Randolph’s Leap – Clumsy Knot

This review originally appeared on The Quietus: http://thequietus.com/articles/14927-randolph-s-leap-clumsy-knot-review

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Last summer, artistic differences between Fence Records founder Kenny Anderson (King Creosote) and then director Johnny Lynch (The Pictish Trail) led to the end of the Fence label as we knew it. Fortunately the disbanding promptly revealed itself as more of a divergence, with Lynch imminently launching Lost Map Records and KC holding on to his brand’s original moniker.

Randolph’s Leap is Adam Ross and a seven-piece band, and one of Lost Map’s brightest beacons. Clumsy Knot, the first release of 2014 for the label (and the second since its creation), is a debut long in the making, a record that follows a hearty clutch of lo-fi (largely) DIY releases over the past two or three years.

The driving force and linchpin of the group, Ross is a songwriter who is both honest and charming, combining the strut and humour of Neil Hannon, the sincerity, vulnerability and softness of Stuart Murdoch and the lyrical wit and musical playfulness of the DIY Daddy, King Creosote himself.

Clumsy Knot navigates western coasts, through forests, over sands and up mountains with self-doubt as Sherpa, a support team of brass and strings, and a pack laden with clever lyrics and sweet melodies. The album moves from whimsical, earnest folk romanticism to introspection and Casio-frilled irony, jaunty keys, sax solos, bass-heavy indie disco floor filling power pop (‘Microcosm’) and bursts of orchestral cacophony (‘News’).

There are moments when all elements align in spectacular fashion, with Ross’ lyrical sense at its peak during the wonderful ‘Hermit’ (“I was getting high on trees / I’d snort a line of breeze, with ease”) before the menacing, Cheshire Cat-like vocal quavers that haunt the likes of ‘Gina’.

The brilliantly chirpy, hook heavy ‘Light Of The Moon’ could soundtrack the next offbeat US cult hit, while ‘Weatherman’ is the ultimate one-sided love affair, the tale of the perpetual friend which moves from tragic acoustic confessions to sad/sinister fantasy.

‘Black And Blue’ quivers over delicate strumming and unobtrusive percussive loops before the delightful romance and lyrical frippery of Howlin’ Fling theme tune ‘Isle Of Love’, where Stevie Jackson-esque guitar licks punctuate tales of western isles utopia.

Old favourite ‘I Can’t Dance To This Music Anymore’ is a fitting finale, far subtler than its live incarnations but proof of the merits of home recording, and evidence of the clear capabilities of our Highland flâneur and his gang.

Clumsy Knot untangles the wild beast that is Randolph’s Leap live and confidently continues the ensemble’s assertion of its new place in the family. The band has already attracted the attention of the likes of modern Scots-pop forefather Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits) and indie music advocate, the author Ian Rankin, but this album marks the arrival proper of the next generation of witty Scottish indie pop and will no doubt further propel Randolph’s Leap in their deserved ascent.

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