Archive for the ‘Music: Review’ Category

Review: Conquering Animal Sound – On Floating Bodies

Conquering Animal Sound

Conquering Animal Sound - On Floating Bodies
“Something new with an old shape”

In 2011, Scottish folktronica act and loop pedal enthusiasts Conquering Animal Sound burst into the consciousness of the Scottish music scene with their first LP Kammerspiel, released on Gizeh Records. It was an experimental record to be listened to without distraction, attention focused on Anneke Kampman’s delicate vocals amidst a chaotic symphony of crackles, bells, and synth hums co-created with James Scott.

Kammerspiel was an album that instantly hooked me. It presented something completely different from what I had come to expect from Scottish music and it brought great pleasure to me to see the duo shortlisted for the inaugural Scottish Album of the Year award in 2012.

Off the back of their critical success, the wait for Conquering Animal Sound’s follow-up album has been mercifully short-lived with the release of ‘On Floating Bodies’ on Chemikal Underground Records last week. The duo’s second outing features the familiar clicks and glitchtronica that define the CAS sound, whilst retaining the focus on Anneke’s enchanting Bjork-like vocals – a genuinely unavoidable comparison, sorry, Anneke – at the forefront of every song. However, ‘On Floating Bodies’ is a fuller, more confident record which has broken free from the shackles which kept Kammerspiel so finespun.

Speaking to Stu Lewis about their latest LP on The Tidal Wave of Indifference, James exalts: “We wanted more overtly electronic elements…to create more rhythmic sounds, and that came out in quite a direct fashion.” ‘On Floating Bodies’ certainly achieves this, expanding on their pre-established sound with layers of electronic loops, chirps and chimes which are entirely more striking in comparison to their previous outing. The far-reaching ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ is rife with 8-bit frills and Super Mario-inspired notations that trick my brain into thinking that I’m listening to the layers of this song converge to a catharsis, inside a busy arcade.

‘On Floating Bodies’ takes a curious though pleasant turn in its second half as CAS’s new found confidence starts exhibiting surprisingly poppy hooks. ‘Gloss’, ‘Treehouse’ and ‘A Noise Remains’ are all evidence of this, the last of these in particular standing out as Anneke repeatedly proclaims the line “move back and back and forth” with authority. The lush melodies on these tracks showcase Anneke’s vocals in a way that will be alien to those who are unaware of her recent solo work as ‘ANAKANAK’ and further demonstrate the influence of Anneke and James’s solo projects on this record. James, of course, is the man behind the swash electronic sounds of

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The Japanese War Effort.

The unique soundscapes that I fell in love with in ‘Kammerspiel’ are still present in ‘On Floating Bodies’ but they have been noticeably altered in accordance with a confidence and enthusiasm for music-making that the band has developed over the past 18 months. Anneke and James have managed to preserve the haunting qualities of CAS’s previous work, but have unfettered the electronic elements to instil more vibrant melodies and textures to their music.

This is by no means a reinvention of Conquering Animal Sound, though; it is a further expression of the qualities they possess which made people sit up and take notice.

On Floating Bodies is out now and available to purchase from Chemikal Underground Records.

Review: Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

Frightened Rabbit

Pedestrian Verse cover “There is light but there’s a tunnel to crawl through” In an interview with Lily and me for In Session in August last year, Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison explained that ‘Pedestrian Verse’, the band’s fourth studio album, was going to be a necessary step out of his comfort zone. This was not because the band were partnering with Atlantic Records, their first major label, having called time on an illustrious relationship with Fat Cat Records which spawned three records, including the sublime ode to

