Teenage Fanclub’s Francis Macdonald on his new classical suite

We chat to Teenage Fanclub drummer, and classical composer, Francis Macdonald about his latest offering, Hamilton Mausoleum Suite


This interview originally featured in The Skinny

“I haven’t really had anyone to show me the way, I’ve just been following my nose.” It might not be a usual trajectory – successful drummer to acclaimed instrumental composer – but over the past few years Francis Macdonald, backbeat of genre-defining Scottish pop-rock legends Teenage Fanclub, has eased seamlessly into the classical world.

An integral element of The Fannies, he also manages bands pivotal to the Scottish music family tree, The Vaselines and Camera Obscura. Then there’s his soundtracks for films and music for TV, from blockbusters to documentaries, gameshows and adverts. There’s art-crossover projects and work unearthing lost Hebridean songs; he’s also a teacher and a record label manager. But it’s Macdonald’s move into the role of classical composer that he’s becoming more confident and comfortable with.

The classical work has crept up on him, he admits, hands warming around a soya latte on a bright, chilly morning in a bustling Italian cafe in Glasgow’s West End. He suggests his interest was sparked through a combination of turning 40 some years back, reading a couple of articles or listening to Desert Island Discs. “I started revisiting classical tunes and I realised that I would have to make an effort to get to know this music, it wasn’t just going to come to me,” he recalls. “My background was always pop-rock and there were real false starts in the past with trying to get into classical music. But in the past few years I’ve just been open to it.”

In 2015 he released his debut neo-classical album Music for String Quartet, Piano and Celeste, which he says was an incredible learning process, leading him to decide that he wanted to be solely responsible for his own compositions. “Either you delegate or you try and learn what’s going on,” he states. “At the end of it I ended up doing something that a few years ago I would have thought I wasn’t capable of, I would have thought that’s the sort of music other people make, but I sort of bullied myself into doing it,” he laughs.

“I’m self-conscious about not being trained but no one’s told me I can’t do this music,” he adds. “I’m respectful of people that do have that training and education but I don’t want to be respectful to the point that I think myself out of having a go. If a punter hears a piece of music and likes it, they don’t know how that was arrived at and it shouldn’t really matter.”

Macdonald’s latest work, Hamilton Mausoleum Suite, is inspired by a unique historical landmark that’s punctuated much of his life. It’s a work of exquisite, emotive instrumental beauty featuring soloists from The Scottish Festival Orchestra. The pieces are blanketed in soaring strings, impish minimalism and mournful melodies that interplay with the elongated echo of the unusual space.

Once holding the record for the longest echo of any manmade structure, the Hamilton Mausoleum is both a symbol of familial devotion and a display of vulgar wealth and folly. There are whispering walls, Masonic symbols and tales of the 10th Duke who built the structure but died before seeing it completed. At one point he was buried in an Egyptian sarcophagus inside, and the story goes that his legs had to be broken so he could fit in it. Stone lions guard the back of it, and the structure now lies bare of human remains following flooding and subsidence.

“I’m fond of [the mausoleum] but there’s a bit of a glint in my eye as well about the whole thing,” Macdonald suggests. “It was a great focus to hang things on, and gave it all defined parameters and a story, I need that I think.”

The album was recorded in one cold autumn day in November 2016, with all participants in the one space and with minimal post-production edits. There was a lot of music to get through in a small time frame, so the five musicians worked hard in challenging conditions. “Right at the end when everyone had left I just had to walk around this complete darkness blowing out candles with the torch from my iPhone,” he recalls. “It felt like the end of a really special experience. To hear stuff in that environment was pretty special.”

Due to the unique nature of the building, Macdonald had to reiterate just how reverberant the room was. “If you just move your feet and stand that noise will go on and you have to stand still until it dies again. That gave the whole thing a bit of a charged atmosphere.”

He admits he’s still finding his way in the classical world, though feels on the right track, gaining more confidence with time and experience. With his latest work he was surprised that it sounded even better than he’d expected. “I was talking to Stuart Murdoch (Belle & Sebastian), who I think has often written his own string arrangements, and he said something about [having] these notes on paper and then [the musicians] start playing and it’s like they’re reading this code, it’s like a magical thing. I knew exactly what he meant. When they just look at black dots on a piece of paper and this music starts appearing and is played so well, it’s pretty special.

