David Wenngren – Sleepless Nights

I was very fortunate to recently have the opportunity to play a show with David Wenngren better known under the moniker Library Tapes.  I cannot quite figure out how this is a solo piece, after all, Library Tapes is basically him on his own as well.  So I’m not sure whether to call this a solo piece or just David coming out from behind his Library Tapes persona and opening himself up to the world.  Whatever the reasoning behind the decision the music on this record is as simplistically stunning as anything I’ve heard before by him.

Lets face facts.  This kind of thing is not for everyone.  I could see the look of confusion on many peoples faces at his recent Edinburgh show.  It’s not really Scottish music, or at least it doesn’t seem to fit with what’s popular in this country.  Noise tracks complimented by fragmented piano playing.  It’s perhaps hard for people to get their heads around.  Where are the tunes?  It’s all just fragmented, discordant and at times a little grating.  To me though it’s nothing short of gorgeous.  Some of the little piano motifs are just wonderful.  The way that the strings drift in and the piano just flickers underneath is so affecting.   The way that the crackles and hiss and field recordings compliment the sparse piano lines is just great.  David Wenngren proves once again with this record that he is a master of his craft, whether he calls himself by his real name or his alias.

One thing I have really noticed of late is how this type of music, which was once considered to be a specialist sort of genre, is crossing over to the mainstream.  It’s something I discussed with Nils Frahm and with David himself after his show at the Bowery.  More people seem to be getting into this stuff, which is great news for me as it means I’ll be able to see people like David live more often.  In the meantime, check out David’s work here.  Enjoy.

Thing That I Love Today #65

“It must have a tinge of ginger, be full or if not full you must convince yourself into believing it is full and let it be bushy.  Let it sing! Let it scare un-bearded people! Let it take abuse of casuals and men who spend too much time shaving, let it disgust ladies and let it be touched by people who are in awe of it.” – ali downer (woodenbox with a fistful of fivers)

Radar Feature.

I have to say a massive thank you to Billy Hamilton and the guys at Radar on the Scotsman website for this piece.  It was interesting for me to get inside my own head and songs and Billy introduces us in a truly humbling way.  So yes, please drop over here and have a wee gander and thanks again Billy.  Billy and Lis from Radar have been massively supportive of everything I do, whether it be the Kays, Trampoline or even mini50 and I truly appreciate that support.  Great blog.  Great writers.  Have a look.  Enjoy.

Interview #19: Conquering Animal Sound

Photo by Heidi Kuisma

Conquering Animal Sound are Edinburgh residents James Scott and Anneke Kampman.   Having met at University the pair have been working together for some time developing their sound and working on songs, which will eventually be released later this year as a debut album.  The album will be a split release on Gizeh Records and I’m delighted to say mini50.  Having built a reputation for being an excellent live act the guys are nearly ready to release the record, and from what I’ve heard so far it will not disappoint.  To top off being exceptionally talented, for ones so young, they are both super lovely people and it’s a total honour to be involved in their record.  Tour dates and music can be found here.  If they are playing near you please make sure you get out and see them.  Their live shows are not to be missed.  They play the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh on Saturday 15th May 2010 with support from Adam Stafford and Dead Boy Robotics.  I will be there.  However, my mood will be directly affected by the Scottish Cup Final that day between Dundee United and Ross County.  James, you have been warned.  🙂  In the meantimes folks, enjoy as James takes a moment to answer some questions I put to them in this the 19th interview for the blog.

TSP:  How did the pair of you meet and when did you realise that you wanted to write music together?

JS:  We met at Uni three and half years ago, but it was maybe a year and a half a go we decided to start playing together. We both had loop pedals, so it seemed like collaborating on some musical ideas was a fun idea. I’d been playing solo for a while, which was fun, but I was feeling a sense of limitation within that, and I needed someone to collaborate with to take to my music further. Then we had a bit too much to drink one night at a gig, talked about the Wu Tang Clan and what we wanted to write, and that was it really.