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embittered lovers ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’. No, Pedestrian Verse marks the evolution of Frightened Rabbit, the band, as Scott relinquishes his monopoly over songwriting to produce a more collaborative record. “With the last one,” he told In Session (the interview in full can be found here), “I started to get bored of my own habits in writing.” Scott referred, by “the last one” to the warmly received 2010 release ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’. “In opening the writing up – not the lyrics, the music – to the rest of the band, it’s a lot more interesting and you can hear everyone else’s input. It’s a lot less my project and more of a band now really.” Pedestrian Verse certainly sounds like a Frightened Rabbit album only… different. The great appeal of Scott’s songwriting remains omnipresent and, like Midnight Organ Fight and The Winter of Mixed Drinks, the band continues to marry, to quote Scott, “uncomplicated music with reasonably complicated themes” and “weird, twisted lyrics to what is essentially a pop song”. Fundamentally, the band’s affinity with musical juxtaposition remains in songs like Backyard Skulls, an anthemic ditty about macabre suburban secrets sung over an exuberant backing track. However, Pedestrian Verse truly reflects the band maturing in their sound, moving towards a richer, symphonic arrangement which one assumes has been brought forth through a combination of the new collaborative songwriting process and major label influence. Frightened Rabbit’s musical arrangements now experiment with pacing, tone and a touch of reverb. Pedestrian Verse sheds the folk influences from their sound and eases towards gloomy anthemic rock songs. That is not to say that they are on their way to standing alongside The Twilight Sad in that respect, far from it. At a stretch, you can hear echoes of Interpol lurking in the chorus of the devastatingly bleak ‘December Traditions’ as Scott refrains: “It’s not the answer, I’m just begging to be told/ What do you need, what do you need from me?” December Traditions best demonstrates the pacing at play, as the backing drums and guitars hold the line throughout Scott’s lonely lament, before staggering out in defiance: “Love’s labour stains a linen sheet/ The ghostly body who makes his bed beside you/ Is slowly losing teeth”, Scott sings. The changes are numerous yet subtle, but they reveal themselves quite clearly when held up to the light of the band’s previous offerings. Production values have noticeably increased, naturally. Stand-out songs The Woodpile and State Hospital sound slicker, grander, with an almost cinematic quality behind them that drives lyrics through your chest as the songs unfold with orchestral flourishes. I can’t help but think songs like those and the extraordinarily blunt album closer Oil Slick (blunt even by Scott’s standards) would have lost their impact if they had come during The Winter of Mixed Drinks, where the poppy backing got out of hand. The pacing is very deliberate on Pedestrian Verse and the instrumentals are now over their identity crisis; the band saves the raucous energy, using it only when necessary, in favour of a more reserved slow build that champions the band as whole. Pedestrian Verse is an album of songs that beg to be sung on the grandest stage. It signals a triumphant return to the dizzy heights they set themselves with The Midnight Organ Fight. Good to have you back, boys. originally posted on

Franz Ferdinand @ Mono’s 10th Birthday Party

Mono Glasgow

General public reaction to my excitable “I went to see Franz Ferdinand on Friday night!” squeals has been a mixed bag of jealous delight and the slightly more dismissive “huh – I didn’t know they were still on the go”. So long has it been since their third album, Tonight, released way back in 2009 that unless you happened to catch them at one of their festival appearances this summer, they probably had fallen right off the radar.

Artsy café/bar/venue/record shop Mono was host to the band’s first gig in their home town for four years, with a small audience full of friends, fans and other arty Glasgow types keen to wish Mono a happy birthday. Other artists on the bill wowed in their own ways: getting the night started, Muscles of Joy are a wonderfully quirky all-female band, each of whom played a whole variety of unusual instruments. On the other hand, demonstrating the wide variety of music that Mono supports, RM Hubbert is a fantastic Glaswegian guitarist and emotive songwriter who has worked with the likes of Aidan Moffat and Alex Kapranos. His sense of humour equally did not disappoint.

Muscles of Joy

Muscles of Joy at Mono, Glasgow 16/11/12

As headliners, Franz Ferdinand flew straight into ‘Take Me Out’ with as much exuberance and energy as they displayed during their early performances. All the biggest hits were ticked off – ‘

Matinée’, ‘Do You Want To’, ‘Ulysses’ – along with a couple of other classics, including debut single B-side ‘Shopping for Blood’. A rock steady cover of Dr Feelgood’s ‘Roxette’ went down well with the crowd. Throughout, the band really appeared to be enjoying themselves, making the gig all the more satisfying for the punters.

Franz Ferdinand @ Mono

Franz Ferdinand at Mono, Glasgow 16/11/12

Among these well-known tunes, Franz Ferdinand played a few new songs, which seemed to hint at a step away from the heavier synth that dominated Tonight and back towards their guitar-driven debut album – let’s take a moment to absorb this and then breathe a collective sigh of relief. ‘Stand in the Horizon' was

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a particular favourite although ‘I’ll Never Get Your Bullet Out of My Head’ was also a force to be reckoned with.

Back in 2002, Franz Ferdinand formed with the aim of making guitar music that “girls could dance to”. Ten years later, they’re still writing great songs and if their, albeit far too short, set on Friday was anything to go by, the girls are most certainly still dancing.

(… and happy tenth birthday to Mono, the kind of inclusive, independent venue that every city

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needs – Scotland’s music scene wouldn’t be the same without you xoxo)