“I have to learn that if you’re going to write for these instruments you can’t be constantly surprised by the sound of one note on a violin, you’ve got to know what it’s going to sound like and maybe I’m getting better at that but it’s still a magical thing. Hopefully there will be more magical moments.”



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Roddy Woomble on The Deluder


This interview originally featured in The Skinny

Roddy Woomble returns with a fourth album under his solo guise, signalling a shift that puts him further from his perceived folk roots

 It’s the day after Roddy Woomble’s birthday when The Skinny catches up with the Edinburgh native. He’s at home in the Hebrides, having spent an uneventful day mostly reading rather than celebrating. He’s less keen on birthdays the more he has, but is content with the peaceful island life he’s built. He’s now been involved in writing and performing for more than half of his life, with two successful concurrent musical paths in Idlewild and the output under his own name. “I don’t really think of myself as a solo artist and I never really have done,” he states. His new record, The Deluder, is very much a group effort, one that comes from a well-established collective of impressive musicians.

This album should also help to quash the folk label that’s often tagged on to much of Woomble’s work, something he’s always found odd. “I don’t really like folk music… I always find it weird when I’m called a folk musician,” he admits. “I’m not really wild on singer-songwriters. I always found it quite strange that that’s what people saw me as. People still find it surprising that it’s not just me sitting on a stool playing acoustic guitar, emoting. It’s me with a five-piece band doing quite interesting music. That’s still something that we’re trying to get away from; trying to get people to realise that it’s quite a different thing from what they expect.”

It’s over a decade since Woomble’s first release under his own name and this album is a world away from his debut. “The Deluder sounds like a different recording artist if you listen to that against My Secret is My Silence,” he suggests. It has a much more minimalist, spacious feel, infusing elements of jazz and unconventional sounds and melodies. Some of the tracks on the album were initially written with Idlewild in mind, but were deemed more atmospherically applicable to the other project. “We were trying not to make it this big full thing… using those [available] elements and that’s what’s really good about minimalism in any form of art,” he tells us. “If you don’t have access to red or yellow, you just have to paint with the other colours, and that can make a really interesting painting too. Similarly with music, that’s the way we were approaching it.”

The Deluder is perhaps a little more introspective and slightly darker than previous efforts. Woomble’s vocal is comfortingly familiar, though richer with time and age, but sonically the songs reveal innovative textures and concepts on repeat listens. “I really love electronic music and I was really keen to get an element of that without it sounding like me trying to go into a genre that I’m not really known for or comfortable in.”

Woomble has been in the Hebrides for most of the time he’s been releasing music under his own name. Undoubtedly this will have influenced his music and lyrics, but he certainly doesn’t feel remote or removed from the world, with regular touring a large part of his life. “I prefer not to be surrounded by people and that’s why I live where I live. And that’s not because I don’t like people, it’s because I spent 15 years living in big cities and I just kind of got fed up of it. It’s natural to change as you get older.”

He enjoys feeling tucked away from the rest of the world, but wouldn’t rule out a change in the future. “I remember having a conversation with [the poet] Edwin Morgan about that, because he lived in Loch Tummel for years and around that time I couldn’t believe why you’d want to move back from this beautiful spot to Anniesland [in Glasgow] where he lived. And he was like ‘As I got older I wanted to be surrounded by life, by young people, by things going on’. It’s a very natural thing to get to a point in your life when you want to escape that but it’s also probably quite a natural thing when you want that back in your life.”

The Deluder will take the band on an extensive tour of the UK and Ireland, with some dates in Europe where he hasn’t been before with the solo group. He says that Idlewild didn’t have much success in Europe, suggesting that being signed to a major label was detrimental. “A noisy, slightly off-kilter band from Scotland were just kind of getting lost… we would have been much better off being on an independent label,” he reflects. “I often thought that about Idlewild, but I don’t have regrets. Particularly in America as well, we probably would have done quite well if we’d have been signed to an independent.”

Woomble is constantly evolving as an artist in both bands, not wanting to rehash the past or become a sort of nostalgia act. “[Idlewild] had a moment when the average man on the street would whistle our song, but largely we’ve existed for music fans and that’s a nice place to be,” he says. “The general vibe towards the band was really positive [with the last Idlewild record]. Hopefully I’m going to find that with this solo record too. What I’m hoping is that I can find people that haven’t listened to me before, and similarly with the next Idlewild record, we’ll hope that there will be a whole new group of people that will be ready to listen to the band.”

