Archive for March, 2011

Venue: 13th Cafe/Glasgow (29/03/11) With Her Name Is Calla arriving in Glasgow on a breezy otherwise unremarkable Monday night,  for what must be their umpteenth tour of Britain’s small, basement venues in the last year and a half, I couldn’t help but wonder when the penny is going to drop and people  start to attend these gigs in their droves, allowing this band to grace the bigger stages they so richly deserve. Still I admire their diligent enthusiasm, as this Leicester quintet clearly love performing live.  But let’s leave that for later in the article.

First up on this three-band-bill-for-£6 night at the kind of rundown 13th Note, were Glaswegian youngsters Analogue of the Sun.  I’m 99% certain they used to be called Redword and I have reviewed them before, stating that they had a lot of promise but needed to iron out a good few rough edges.  Though they try hard to be different and keep the audience on their toes with jarring chords, superfluous screams, quirky time signatures and even quiet trance-like keys/synth work, there’s still something all too familiar with their sound.  Blurring the line between Prog, Post-Rock and Post-Hardcore and throwing in extra helpings of Mike Patton-esque weirdness for good measure, There’s plenty of light and shade in their mix, but they definitely need to work on vocals, especially when harmonising and perhaps add a touch of variety into their setlist.

I’m going to cut Birds of Passage (Alicia Merz) some slack, as we were later told her timid performance was perhaps down to the fact it was only her second gig…ever.  There was some pretty vinyl featuring her LP, courtesy of Denovali Records, at the merchandise table, though I decided to abstain since I wasn’t over impressed by her performance.  Although she has a nice voice, each track soon followed a similar path with breathy vocals over either sparse Labradford-like guitar and synth lines and/or pre-recorded music and beats emanating from an Apple Mac, wit Merz digitally layering each part atop of one another.  For me, there needs to be more in a live performance, though like I said it was only her second ever show.  Nice enough, as the songs on her soundcloud page show, but not really my cup of tea.

Which leaves Her Name Is Calla’s monumental performance to talk about.  Playing latest album ‘The Quiet Lamb’ almost track for track, until it was intercepted by new single ‘Maw’, immediate highlights included a spine-tingling ‘A Blood Promise’ which fully showcased frontman Tom Morris’ rich vocal range and a stunning rendition of ‘Long Grass‘, where the band opted out of using the PA, dragged the crowd closer to the stage and proceeded to perform it in its beautiful, acoustic and harmonic glory.  A raucous, but slightly rough, 15+minute version of ‘Condor And River‘ is always welcome in these parts, with the melancholic violin really coming to the fore along with the added trombone and later screams/sounds from multi-instrumentalist Thom Corah, but it seemed the band were saving themselves for a surprise ending of older track ‘New England‘, which was particularly visceral and rather loud — closing off another excellent performance from the Calla troupe and worth the admission fee alone.  A quite special show that less than a hundred people were lucky enough to witness.   Which is my one regret of the evening, more people need to see this band live because on this form we cannot afford to lose them.  Judge for yourself with the free download live EP below.


Following on from his heartfelt plea for people to support Record Store Day on April 16th 2011,  giant Grinderman drummer and one of the busiest guys in music today, Jim Sclavunos, has been interviewed by John-Paul Pryor for his monthly column, ‘The Record That Changed My Life’ on the AnOther website.

When I was very young — before I could afford to buy records, or was even allowed to buy records, or tune the family stereo to a radio station I liked — I would sometimes spot a record cover in a store that would set my imagination ablaze. I would fantasise so intensely about what the unheard record might sound like that I would have recurring dreams in which I’d be listening to an imaginary playback. The Velvet Underground With Nico with its provocative banana cover was one such album — although I do remember a vague sense of disappointment when I finally heard the real thing, as it didn’t quite measure up the amazing album of my dreams. When I got a transistor radio for Christmas I no longer had to imagine what the records sounded like. I would go to bed and hide under the covers with my tiny radio and a flashlight and tune in to the underground FM stations and listen all night long. One night I fell asleep with the radio on. When I awoke, an incredible driving distorted and discordant song was playing: something about a sailor getting shot and sucking on a ding-dong and somebody named Sister Ray. Even though I had woken up mid-track, the song seemed to go on forever and just get more and more weird and exciting. When it finally ended, the late night radio announcer with the lugubrious baritone said it was a song off the new album White Light/White Heat by The Velvet Underground. It took a couple of years for me to track it down, but I found a copy (in the library of my Catholic boys high school!) and stole it. The album absolutely blew my mind: I’d never heard rock music sound so brutal and the dark disjointed poetry and sordid stories entranced me. But most importantly, Mo Tucker’s minimalist drumming was an absolute revelation – not in the least because I thought to myself, “I could do that…” A few years later, I actually met Lou Reed hanging out at the back of CBGB’s. It was very early on in the club’s existence, when they still had the little old stage and a pool table side by side. Lou was moping around the pool table, looking bored, so I walked up to him and had little chat, told him how great he was, etcetera. Much to my surprise (and despite his rather formidable reputation), he was not impolite, just a little awkward, but still friendly enough. I didn’t really know what to say to him and didn’t want to gush, so after a brief conversation, I bid him adieu. Years later, I met him again backstage when we were co-billed at a festival. His bass player at the time was an acquaintance of mine and despite my reluctance, he insisted Nick and I come to their dressing room and say ‘Hi’ to Lou. In fact, Lou wasn’t so nice on that occasion; but, whatever


