if there are any more good bands than there has always been, maybe there is. I think we have blogs and websites and papers like the skinny now all talking about how great the scene is where as before it was more just lots of bands playing in venues but nobody was really talking to each other.  The music is amazing right now though. But it always has been in my opinion.

TSP:  Following on from this who are your favourite Scottish artists at the moment and if you had to put on a Rubix night this month, what would be your ideal line up?

MT:  My favourite Scottish bands at the moment and my ideal line up would   basically be the headline acts from sick kids Sunday a few weeks ago.  Woodenbox with a fistful of fivers, sparrow and the workshop and meursault with the inclusion of the wonderful withered hand to round it off.

TSP:  Do you have a record that you could never grow tired of?

MT:  One record i can just listen to again and again is loudon wainright III – Album II.  Motel Blues is one of my favourite songs of all time.

TSP:  Finally, can you tell us the best way to play a tambourine?!

MT:  Well one way not to play a tambourine as our banjo player Dav will tell you is dont bang it really hard off  your thigh repeatedly forgetting that your mobile phone is in your pocket.  Aw dav!

Anna Joskowiak

I want to introduce you to the photography of Anna Joskowiak.  I want you all to go and check out her work here.  I found her work through the current online exhibition ‘Beyond Words’ over at We Sink Ships and I instantly fell in love.  Her monochrome winter shots are some of the most beautiful things I’ve seen.  I love her work.  Do check it out.  Stunning.  Enjoy

Building Tall

In 2001 I started my masters degree in European Urban Conservation at the University of Dundee.  It effectively lead to me getting my current job working with historic buildings in this beautiful city in which I live today.  My masters degree was undertaken primarily by research and I chose to write a thesis entitled ‘Building Tall: An Analysis of a Controversial Urban Form’.  In short, I studied tall buildings and how they fit in the British urban context and impact on our architectural and cultural heritage.  When I started my project in the summer of 2001 there was not a great deal of material written on the subject and if I’m honest I was a bit lost as to where to start.  Then, in September 2001, the World Trade Centre attacks took place and the world went tall building crazy.  The internet was littered with essays about the engineering of tall buildings, safety, design and all of a sudden, the tall buildings that had been proposed in Britain, predominantly in London, came under major scrutiny.  In short, my thesis went from a daunting prospect because so little material on the subject existed to a daunting prospect as so much existed and I had far too much information to sift through to find the relevant material for my thesis.  I’m pleased to say that I managed and a copy of that thesis still sits on my bookshelf.  The subject still fascinates me, especially as since its completion tall buildings have even started to creep back onto the Edinburgh skyline (sadly).  Tall buildings will always be a controversial symbol of money and power, whilst at the same time act as a reminder of poverty and suffering.  How many building types can be associated with both ends of the spectrum in such a manner?

Anyways, the other day the BBC posted this article about World Trade Centre Tower 7, which was destroyed as a result of the 9/11 attacks.  This building’s collapse has always been controversial and raised many conspiracy theories.  It’s quite a fascinating discussion if you are interested in this sort of thing.  I am.  So I look forward to finding out just what caused the collapse of a building that should not have been so severely damaged by the attacks.   Enjoy.

We Sink Ships Exhibitions

By now you all know my love of the work of photographers We Sink Ships.  Well they have 2 wonderful online exhibitions over at their website at the moment.  One is entitled ‘Beyond Words’ and documents the works of a number of different photographers.  Photos inspired by books.  The second exhibition is entitled ‘Elements. Water’ and the photos in this, by Neil and Heidi, are pretty self explanatory.  Two excellent exhibitions that you should not hesitate in checking out.  Enjoy

Artist Profile: The Lotus Project

I am very aware that this week this blog has turned into a Kays Lavelle fest due to the release of ‘the hours’ and all the nice press that we’ve received.  I’m sure people who read this blog regularly probably quite enjoy the fact that it’s not all about me!  So I apologise for getting a little caught up in the Kays this week.

As way of an apology, I thought it would be nice to do a little artist profile on a group I recently stumbled upon.  Running Trampoline, I get a hell of a lot of messages asking for gigs.  I’m not sure if the bands realise that we only have a monthly slot, or even bother to read the blurb on our myspace page about “we’ll contact you” but more often than not we have our nights planned well in advance and we know who we want to play.  Also, quite often, the stuff I get sent is not stuff I’m going to be interested in putting on.  However, now and again an artist e-mails me asking for a show and they really do make an impression on me.  The Lotus Project are one of these artists.  These guys randomly e-mailed me the other week about getting a show and when I listened to them I really liked what I heard.  I asked them for some more tracks and the tracks they sent me were even better.  Really lovely stuff.  They appear to be a 2 piece and they appear to have only recently moved to Edinburgh and are slowly finding their feet in the Edinburgh scene.  So I thought I’d take the opportunity to introduce them.  The stuff I’ve heard varies from the full on to the sublimely delicate.  One track in particular called ‘walk the water’ sounds absolutely stunning.  Marie Claire Lee has a beautiful voice and the early indications for me are that these guys are one to keep an eye on.  You can check them out here.  Enjoy.

Last Year’s Girl and Hinterland 2010

Lisa Marie Ferla is a lovely girl.  Not only did she write a lovely review of my solo show at 13th Note in January, she’s now followed it up on her blog here with some more quite lovely words about the hours.  This has been a really amazing week Kays wise.  I never for the life of me expected the reaction that the song has received so far in the blogosphere.  It’s been pretty humbling.  I’m delighted people like it though.  Makes it feel like all the hard work and slog has been worth it.

The other great thing that happened this week was that The Kays have been confirmed for the Hinterland Festival in Glasgow which features some magic artists like Jeffrey Lewis, The Wave Pictures and British Sea Power as well as a great collection of local artists.  And I believe it’s all condensed into the 1 day this year and the venues are in close proximity to each other to make it easier to catch all the bands you want to see.  Anyways, there’s an early bird scheme running so if you are keen to get your ticket cheaper then you can go here and buy it now.  We’re really looking forward to playing and being part of it all, that’s for sure.

Another Nice Review

Just stumbled upon a nice little blog.  It’s not even just the fact that they’ve said nice things about the Kays than the fact they write about some really good music.  So yes, you can check out their words on the hours here but do stick around and browse the site for soem really good articles.  And a big thanks to them for writing about the hours.