Sounds of the city

Published

Oisín Kealy and Robin Perkins

As ever, the Glasgow music scene is bubbling with new bands, new sounds and new directions. We take this opportunity to introduce a host of local talent from noise rock to future hip-hop, multi-instrumental collectives to transatlantic chamber-folk.

Bronto Skylift
Glasgow’s burgeoning noise, hardcore and math-rock scene may be reaching saturation point but amongst the drab imitators there is a host of local bands with a unique Glaswegian take on the guitars, drums and distortion set up. One such band is 2-man noise machine Bronto Skylift, apparently deciding on the duo formula after a string of unreliable and rather unsober bass players, the duo opted for a pedal instead. Though never reaching Lightening Bolt (unavoidable comparisons) in their experimental assaults, Bronto Skylift’s own brand of rock ‘n’ noise is formidable, if only for the hugely talented drumming of Iain Stewart and the guitar manipulation of Niall Strachan. Named after the hydraulic ladder system used by fire engines, they count themselves amongst fellow distortion loving name smiths Jousting with Dracula, Hey Dracula (not related) The Whisky Works and United Fruit.

Bronto, as they will no doubt be known by fanboys, are renowned for their intense live shows and their ability to produce the sound of a five piece metal band with just guitar, drums and a mystery rack of effects. Their debut EP, The Bearded Fish and Jackalope was released on Dino Rawk Records earlier this month and they will be touring Scotland and Ireland over the next month coming back to Glasgow on the 11th of November as
part of a podcast gig, more details to be announced soon.

Go Away Birds
This side project of sorts is composed of Zoey Van Goey’s MJ McCarthy and Catherine Ireton, the face and voice of Stuart Murdoch’s concept album, God Help The Girl. After two teasingly short EPs, they have proved to be, if not as good as the sum of their day jobs, certainly as good as either’s taken individually. They are not afraid of any genre that can be attacked with an acoustic guitar, from the jazzy staccato of Safe Sad You to the shoegazing Green Jackets featuring Stuart Murdoch. Though Ireton’s vocals were definitely the most striking thing about God Help The Girl, the densely populated instrumental landscape of the record meant that the Lily was not only gilded but sometimes encased in an ingot of Gold. Here the instrumentation is decidedly simple, yet never lacking as a propelling force. They give just enough space for Ireton to showcase her exquisite voice without distraction– exquisite is the most apt word I can find, though critics have hardly been short of superlatives to describe it. It’s maturity and classical beauty make it utterly singular, over-deployed terms like dulcet and mellifluous have waited their entire tenure in the English language to describe it. The track Transfer Tattoo, however, shows the band do not rest on this gift by throwing together a lazy tune. Between the leaping melody and gently bounding accompaniment, This is perfect as an indie-pop song gets. Both EPs are freely available online, and priceless in every way.

Second Hand Marching Band
This at times 20 member strong collective of instrument wielding folkies hail from across Scotland and the world. They have been winning audiences over with their warm, welcoming, melodic symphonies. Their sound draws lines between Beirut, post-rock, The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain and folklorica and their debut release A Dance to Half Death, though now sold out on CD is available for download from their myspace.

Reading through the bands members is like a who’s who of the Glasgow/Edinburgh alternative folk/DIY scene, counting members of How to Swim, Dananananaykroyd, Q without U and Eagleowl amongst their ranks. After a few gigs supporting bigger names, they will be appearing at the Define Pop Festival at Stereo on the 15th of November, check out their website to hear music from the various members own musical endeavours.

Punch and the Apostles.
Another many legged beast, this seven piece led by Paul Napier colour their high energy funk-punk with the usual guitar and piano, but bring music room staples like saxaphone and accordian to the fore, sounding a little like what Tom Waits might accomplish if he took over the school swing band. On first listen there are definite shades of Gogol Bordello, however unfair such a broad stroke would be, but what both indisputably share is a reputation as a force to be reckoned with when seen live. First single Asylum is a faultless, drunken mariachi anthem, and quickly earned them deserved attention. Napier’s vocal delivery quivers violently on the precipice of sanity just enough to compete with the storm of instruments surrounding him, but never at the expense of hitting the notes. As a mid-song sax solo segways neatly into what seems remarkably similar to the horn section in “I Love You Baby”, he doesn’t so much fall over the edge as canonball, underscoring the bridge with a bestial shriek. Next single I’m a Hobo continued the fascination with characters as unstable as their bassline are sturdy, and the band will soon be following on the success of these releases with their debut album this Winter.

LuckyMe! – Rustie & Hudson Mohawke
Pioneers of the Glaswegian hip-hop renaissance, LuckyMe is an artist collective, label and club night run by a group of beat loving musicians and artists. Their Ballers Social Club nights have been responsible for bringing some of the most unexpectedbly brilliant guests to Glasgow for the past two years. The two local producers/DJs to really break through from the stable have been Rustie and Hudson Mohawke. Hudson Mo’ releases his debut album Butter through Warp Records on the 12th of October and it looks set to launch the former Subcity presenter into electronic music orbit.

Alongside cohort Rustie, the two are pioneers of “aqua-crunkstep”, a contender for one of the best genres of the year. Their exploratory hip-hop shares it’s musical direction with the US’s own West Coast movement united by Flying Lotus and his Brainfeeder collective. The two clans came together last year for a west-coast hip-hopathon featuring Hud Mo’, Fly Lo and Rustie. Check out their crunked up sounds yourself at the Butter album launch party in Stereo on the 17th of October or an upcoming Ballers Social Night.

Sparrow and the Workshop
Coming at a time when a glut of chamber-pop bands that are “a bit folky” benefit from the reflected light of superstar forest dwellers like Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver, a band like Sparrow and the Workshop would have to offer something pretty distinctive to avoid relegation to the pile of Bella Union rejects littering the bedroom floor — Well, my bedroom floor. They do this in spades. The overriding feeling here is of an astute pop sensibility, most obvious on a track like The Cold-Hearted Twist and it’s girl group “oo-OO-oo”s, but apparent throughout their catalogue in the attention to melody. There is more than a touch of the supernatural about Sparrow, sometimes heard in their moody chord progressions, sometimes read in arcane lyrics. Most often it is lead singer Jill O Sullivan’s voice, her transatlantic twang just distant enough to be at once both spectral and sweet. This makes it the band’s most glorious instrument, Its employment on You Got It All is devastating in all the right ways as it travels from sultry drawl to penetrating heights. Sparrow and the Workshop will be embarking on a UK tour with Kill it Kid this October and have a seven track EP due out in November.