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Sacred Paws on winning the SAY Award 2017


This report originally appeared in The Skinny

We recap last night’s Scottish Album of the Year Award festivities in Paisley

Amidst the elegant Victorian splendour of the Paisley Town Hall for the second year running (in support of the town’s City of Culture 2021 bid), the sixth Scottish Album of the Year Award ceremony opens with comperes and king and queen of Caledonian music radio, Vic Galloway and Nicola Meighan.

Last year’s SAY Award winner Anna Meredith emerges with full band; the jarring, menacing synths and furiously-pounded drums filling the cavernous room along with a wild cacophonous mix of strings, vocals, guitar, clarinet and tuba. Next up are The Spook School with their chirpy, C86-inspired indiepop, before this year’s shortlisted acts are presented with a 3D-printed souvenir of their achievement.

Roars of appreciation greet each of the ten acts as they collect their original art and heartfelt hugs from the hosts. Pictish Trail‘s disappearing act hints at his stand-up past life as he eventually appears having been waylaid in the press room, leaping from the stage to the podium and treating us to a selection of primal howls. Elephant Sessions provide some excellent toe-tapping trad whilst Be Charlotte combine beautiful, energetic pop with the incredible vocal gymnastics of Charlotte Brimner; two acts further illustrating the healthy diversity of Scotland’s musical landscape, one that so successfully saves space for each and every genre.

Then it’s on to the announcement of 2017’s winners, with the much-tipped Sacred Paws taking the £20k prize for debut record Strike A Match. They were clearly a favourite if measured by the crowd’s reaction and pre-show chatter, with music fans and fellow artists hailing this year’s winner – an album of shimmering sunshine pop riffs and rhythms. Sacred Paws, however, are shocked and a little bit speechless.

Sacred Paws on winning the SAY, and plans for the future

We catch up with the beaming Sacred Paws duo Rachel Aggs and Eilidh Rodgers, fresh from their victory. “I actually can’t believe it,” states Rodgers, with Aggs adding: “We’re still processing it.”

“I guess it means my dad is going to take it seriously now,” laughs Rodgers. “[He’s] going to stop asking me about a career. It will be fun to tell him.” She adds: “It could have gone either way. Unfortunately I had a lot of friends that kept saying [we’d win] and I think that made it worse, it made me feel more nervous!”

The duo suggests that Rock Action label bosses and fellow award nominees Mogwai will be happy with the result, despite the band’s Atomic soundtrack missing out on the top accolade. “There were a lot of incredible albums on the long- and shortlists,” says Rodgers. “A lot of people that we really love as well. Ela [Orleans, fellow shortlisted artist] played at our album launch; she’s just our favourite, she’s incredible, so I hope we’re still friends!” she laughs.

The SAY Award has changed the lives of some of its previous winners, with the money a crucial cash injection for their professional musical careers. “I hate disappointment so we won’t have any expectations,” admits Rodgers. “If our lives change that would be a good thing I’m sure,” she says, joking that she’s now quit her job at iconic Glasgow record store Monorail.

“There are a lot of awards but the SAY Award seems a bit more grassroots and a genuinely supportive thing,” says Rodgers. “They kind of started it for that reason so I think it’s in keeping with the more sort of DIY kind of culture in Glasgow. It’s cool because they always recognise the smaller acts like us.”

The band plans to play more live shows, including touring with Mogwai, with Aggs set to move up permanently to Glasgow from London. “It will be so much easier now if you live here,” Rodgers enthuses to her bandmate. “It’s going to be great, it’s going to be so much better from this point onwards.”

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Triassic Tusk: A Label of Love


This label profile originally appeared in The Skinny

We speak to Triassic Tusk label founders Ziggy Campbell and Stephen Marshall to find out how it all began and what’s next

“We’re not very good at this, we fuck up a lot of stuff, but I guess you just learn as you go,” laughs Ziggy Campbell, core member of experimental art collective FOUND, solo artist Lomond Campbell and co-chief of new DIY not-for-profit Fence Records offshoot, Triassic Tusk. “I don’t know if we’re in it for the long game, I just can’t predict how it will go. If it all goes tits up in two years at least we can say we’ve done some really cool albums.”