TSP:  Did things just click or was there a period of getting to know how one another work and trying to make that all come together?
 There was definitely a long period of trying things out and trying to make them work, and it took six months from us starting playing together to play our first gig. We write music at a reasonable pace now, but there was a long period where we just played a pair of songs and were working on getting a rational set-up that would help us achieve what we wanted to do. Our electronics set-up, which is now a mixer, a few effects pedals, a loop pedal and a Kaoss pad, took a long time to reach, and it is by no means the finished article. In the writing and performing process, these tools are great for allowing us to come up with new ideas, but we’re keen to continually challenge ourselves, incorporate new hardware and devices to continue changing our sound and keep us challenged. There’s nothing like dancing on
pedals to keep yourself entertained onstage.

TSP:  Do you share similar tastes in music? Would you say your influences are evident in the music you make?

JS: Anneke and I do have quite different musical tastes, but similar enough musical aesthetic preferences that we write well together.  I’m into a lot of guitar music in a way that she isn’t, and she can be a lot more discerning than I am. But we both listen to similar techno artists, and similar hip hop things, we’re both massive fans of the Knife, and of Stephan Bodzin. The mix means we come from quite different musical places, and end up somewhere we wouldn’t go alone. Which is the point of playing with other people I suppose.

TSP:  How does the writing process work? Does one of you take the lead or is it all about throwing ideas out there and shaping them together?

JS:  It’s a fine balance. With the album we’ve been writing this year, I took the lead in writing a couple of songs, Anneke has written a few herself, we wrote a lot of tracks together, then recorded and produced them all together. We’ll write our own parts specifically, then arrange and order these, and there’s a lot of discussion about things – not many parts go undiscussed. Exhaustive, but worthwhile.

TSP:  The debut album is out later this year. When can people expect this and what can they expect from the record?

JS:  Hopefully August-September time. The album is a lot more developed and considered than the mixtape we put out last year, and I think they are much stronger as songs. There’s a lot of new material, a significant amount of which we’ve written in the studio, mixed in with some material we’ve been playing live over the past few months. There’s a lot of content that is very electronic, we got into a lot of different production ideas when recording, and sequencing a lot of the loops in the laptop really gave us a chance to structure the songs differently, condense ideas, and examine the way our tracks were developing. So it might be a bit different from what people would
expect, those that actually have expectations of it, but I’d rather it was like that. I’m really pleased with the way we’ve developed as a band throughout writing it, and writing in the studio has been really positive for us.

TSP:  First up is a 7″ split with the wonderful Debutant on Gerry Loves Records. How did that all come about?

JS:  The chaps from Gerry Loves Records, Andy and Paddy, got in touch with us after seeing us play in Glasgow, despite being Edinburgh based laddies themselves. Andy is involved with the great Off The Beaten Tracks podcast, which films bands doing acoustic sets in interesting places. They’re big vinyl fans, and we were really up for doing a release with them, especially with Debutant being involved with, who we’ve played with before, and is pure dead great. The 7″ came out on the 5th of April, and we’ll have plenty copies available on our tour in May.

TSP:  The record is coming out on the excellent Gizeh Records as well as mini50. How did you get hooked up with Rich and has the experience of working with Gizeh been a positive one so far (might rephrase this – I kind of mean what have you learned? i think).

JS:  We played with the super fantastic Fieldhead from Leeds – seriously readers, check him if you haven’t already – who also plays in Glissando with Rich, who runs Gizeh. Paul has been really good to us, and I think he must have contributed to Rich knowing about us, who then got in touch, and has since been really helpful and supportive himself. I don’t know the full story, but they’re both really lovely lads, constantly emailing us and keeping in touch. They also run a booking agency together, and Rich has been great in getting us a release schedule and tour sorted out. Top bloke, we’re very fortunate to have someone with so much experience and knowledge helping us along. We’re also really pleased that mini50 are involved in releasing
the record too, you’ve offered us a lot of support through Trampoline and the blog, and it’s great to be working with a local fledging label as well. Love-IN!

TSP:  Other than the album, what does 2010 hold in store for the pair of you?

JS:  After the May tour, I plan to be in the pub, watching as much of the World Cup as I possibly can. I’ll be supporting Algeria, in an expression of solidarity with the Algerian lads from the chip shop beneath my flat – it’s just coincidence that they are also in Englands group… Then it’s a long summer waiting for the football season to start up again, which will involve us starting up the Conquering Animal Sound DJ remix project, and starting writing again, so we have a little more time to write than we did on the new record. Hopefully we’ll be out on tour again in autumn time to promote the album when it comes out.

