The Scottish Enlightenment – St.Thomas

Well over a year ago I first spoke to David Moyes, lead singer for The Scottish Enlightenment.  At that point the bands myspace page was out of date and they had been in hiding for quite some time.  I had been trying to get them to play Trampoline for some time without success and I decided to take another stab at it.  New tunes had crept on to the radar on their website, such as ‘Necromancer’, and what I heard I loved.  I also suggested to David that the songs on myspace should be changed to the more up to date tunes, something a bit more representative of their current sound.  And I finally managed to convince them to play Trampoline at last December’s all day event.  Sadly, most people in the city decided to attend the closing down of the Bowery party (yep, celebrating the closing of a venue, the irony is not lost on me) and so they played to a skeleton crowd that evening.  Quite simply, anyone who witnessed that performance, like myself, could not fail to be blown away.  I immediately asked them if they’d play The Kays album launch in Edinburgh this year – even though we had not booked any dates at that time.  That’s how much I loved that show and performance.  So, having heard them live and heard the new tunes seeping out I was very excited about them releasing their debut album in 2010.

First of all though came 2 eps.  The Pascal EP impressed me majorly.  The Little Sleep EP however was, for me, a disappointing follow up. Despite this, my hopes and expectations for this album remained high, having heard many of the tunes at their live shows already.

I’m delighted to say that I have not been disappointed in the slightest by this album.  Far from it in fact.  The Scottish Enlightenment are quite simply a band to get excited about.  A band for Scotland to be proud of.  Yes, there are serious nods in direction towards their main influences, but they are no wannabes.  They have their own identity and this record is packed with interest, diversity and quality song writing.

Despite not enjoying the last EP, title track ‘Little Sleep’ is an excellent tune.  Marching drums drive the track on as Moyes sings “all we need’s a little sleep and we’ll be fine”…you have no idea how relevant that has felt this past week.  ‘Pascal’ is a recognisable beauty from The Pascal EP but ‘Necromancer’ was held back from previous releases and is a brilliant tune – probably the album stand out for me – with a stunning guitar build…incidentally not played on guitar live!  It’s on tracks like ‘Necromancer’, ‘List Right’ and the quite simply gorgeous ‘Soft Place’ that The Scottish Enlightenment really shine.  Oh and ‘My Bible Is’, is another cracking track.  In fact, there’s nothing I really want to criticise about this record at all.

I love the honesty in the lyrics of this album.  I like the fact that there is no ego to The Scottish Enlightenment, quite possibly the nicest, most unassuming bunch of guys I’ve ever met through music.  I like this band very, very much.  The guitar swells.  The interesting bass lines.  The perfectly delivered lazy vocals. Quite simply this, along with The Phantom Bands ‘The Wants’, is one of the stand out albums by Scottish artists in 2010.  Do yourself a favour and make sure you invest your time and money in The Scottish Enlightenment.  Check them out here.  Enjoy.

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Sketches For Albinos – Days Of Being Wild And Kind

Isn’t the art work for this record just beautiful?  I think it is.  Fortunately, everything else about this record is pretty great too.

A friend of mine sent me a message recently telling me that this record, in his opinion, in the world of ambient music, is a masterpiece in terms of construction.  A work of art if you like.  Given that his own music can take years to produce, and for him to be satisfied with, that was high praise indeed.   And I completely understand where he is coming from, if I’m perfectly honest.

Matthew Collings is new to our Edinburgh streets.  He moved here recently, having spent many years living in Iceland, to do a post graduate University course in music.  Sketches For Albinos is the moniker he works under, though I believe he has released music under his own name, and this is his latest offering; a 6 year labour of love, entitled ‘Days of Being Wild and Kind’.

When I first heard this record, having been introduced to Matthew’s work by Paul Elam (Fieldhead), I was genuinely blown away by the creativity and intensity on offer, if a little confused by the overall cohesiveness and impact of the record.  This is a complex, dense record, make no mistake.  And let us get this straight; it is also a very disjointed record.  Each track seems to stand on its own, with different styles and directions somehow being pulled together through the stage that has been created, upon which the tracks are allowed to perform.  In many ways it makes me think (weirdly?!) of an opera of sorts.  All the parts have a common end in site, but the component parts drift off on tangents.  Lots of different sub plots, all held together by one story.  I know, that’s a little messed up, but it’s how this record makes me feel.  It’s as much about the surrounding cast, the background, the stage set as it is the lead characters and it’s this attention to detail that pulls the record together and gives it a firm sense of identity.

Every piece of this puzzle has its place.  Every noise, every element is lovingly considered and adds to the overall atmosphere created.   But it is dense.  Believe me.   So, as mentioned, this record is not always an easy listen.  Sometimes there is so much going on it really does take repeated listens to dissect the beast.  But if you take the time and really give this record attention there is much reward in the music on offer.

The album is described by Matthew himself as being “born from a process of making tapes and attempting to record with things I didn’t understand.”  For me, this sounds like a very personal record.  It evokes thoughts of the surroundings from where it was born.  The environment of Iceland, where Matthew was living at the time, certainly, for me, comes across in the music, never more so than on album opener ‘Sorbonne Midnight’.  And a winter feel is undeniable throughout the album.   Meanwhile tracks like ‘Daniel Likes Birds’ a beautiful piece of guitar (I think) complimented by vocal backing noises rather than words, lift the record to warmer climes.

For me, the essence of this record is that it doesn’t matter which track you listen to, it feels like a huge amount of time, thought and love has been put into the construction.  Like I said, it’s evoked a reaction me like no other record I’ve heard this year.  It’s a fascinating piece of music and it sucks me in deeper and deeper with each listen.  I love it.  Give it time and I am sure you will too.  You can check out Sketches for Albinos here and buy the record here.  Enjoy.