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flag Scotland - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 30 - 03/31/99

Scot-band-land
exit winter, enter spring

It must be the Scottish climate which sends many of Scotland's musicians into hibernation over the long dark winter months... or, to be precise, it's the more successful variety of star - the brightly-coloured type with easily noticeable plumage, who seemingly go into a dark corner and don't emerge for some time. The smaller creatures still forage away and have been doing so for some time - but the only major release in the first part of the year was Cha Cha Cohen's first release for Chemikal Underground - and since the band all hail from the sunnier climes of Texas and, er, Leeds, perhaps working over the winter wasn't such a great hardship. Anyway, with the beats employed on said album the band and all their fans would be able to keep warm with all the toe-tapping this album induces. What else? Idlewild released When I Argue as a single, and in fact made the charts, but this was probably done without even waking them up as it was lifted from last year's Hope is Important album. The other odd thing was a record by a French DJ named Lucky Pierre, whose 2 tracks basically comprised a backbeat with a catchy piano/guitar thing on top. But instead of the ranting of a semi-sober Scotsman (can you tell who it is yet?) there's samples, one of an opera singer. And that may be a clue as to the reason for the cloak of secrecy. It's now clear that Lucky Pierre is Aidan Moffat (actually, 'Lucky Pierre' is a term for, well, this is a family publication, but follow Arab Strap's usual train of thought and you'll probably get there). The single is rather fine and if you can track it down, well, I'd be rather surprised, as will you.

So, come the melting of the first snows of spring, things were stirring in the (indie) undergrowth. National Park collaborated with Future Pilot AKA for a single, Norman Dolph's Money - Norm was the shoe salesman who put up the cash to record the first Velvet Underground album, and by way of tribute this track is a fast-moving instrumental true in the style of the band, without Nico. This trickle turned into a flood shortly afterwards as the big players awoke from their slumbers - Looper are Stuart David from Belle and Sebastian, and their Up a Tree album is a delightful mix of spoken word, samples and some convincing breakbeats and mixing. Quite the opposite of what you would expect, even the lyrics aren't all about childhood, first loves and little creatures in the wood. Not all of them, anyway.

Isobel Campbell's Gentle Waves side project is perhaps closer to the 'Belle and Sebastian' sound, but her Gentle Waves single is a bit different, there's a bit of a Sarah feel to it - well, the hard edge faction - and a Wedding Present guitar sound. Creeping Bent promise us a 'spring offensive', their 20-track Bentism album is a promise of things to come... it retails at the incredibly cheap price of 2.99 and is easily worth this even with the possible shipping charges, as it contains rare and unreleased tracks from everyone on the label including Adventures in Stereo collaborating with Vic Godard, the Nectarine No. 9 doing a Sun Ra cover, and many of the rare Singles Club releases from the likes of Secret Goldfish, Rev. Corps of Teenage Jesus and Policecat. Before I move onto the last item, I should point out that Spare Snare's long-delayed single on Third Gear of America, Bruising You, is finally out, and is, due to the delay, closer in essence to Live at Home than anything they've done for a while, which makes a pleasant diversion. Lo-fi isn't dead, it's just been sleeping, presuably.

So, the heavyweights are well and truly up and about, though the music they produce isn't always the most stirring. Luke Sutherland has actually been busy, though not musically, since Long Fin Killie split over a year ago. In fact, he wrote a book, Jelly Roll, which was shortlisted for one of the most prestigious UK literature prizes. Now he's back, with Bows, which is basically him doing all the instrumental chores, and various vocalists, such as Ruth Emond (of the Hollywood Gem single) and the cumbesomely-monickered Signe Hoirup Wille-Jorgensen vocalises on the single Big Wings. This is actually very unlike Long Fin Killie, being a sweeping blend of strings and the slightest hint of a beat. The term 'ethereal' might have been coined for just this occasion.

Until next time, pop pickers - is that the first chill of winter I feel in the air? I'll be inside if you need me...

Copyright © 1999 Stuart McHugh e-mail address

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