Campbell is labouring in the late spring sun at his home near Fort William; jubilant birdsong soundtracks the continuing toil refurbishing his Highland home. The once dilapidated, rural schoolhouse will double as a recording studio, eventually. It’s already heavily influenced the sound of his Lomond Campbell project, with the bones of the immense Black River Promise LP recorded there. It was the fledgling label’s debut album release proper, which snuck through without much fanfare at the end of last year. Buoyant with dense, spiraling string arrangements from Pete Harvey, it didn’t receive nearly as much exposure or praise as it deserved, and Campbell hints at a far more fitting re-release for the title via a “well-established label” in the coming months.

Triassic Tusk’s co-owner Stephen Marshall is in the departures lounge at Heathrow, feeling down about an impending week-long business trip to Japan. He recently reassessed his life, quitting a high-powered job in the whisky industry after realising aspects of his work were “fucking dull” to pursue things that mattered more to him – time at home, music and records. He’s got a serious collection, buying at least one piece of vinyl every day.

A chance encounter with Frànçois Marry (of Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains) where he suggested Marshall DJ with some of his impressive vinyl cache led to developing a series of club nights called Moon Hop with Campbell; they pressed a compilation of tracks from his collection (Screamers, Bangers & Cosmic Synths) to promote the event. After the initial runs sold out quickly, there were a series of represses that led to the birth of Triassic Tusk. They’re still doing Moon Hop, though toying with changing the name. Recent events have been under the banner of Wax and Wayne but Campbell says Marshall thinks that sounds “too sexual”.

The label is a labour of love. “Fucking hell, it loses me money, it costs me,” Marshall admits. “If I charged the label for the time spent on it, it would have gone under.” He’s learning as he goes. “I deliberately left the whisky industry because I didn’t want to be in an industry and I learned very quickly that I don’t want to be in the music industry,” he states. “People in the music industry are exactly the same as people in any other industry; they’re pretty much self-obsessed, money-obsessed, and that’s why I’ll not be part of a music industry, writing promotional things to send to the radio stations. [It’s about] getting nice records out and dealing with record shops.”

He continues: “I was in Monorail yesterday. I took them in the new King Creosote single, and it was an absolute pleasure talking to them. They’re all really nice folk and we talked about records, I bought some records (including the beautiful new State Broadcasters album A Different Past). It was a pleasant experience and it’s simple and there is no underhand stuff. But they’re a bit of a rarity. I’d rather just deal increasingly with specific record shops that are actually good and supportive of new music, particularly new Scottish music, and ignore the others.”

Marshall’s simply motivated to make a difference, inspired by admiration for the likes of short-lived but hugely influential labels like Postcard Records. He’s uncertain if it’s sustainable long-term. “I think I probably pay everybody too much money for gigs, so the gigs run at a massive loss,” he laughs. Fence Records has also been a huge inspiration and Triassic Tusk is essentially a direct descendant of the Fife collective.

Campbell, who was involved with Fence in its early days, says they took a lot of cues from the label. “I really liked the way they worked and I liked the kind of ‘no star’ ethos… everybody mucked in,” he recalls. “It’s a nice affiliation, to still be in bed with them so to speak. I think Fence has got a lot of legs on it yet but it does kind of make sense to fly the nest at some point and go and do something on your own.” Marshall adds: “[Fence Records is] run in a very specific way, so the way that Kenny runs it could never possibly grow.

“The influence motivates me more than money,” Marshall continues. “It’s an ego thing… I’m not ashamed to admit that I need an ego boost,” he laughs. “The motivation of putting things out there so that [people] know you did that. I specifically set out in my last whisky job to create five new brands; it was a legacy project, I wanted my gran to know that I had made these whiskies. My gran is on the cover of Jo Foster’s single for that reason. If you can do any kind of little bit of inspiring someone to do something, then that’s a really nice feeling. If us doing a small shitty label means that somebody else does another small shitty label and gets some records out then it’s a good thing.”

There’s a lot lined up for the label already, with such a strong and growing roster and an impressive list of past and forthcoming releases. The Sexual Objects are poised to put out their new album, followed by a specially remixed EP. But once Campbell’s home studio is fully wired up, it’s the forthcoming debut LP from Jo Foster that the pair are most enthused about.