TSP:  You’re about to hit the road on tour. Is this the first time you’ll have played shows across Britian and how excited are you about the prospect?

JS:  It is the first time, and I’m experiencing a mix of musical excitement and travelling trepidation. Personally I’ve only ever played shows in Scotland, so it’ll be really great to get out and about. But because I’m driving, something I haven’t done terribly much of since I passed my test, so I’m probably going to be a stressful wreck across the piece. We recently did three shows around Scotland to promote our 7″ single, and we kept leaving gear behind, so we’ll need to make an exhaustive checklist of our gear, what Andy from Gerry Loves Records so rightly refers to as “the Idiot Check”. And it could be a struggle to find Irn Bru in England I imagine. Will need to stock
up before leaving.

TSP:  In terms of Scottish music, are there any artists out there who you’d like to draw to people’s attention? Any particular favourites?

JS:  We’re massive fans of Cheer, from Glasgow, who writes some really wonderful ambient music, and deserves a lot more attention than he gets. We played with Fox Gut Daata at a recent show – he did a great remix of one our tunes – and he is pure dead brilliant.  Personally, I’m a big fan of Wounded Knee, Jonnie Common, Fordell Research Unit, Dam Mantle, Dead Boy Robotics and Field Mouse. There’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on around, and we’ve been lucky enough to play with some of these guys at some point as well.

TSP:  What’s on the stereo at the moment?

Theophilus London – This Charming Mixtape
Pulp – His N Hers
Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me (having devoted a month to each disc
since it came out, it’s taken me a while to get to grips with the
entire thing. Truly wondrrrful stuff though)
Odd Nosdam – T.I.M.E Soundtrack
Dam Mantle EP
Stephan Bodzin – Liebe Ist.. (An ever present)

TSP:  If you could work with one artist who would it be and why?

JS:  It’s never occurred to me to get someone involved in collaborating or producing the band, but there’s actually a lot of friends – especially those that have done some great remixes for us – who it would be great to get involved in producing our music, as they’ve had really interesting perspectives on our sound. Thinking about it now, it’s actually something I’d like to do in the future, perhaps on an EP or something. But no-one big or famous, can’t be
doing with meeting heroes or anything like that. Enya mebbe.

TSP:  Finally, the world’s about the end and you can only listen to one more tune. What would it be?

JS:  Arab Strap – Girls of Summer (Live). The infamous nine-minute version from the Mad For Sadness album. Blissful dancefloor beats meets miserly lo-fi indie, with a lovely bit of noise-out in the middle. Cannae beat it.

When All Is Quiet

Ever feel like you take on too much?  Like you never seem to have a moment to stop and think?  That things get missed because you’re doing a million things at once and trying to hold down a full time job!?  Welcome to my world, where things just never seem to pause and my brain is working at a million miles a minute to try and remember all the things I have on the go.  Obviously there’s The Kays Lavelle.  We have the album launch shows coming up on 7th and 8th May – you can buy tickets now from we got tickets and we’d be grateful if you did as it makes the whole thing so much less stressful knowing that people are coming.  Ask anyone who promotes shows, knowing that tickets are being sold is a weight of any promoters mind.  People always say “don’t worry, people will come and pay on the door on the night”.  Thing is, a big promoter would cancel a show or move the show to a smaller venue if tickets were not selling.  We don’t have that luxury.  Once it’s booked it’s booked.  So yes, please do come along to Stereo in Glasgow on 7th or Wee Red in Edinburgh on 8th.  And if you can, pre-order your ticket now.  The album itself will be officially released on 17th May on Wiseblood Industries.  Probably the week before as a digital release.  Not sure yet how that will work.  We’ll see.  I’m very excited but also very nervous about the shows as the volcano fucked with our order and I’m now anxiously awaiting confirmation that the cds will be shipped on time.  It looks positive at the moment, but fingers crossed that the volcano behaves between now and then!

Outside of The Kays, I have a number of music projects on the go.  My solo EP entitled ‘Memorials’ will be released at some point this year.  Still working on the tunes.  It’s a much simpler affair than the Kays and, dare I say, bleaker too!  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time though and I’m enjoying working alone.  I think it’s going to be 4 tracks, maybe a bonus 5th one and it will be released digitally on Too Many Fireworks later this year.  I am however planning on making about 100 copies on cd to sell at shows and to people who are really keen to have the physical product.  Most likely these will be hand made and numbered limited edition.