Drowned in Sound, meanwhile, have published an article where Sclavunos talks about his 10 favourite record store’s worldwide.  This man’s passion for music knows no bounds, though it’s a pity he didn’t mention any of Glasgow’s great record emporiums such as MonoRail, Love Music or Volcanic Tongue.

Things have been quiet around here for a couple weeks, but they’re heating up quickly.  Now that Kayo Dot have returned from their European tour, the Stained Glass vinyl is getting our full attention.  A few ideas were being tossed around between myself and Toby, and we’ve confirmed w/ Hydra Head that these details will be included in the 12″ LP release:

-500 copies on 180 gram vinyl, 2 or 3 colorways (colors and pressing numbers TBD)
-Full color jacket printed on reverse board
-Insert on uncoated stock w/ lyrics and album details
-11×17 full color poster on 100# uncoated text with additional artwork by Toby exclusive to this release
-B side will contain a super stripped down remix featuring the track as it was originally composed, as a rhodes-vibes-guitar trio.  Remix is exclusive to this release.

I couldn’t be happier about being a part of this awesome release.  Both Kayo Dot and Hydra Head are very excited as well.  There are a few important details to work out before going into production, but it won’t be long.


Interesting thoughts from one of my favourite web-based zines (though I wish they’d bring back the paper edition!) The Organ, on the new Vessels record ‘Helioscope‘.  Though this piece contrasts my own review in places, reading through I found myself nodding in agreement, and it’s refreshing to see the album being critiqued from a different viewpoint.  While there have been almost unanimous praise given-out from the likes of Pitchfork, The Fly, Drowned In Sound, Rocksound and BBC Music, The Organ review is the most insightful and offers up food for thought.  Still, I reckon ‘Helioscope’ will definitely find its way onto my end of year list.  It has certainly made a bigger impact than the latest Mogwai record and what I have heard from the forthcoming Explosions in the Sky album.

Vessels have been threatening far more than this for the last couple of years now, and no, this new album is not enough, they can’t get away with these post-rock clichés, they could and should be past this point by now shouldn’t they? You see, from most English bands this album would do, we’d be politely positive and make noises about expansive post rock and leave it at that. I mean, as the movement that is post rock goes this is really very very good, Vessels have made a more than decent post rock album, it is worthy of being a Thing of the Day here, and it probably is greedy to expect anything more isn’t it?

If we were to leave it at that then you’d think that The Organ isn’t overly enamoured with the Leeds quintet’s 2nd LP, but further investigation reveals otherwise:

And further into Helioscope, just when you think the opening hope has given way to the post-rock rule book and that it’s going to be all very safe and a little predictable and oh come on, we want more than this, Vessels throw in a curveball and hit you with something that, for once, you didn’t see coming…

Read the Rest of the Review

In other Vessels related news:

Our tune Ornafives is available from our Bandcamp page, on an mp3 compilation called “A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters – Vol 2”, alongside some other great bands including You Slut!, Kasper Rosa, Khuda, and Maybeshewill.

In other news, this Friday April 1st we will be decamping down to London for the evening to record a live session for the wonderful Tom Robinson at BBC 6Music. His show starts at 7pm, and we’ll be performing three tunes from the new album, so please tune in and listen! (Source:

Evocative poetry readings of some of the greatest poets are combined with an introspective music and eclectic videos. This was produced in 2006 for a unique performance in Glasgow, UK.