“She’s got an amazing album in her, we just know she has,” Campbell asserts. “We’ve been putting her on quite a lot at our own nights and every time she plays she just seems to get more confident. She’s working with this multi-instrumentalist… and I just think she’s got a killer album sitting insider her that needs to come out. She’s never actually sat down and focused and done an album. Even the single, when I handed it to her she was almost in tears because she’d never had her music on vinyl before, so it was a really big moment for her.”

“I’ve collected all of Jo Foster’s little EPs – she’s done like 20 copies of CDRs – and there’s enough music on that to put an album out let alone the supposed 100 songs that she’s written that are meant to be amazing,” says Marshall. “I heard a couple of demos as well, we’re just really excited about it. Hopefully we’ve got a few other people lined up to record at Ziggy’s as well.”

“Eventually we’ll lose money,” confesses Campbell. “All it would take would be for us to do one record that didn’t sell a single thing. You can’t always predict it, but I think that would probably wipe us out.” But so far they seem to be getting things right. Screamers… sold 500 copies in 10 days, Withered Hand’s recent single sold out and Black River Promise did well considering the lack of push it received.

“That’s something to aim towards, to try and do cool things and really good projects that we’re excited about. It’s kind of a hobby thing isn’t it; it’s not paying the bills, it’s just fun to do and it’s always really rewarding,” says Campbell. “We still don’t have a track record, you need to build these things up. When I look at folk like Song, by Toad and Chemikal and Fence, they’ve been around for a long time… so I guess it just takes time to get in to the swing of it, I think it will get easier. I felt like I’d fallen out of the music scene a little bit so it’s quite nice to get back in there and be back on the radar a little. For now it’s just working with people that we like; it’s not worth the hassle of working with knobs.”

Triassic Tusk’s releases so far…

Screamers, Bangers & Cosmic Synths – compiled from Marshall’s vast, eclectic personal collection to promote the Moon Hop club nights, the label’s first effort sold-out and was repressed multiple times. They’re currently working on Volumes II and III and hope to have them out in the autumn.

Black River Promise by Lomond Campbell – Ziggy Campbell’s latest solo offering combines beautiful songwriting and intricate string compositions in an album that crept through largely unnoticed at the end of 2016. Expect news of a rerelease on a well-known label soon.

Tiny Vinyls – a series of 7”s with Triassic Tusk artists covering each others’ songs; series II is planned for a future release.

1) Withered Hand – Plenty Courage. Triassic Tusk’s first single. Stay Golden is a strong track from Dan Wilson, and the b-side is his 70s glam version of an unreleased Jo Foster tune.

2) Jo Foster – I’ll Be Thinking of You All the Time. A brilliant original track from the label’s next big thing, complete with a King Creosote cover on the other side.

3) King Creosote – The Lengths. KC covers LC, with a KC oldie on the flip-side.

4) Lomond Campbell covers Withered Hand.

Marshmallow by The Sexual Objects – Enigmatic album from the fourth band of ex-The Fire Engines Davy Henderson, which was originally sold in its entirety via a private auction for £4,213. Expect some exciting news soon on an upcoming remix EP.

Jo Foster – The much-tipped singer is expected to record and release her debut album before the end of the year.

Lomond Campbell plays Black River Promise in full with The Pumpkinseeds as part of Sounding, with Modern Studies, Stockbridge Church, Edinburgh, 20, 21 & 22 Aug http://triassictusk.com/
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Aidan Moffat on the final L. Pierre album


This interview originally featured in The Skinny

Aidan Moffat bids farewell to L. Pierre with a carefully constructed final offering that picks apart our changing consumer habits and professes the death of vinyl

We meet up with Aidan Moffat at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe just hours after Theresa May’s surprise appearance as the corpse of Thatcher dug up from Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery. He’s remarkably upbeat; she didn’t announce a world war at least. Perhaps optimism is a symptom of the setting-in of middle age that he refers to a lot lately – he’s attempting a new regime of early nights and less booze; we drink tea so he doesn’t stink of beer for the school run. Despite being a self-anointed grump, his chat is woven with hearty belly-laughs and impish chuckles. The old mischief remains and he can’t resist stirring, putting the proverbial two fingers up when he can, something he does beautifully on the fifth and final offering, 1948 –, from solo project L. Pierre.