I have two more music projects on the go as well.  One is with Heidi of We Sink Ships.  She took four sets of pictures for me and I’ve been working on interpreting them through music.  It’s very hard work but I am getting there slowly.  I have one of the tunes finished, which I am very happy with.  It’s a bit out of my comfort zone because it’s instrumental and has no vocals but it’s a lot of fun just sitting and trying to make these ideas come together without a vocal melody.

The other project I have on the go is with Chantal from Sleepingdog.  We don’t have a name for the project as yet but we’re working on writing songs together.  I write some and e-mail them to her.  She writes some and e-mails them to me.  When she is over touring in June and we are hoping to get the tracks recorded properly then – we shall see.  It’s been a lot of fun so far.  I think the tracks we’ve sent each other are sounding very positive.  So keep an eye out for something later this year or early next.  I’m thinking it will be a mini50 release.  But I’m not sure as yet.  Just enjoying the process for now.

Trampoline is kind of winding down.  I just cannot afford to keep the nights going on a monthly basis, so I’ve decided to stop the monthly shows for now.  We still have Conquering Animal Sound, Dead Boy Robotics and Adam Stafford on 15th May and Sleepingdog and myself on 2nd June but other than that, and the Xmas all day event, there’s no plans for running shows.  I think from now on we will react to opportunities rather than run a monthly night, which was becoming stressful and more and more difficult to keep interesting.   It makes more sense to me that we run Trampoline in this way.  That’s the plans anyway.

mini50 wise, things are really just beginning.  We have ‘The Best of Trampoline Volume 1’ ready now – well nearly, Russell is still to give me his bloody song!  Mammoeth’s record entitled ‘Nascent’ is due for release in June/July and then Conquering Animal Sound’s record will be out in August/September.  There are a number of other potential artists I want to get involved with but I think I’m going to hold off and see how these 2 albums get on.  I personally think both artists are great and the albums are sounding fantastic.  Keep and eye out at the mini50 page for more news.

The Smith/Chesnutt/Linkous tribute is coming together now.  We’re got 7 or 8 submissions and I expect another 7 or 8 before the posts start to go up on the blog.  I think it’s going to be pretty great and I hope people get behind it and buy the tracks to support the charity.  If you don’t know, the charity I have chosen to donate all the proceeds too is Depression Alliance UK.  I’m hopeful that the tunes will start to go up in the first week of May – though I have a pretty hectic week that week with the Kays launches so I am thinking the week beginning 9th May will be when the tunes and posts start to go up.  Thanks to all who have submitted so far.  There is still time if you want to send a tune.  I’m happy to accept contributions up to the date we start.

I have also been asked by Ed Stack to put a bundle together for Ten Tracks.  I am trying to organise this now – it’s not that easy!  Anyways, the idea being that I really want to put together a bundle of ambient, noise, drone and neo-classical music.  I really want to push some fantastic artists on people and use Ten Tracks as a means of getting some pretty great music, which is perhaps not as popular in Scotland, out to the masses.  That’s the aim anyways!

So I think that’s everything.  Though I could be wrong.  I will check my diary when I get home to make sure!

Invisible Elephant – The Lights Go Out

Sonic Reverie is a blog I found after Chris, who runs it, reviewed ‘The Hours’ by The Kays Lavelle.  Since I discovered it I have become a regular reader and follower of the blog.  This is mainly because Chris has a very, very good taste in music and writes about some really interesting and exciting artists, many of whom are new to me.  So, it was with real interest that this little number arrived in my inbox.  Basically, Chris is going to be re-releasing this record as a limited edition in May – more on that later.  I think it’s only available to download at the moment through the artists bandcamp page but it is a free download and having listened to it a number of times now, I would highly recommend that you go and download this record immediately.

I must admit that the name Invisible Elephant didn’t do much to fill me with confidence in the music I was about to listen to but if ever there was an advert for not judging an artist by their name then this is it.  This is just great.    It’s described as:

the project of one man and his assortment of randomly acquired instruments, ranging from frog guiros to pre-school toy drum kits. These are melded together with found sounds, synthesizers and spectral vocals to create a dream-like wash of psychedelic noise which defies simple categorisation. Veering from ethereal softly-spoken psych folk to walls of monolithic feedback in a heartbeat, it’s difficult to pin the sound down to one genre.