Details are sketchy to say the least about Stranger By Starlight a collaborative marriage made in heaven (or should that be hell?) between Stray Ghost and Eugene Robinson.   Stray Ghost, or Ant Saggers as he’s known to family and friends, is a musician operating in and around the ambient and drone fields,  which I know fairly well, having released his ‘House of Gold and Oak’ composition on my old label.  He’s also responsible for the monolithic 75+ minute ‘Losthilde’ on Highpoint Lowlife,  its sequel ‘Nothing But Death‘ and the beautiful Each Paradise Is A Lost Paradise‘ EP on Hidden Shoal Recordings.

Euegene Robinson, on the other hand, is a writer, poet, combat enthusiast and provocative frontman for legendary San Fransisco avant-rock collective Oxbow, who according to their website claim to be ‘the last aural will and testament of failed humanity…’.

How this collaboration came to be is unknown, but ‘Chalk White Nights‘ has a real Chandler-esque noir feel to it, undoubtedly Saggers’ work, along with a skipping percussive beat that reminds of a more sinister version of UNKLE track ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights‘ (or more accurately Talk Talk’s ‘New Grass‘, from which James Lavelle sampled the percussion).  If that’s not enough, Robinson sounds suitably dangerous half-mumbling a monologue where the word ‘beautiful’ crops up very frequently’ ratcheting the tension considerably.  Eerily cool, somebody please find these guys a label.

Hello everyone, It’s Anthony (Stray Ghost) here…
As some of you may already know I’ve been working on a collaborative album with Eugene Robinson (Oxbow) for quite some time now; but it is finally finished and is on it’s way to finding a label now.
So this seems like the perfect time to show off a piece of music from the forthcoming album, which will be titled “Chalk White Nights”
I’ll post some news as it comes through.

Venue : O2 ABC Academy (25/03/11) An air of trepidation greeted us on arrival at the ABC.  Frontman Pete Hammill performing with his seminal band for the first time in Glasgow for 6 years, following a pretty serious heart-scare, while integral member David Jackson has decided to hang up the saxophones for good.  Either he’s lost the lung capacity to blow two horns at the same time (just one would have been fine Mr Jackson!) or he’s had a serious fall out with the rest of Van Der Graaf Generator.

Still, Hammill and co performed admirably without him, though even still, a few days after this gig,  a lingering feeling remains that there was a certain flourish missing to the odd track.

While 2007’s Trisector had Van Der Graaf tentatively finding their feet following Jackson’s departure, A Grounding In Numbers,  in contrast, has them back in full tilt.   Firstly, Hammill himself is a one off, rake thin with a polite demeanour: in short, a totally unique individual.  It’s easy to see why the likes of John Lydon and David Bowie borrowed (i.e. stole) heavily from him. A precocious talent with a huge voice to match, strange mannerisms, even stranger lyrics and an unorthodox guitar style that’s very much his own — given such a performance you really had to wonder if he actually suffered a heart-attack?   With synth/organ/keys man Hugh Banton picking up much of the slack for the missing saxophone and flute parts, the unsung hero of the show was  clearly sticksman Guy Evans,  who is simply an absolute world-class drummer, up there with any percussionist you could care to mention.

Highlights, at the show, included the monumental ‘Lemmings‘,  with the band seemingly all playing different things before catching it all and erupting with a thunderous roar, all held together by Evans’ astute playing.  New tracks, ‘Busho!’ and, a world-premiere of,  ‘Mathematics‘ also went down very well, both very complex tracks with Hammill literally squeezing his plentiful lyrics into rhythms that probably shouldn’t be!

However, it was penultimate number ‘Songwriter’s Guild‘ that stole the show, just when you thought you had a handle on the band’s groove, Van Der Graaf would veer off into a completely new and unexpected tangents on a regular basis, almost schizophrenic-like. With fans demanding an encore, the band duly obliged with ‘Nutter Alert‘ and although it was performed brilliantly, it really did miss Jackson’s saxophone drive and in hindsight they probably should have excluded a reprise.

Pete Hammill’s last solo gig in Glasgow at Oran Mor, left me feeling a little deflated giving melancholic atmosphere at that gig.  Van Der Graaf, though, was the exact opposite, leaving me to feel resurgent and passionate and bloody glad I got a chance to see Hammill and the boys again, as I gather there was some serious soul-searching when they lost David Jackson. An enigma of a band with absolutely no peers, a total one-off.  There has never been a band like Van Der Graaf Generator, nor will they ever be.  If you ever get the chance to see them perform, please take it.