1948  is a carefully crafted comment on the state of the music industry and the changing habits of music consumption. Sampled from the very first 33 1/3rpm 12″ LP pressed (recorded in 1948) – a Nathan Milstein version of a popular Mendelssohn violin concerto that Moffat ripped from YouTube in its entirety – it jolts and unsettles in more than just its musical delivery. It’s presented entirely sleeveless, pushes the sounds to the end of the record’s locked groove and is available in a limited run (although he admits it’s already on a second pressing). The private SoundCloud stream being used for review purposes will completely disappear upon the record’s release (28 Apr).

“I was reading about the history of vinyl and about how LPs began and it struck me that the LP is kind of in the same position now as it was in the 50s,” he begins. “In 1948 the Mendelssohn concerto was the very first thing to be released as a 12″ LP but it was always marketed at adults, it was a grown-up format. Then as rock and pop music came in, when the first 7″ happened it was two different generations listening to these formats.

“The kids were buying seven inches because they were cheaper and they had music that appealed to young people, whereas albums were pretty much classical pieces or soundtracks to shows or Frank Sinatra or jazz. The 7″ was the pop format and albums were the adult format. I think that’s where we’re at now, except instead of [the] 7” we’ve got streaming. It struck me that it’s pretty much come full circle, the LP, and I don’t think it’s got anywhere to go.”

Moffat has been openly critical of the rising popularity of streaming services and their impact on artists’ ability to make a living. “I don’t want it to sound like a tirade against streaming because the battle is lost, the war is lost,” he states. “There’s no point fighting streaming because me, and people like me, were roundly defeated. But we’ve mainly been defeated because streaming, like any big business, is a sweatshop. It’s great for consumers, it’s great for the platform, the business, but the workers are getting fucking shagged.

“It’s pretty much the age-old story with music contracts,” he continues. “There were so many pop stars who made, wrote and performed amazing records that never saw a fucking penny. It’s kind of going back to that attitude I think – even politically, everything seems to be returning back to this place where things are getting harder and harder, to be heard certainly. Voices are getting silenced and music is a part of that too.”

He doesn’t buy as many records as he once did, but still cherishes his old vinyl. Now it’s about paying for digital albums and listening to MP3s on his phone; he doesn’t really need LPs in his life and is dismissive of people that buy and never play them. “Part of the reason physical formats aren’t as popular as they used to be is because the process of listening to music for most people now is an intimate act,” he suggests. “You’re almost plugging it in to your body, literally. That need for physical contact isn’t there as much and people of my generation, us middle-aged weirdos that like to touch music, are on the way out. In 40 years we’ll all be gone so I can’t imagine vinyl’s survival beyond that.”

The survival of 1948  in its physical sense is as pivotal to its concept as the way the music on it sounds. Presented ‘naked’, without artwork and with just a copy of the letter Moffat sent to Melodic Records introducing the idea, it’s designed to scuff and scar. “As much as I love vinyl I’ve never been one of these fucking snobs. I hate that ‘warm sound’ argument, who gives a fuck! What’s important is the music in a song, the sense of a song, the words, that’s what people connect with,” he says. “I could hear it through the shittiest fucking system… like all these brilliant old blues records you hear, they still sound amazing. Terrible recording but they sound brilliant, because of the bad recording a lot of the time as well.

“It’s the same with the samples I’ve used… it has the idea that it’s survived. I really like the idea there is a mobility to that sound, something has been through a lot and managed to survive,” he explains. “It’s the same reason for doing it with no sleeve – it will survive through this process of you taking it home, it might have a few scars and scratches but it will still be there. We did talk about that too, that people who would normally buy LPs will be fucking furious! It isn’t really intended [to irritate them] but it is an amusing side effect of it certainly. I wanted it to get damaged. All the LP records started with that sort of dusty, scratched, surface noise sound and I thought ‘why don’t we make that part of the actual record itself?’

“I initially thought about doing a glass paper sleeve with the paper inside so every time you took it out it would get worse and worse. The problem with that is I’d have had to do it all by hand, it would have been an enormous job,” he says. “Secondly there was that old Durutti Column album (The Return of the Durutti Column) in the 80s that was made of a sandpaper sleeve, which was a different thing as [it] was on the outside and the idea was it destroyed everything it came in to contact with, which was brilliant and funny, but I felt [my idea] was a bit too close to that as well. Then I thought ‘fuck the sleeve, let’s just leave it to the elements, let it live and breathe in the world’.”