I have to be honest and say I couldn’t describe it better if I tried!  So I won’t try.  What I will say is that this record is a fine balancing act of delicacy and ferocity.  The vocals add a lovely dreamy texture to the more shoegazey moments before some of the tunes assault the sense with some serious noise attacks.  If you like the likes of Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky and Sigur Ros then I think  you’ll love this.  That’s not to say it sounds anything like these bands, cause it doesn’t.  It has it’s own identity and very well crafted take on ambient/noise music.  Don’t mess around, go and check this young man from Blackpool out now.  Maybe if we all buy the record we can help him get out of Blackpool??  Only joking!

You really should check out this record here and if you are really interested Chris will be releasing this, I’m assuming through his blog,  on 10th May.   It will still be free download from the bandcamp site but there will be a limited run of 50 homemade, hand numbered cdrs which will come with 2 bonus tracks and an extended edition of Wind Up Bird (these won’t be for the people downloading it free).  In the meantime.  Enjoy.

Mammoeth – Nascent

I feel like a doting father this morning for the second time.  This time the subject in hand is not my son Roddy but my new baby, the debut record by Mammoeth.  Russell gave me a physical copy of the record last night and it’s beautiful.  It really, really is.  And there in all its glory it states “mini50 records – M5001.”   Our name and our first catalogue number.  I am really rather stupidly excited about this.  I’m such a nerd!  It kind of feels like we’re no longer just talking about being a record label, we are a record label.  We have a record to sell.  Well, not to sell quite yet, but soon. 

And what a great record it is too.  I think a lot of people are going to like this record, and being released in the summer is just perfect timing for this lovely piece of, what Russell describes as, “sour pop”.   I really hope this gets Russell the credit he deserves as a songwriter and as a musician.  Not many instruments on the record are not played by the man himself, which is no mean feat.  It’s a delicious slice of summer pop and I think a lot of people are going to really like this record.  Sure, a bit like the Kays, Mammoeth might not fit the “folk” bracket, which is predominant in Edinburgh.  But I guarantee that this record is going to impress far and wide.  I cannot wait for its release, which is now looking like July to coincide with Russell being able to play some live shows.  Anyways, in the meantime, check Mammoeth out – and download the whole record – here.  I am going to spend some time with my new baby this morning.  Then I’m going to pick up my real baby later on.  You guys have a great weekend and enjoy Mammoeth.

eagleowl – Into The Fold

Is this a new EP?  Well, it’s a new release for sure but the songs are old for the most part.  For as long as I have known Bart he’s been playing ‘Into The Fold’.  Around about the time of ‘For The Thoughts You Never Had’ the songs from this EP sort of just disappeared from the eagleowl live set.  When I first saw them, a live set consisted pretty much of 3 songs, such were the length of their tunes.  Into The Fold was one of these songs.  Morpheus also got a lot of live airings, Bart sitting and playing a glock instead of a guitar.  It was a lovely change of pace in a set and it’s a lovely change of pace on this record too.  I could say that eagleowl just get better and better, but that would be wrong in this instance due to the age of some of these tracks.  I mean, we’re talking 4 or 5 years old in some cases, I think.  I might be wrong.  Perhaps they do get better and better, but this record will hopefully hit home that they have ALWAYS been this good.

This record is a true testament to songs developing and maturing over time.  To artists learning how to play the songs.  To make them breathe.  I guess they didn’t feel right for a first release.  I don’t know.  However, they are simply beautiful pieces of music.  In particular EP finisher ‘No Conjunction’.  The violin melody at the end of this track is just heavenly.  I am pretty sure it’s another track from the eagleowl archives.  It just shows how good these guys are and have been for so long.  They deserve all the success and attention they get.  They deserved it at the time they wrote these songs.  I am so glad they are out there in the public domain now.  This is the eagleowl I fell in love with all those years ago in the Wee Red Bar.  Simply beautiful.  No other word will do.  Please make sure you check out eagleowl here and buy the new EP.  Enjoy.