It feels like a neat end to the project, and Moffat likes neat endings. L. Pierre has always been his most leftfield stream of work, and his swansong is no exception. Moving, unsettling, and at times a little harrowing, 1948  might spark differing opinions, but it again marks Moffat out as utterly unique among his peers. “It’s interesting what people say. I’ve seen a couple of people say that I haven’t really done anything, that I’ve just lifted this stuff and put it on a record, which I quite like, I quite like the mystery behind it because it kind of shows that people don’t really know the original piece. Which I don’t expect them to, I didn’t know it until I heard it, but I think it’s curious that they think this [new LP] is what Mendelssohn’s concerto sounded like. It wasn’t like that at all!”

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L. Pierre – 1948–


This review originally featured in The Skinny

Aidan Moffat bows out of his L. Pierre project, but not before leaving an indelible, eerie commentary on our changing consumer patterns and how they could kill the music we claim to care for

From Arab Strap to collaborations with Bill Wells to the reimagined bothy ballads of Where You’re Meant To Be, Aidan Moffat’s lyrical genius, and indeed its delivery, have been pivotal to his persona. But over the past decade and a half, the creative outlet of L. Pierre has enabled Moffat to say so much without words, creating emotion and stories through soundscapes alone.

But it’s time to say goodbye with his fifth offering 1948–, and round off the project with a fitting end. Nathan Milstein’s version of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1948 was the first 12″ LP ever pressed. Here Moffat has lifted the recording in its entirety from YouTube, reimagining the piece through a warped manipulation of short samples to create an unsettling but bonnie beast.

The concept was pitched via post – just one rough LP with an accompanying letter to Melodic outlining what he was trying to say through the pieces and their presentation. It’s a commentary on changing consumer habits; the value of formats and the potential end of the road for vinyl, which he believes has come full circle and is teetering on the brink of extinction. The vinyl-only format is presented sleeveless, with no artwork to speak of (save for a copy of the letter), and in Moffat’s own words it’s designed to be damaged. He wants it to get scratched and battered, for each copy of the (initial) limited run to bear its own personal, unique scars.

It opens with sound akin to nuclear fallout; a scary near-silence of destruction, before a darting climb of repetitive, startled strings give the sense of panic like the scenes of shock and despair that might inhabit silent films. Things take an even more mournful turn with jarring, overlaid string sections seeking to compete, before anxious clips dance under scratched, cyclical surface noise.

What’s striking is the record’s flit from paranoia to foreboding, which lingers to the end of the vinyl’s locked groove. According to Moffat it’s a metaphor for how the lifespan of the LP is in the hands of consumers and listeners. It’s sad to see him part with Pierre, but as ever he’s pitched it right and bowed out in good time, leaving an indelible soundtrack of intelligent and bittersweet beauty.

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Andrew Wasylyk – Themes For Buildings and Spaces



This review originally featured in The Skinny

If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, then who knows what music that’s written about architecture is comparable to. Either way, this series of pieces inspired by multi-instrumentalist Andrew Wasylyk’s hometown of Dundee further augments his talents as both musician and composer.

Originally conceived as an arts festival piece, Themes For Buildings and Spaces paints an elegant but eerie aural picture of an ever-changing cityscape, and despite the absence of Wasylyk’s normally exquisite vocal, this sits well as a stand-alone soundtrack, not just for those familiar with the evolving architectural aesthetics of Scotland’s fourth largest city.

Cyclical piano lines weave through subtle, filmic strings and sorrowful brass embellishments on opener Drift, with the delicate percussive touches and playful keys of Under High Blue Skies following. Via Crucis invokes 1940s movie mysteries while Ghosts of Park Place is disconcerting with haunting synths and distant echoes of carefree children at play. Come the Autumn is a horn-driven, brooding beauty before the rhythmic riffs of Lower Dens Works echo the jute mill machinery of Dundee’s days gone by. The Howff is the formidable final scene; sinister with a lingering, sorrowful air.

This type of music-making might not be entirely unchartered water for Wasylyk, but Themes For Buildings and Spaces shows just how adept a composer he’s become.

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