In evidenza

La Bête Blanche – Storm the Palace

‘One day you will grow into yourself and then you will blossom for all to see, and no one will take you for any less than you were meant to be’

‘When you sever the ties that bind you to life all that energy unleashed.’

Time of the Bindweed

A winged, plumed race of flying beings inhabit a world in which they have the ability to soar through the air, yet, for the majority, they choose not to use their gift, preferring a life of clerical boredom and unremarkable normality on the safety of terra firma. Wings bound and covered, they eschew the few who choose to do what they can but won’t: fly. The reason for this lies in the faintest possibility that those who choose to fly, sometimes, but not always, fall.

This is the plot of ‘The fliers of Gy’, a beautiful, 20th century parable of humanity’s ability to repress itself in order to conform to an invented reality of corporate consumption. Keep your head down, don’t make a fuss, just get through it all.

The beauty of Ursula Le Guin’s invented worlds, for me lies in the wonderful way in which the fantastical combines with themes that have razor-sharp relevance in modern life. Imagine cramming yourself into the X22 commuter bus at 07:15, Hermiston Gait Park and Ride, when you have the ability to fly.

Not Hermiston Gait P&R

‘La Bête Blanche’ is the new album by Edinburgh based quintet, Storm the Palace. A palatial pastiche of vivid fantasy and very relatable reality.

I love lyrics, always have and always will, and the text (lovingly reproduced on A3 if you grab a copy of the CD) is a poetic trip through fantasy worlds rooted in the daily to and fro of North Edinburgh and Leith. Musically magnificent, with organs, bagpipes, accordions, canines and autoharps, the sonic and thematic experience is something akin to listening to Prokoviev at Easter Road during the Franck Sauzée years.

‘One day you will grow into yourself and then you will blossom for all to see, and no one will take you for any less than you were meant to be’

Some of the Beasts and Birds We Saw

It’s intensely personal, words of oft-unfounded reassurance that one generally expects from optimistic parents or banally blasé school guidance councillors. Yet here the wise, hopeful mantra comes from the bones of a swordfish, one found on the beach at Seafield. Legend and actuality blend perfectly, an uplifting mantra, a call out to all of those who don’t dare to fly; unfurl your wings my children and grow, grow into what you are meant to be, not what you’re expected to be! If inspiration is not limited to location, it seems fitting that such life-changing philosophy takes places on the beach just down from the Matalan.

Edinburgh Cats and Dogs home just out of shot

Short of tartan-tinted, shortbread wielding, terrible at football, fried food munching stereotypes, I reckon that if we choose to define ourselves by something as intangible as a nationality, then one facet of Scottishness surely lies in our ability to tell a story. ‘La Bête Blanche’ is a series of stories, from selkies to murderous madams to Hedy Lamarr, and everything in between. However, shining thematically through the dark forests, cold seas and high castles, is a modern narrative linking the tales with every facet of modern life: isolation, uncertainty, ambition and hope.

‘Living out their age-old incompatibility in bliss, or ignorance, or grinding boredom’

Happily Ever After

This could be the motto of my generation. So, we’re back on the bus, X22, trundling through Edinburgh as suburbia gives way to Georgian grandeur, and life is played out in 8-10 hour shifts, repeated over 5 days a week. Meetings, both at work and at play, with strangers, defined by what they do, with stories clipped and cut to fit in with a life that nobody really chose. Wings bound and covered, who even wants to fly?

‘Why do we all have to pretend that we know how things are going to end?’

Black Swans and Dragon Kings

We don’t any more.

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My new EP, ‘Dear Green Place‘, is out NOW. It’s a 4-track voyage through Glasgow, taking in everything from the heights of the high flats, to the history of the Gallowgate.

So, where can I find it? I hear ye all cry in unison. Well, as is standard in the inequitable world of consumerist streaming services, you can find it on whichever service you get your music on. Just click here and you will get it.

But, if you want directly support independent artists, and not simply give your money to a faceless corporate entity whose primary goal is to wring out creativity from independent artist the way one might wring out a filthy cloth after having cleaned the inside of a 40-year-old deep fat fryer, then choose BANDCAMP. You are saving the musical landscape, I promise.

Born on the Other Side – Storm the Palace

I love lyrics, in fact I think they are my favourite aspect of music, a fact which could stem from my inability to really play the guitar well. Anyway, that aside, I want to say that the words of Born on the Other Side are a nothing short of nursery-rhyme infused magic.

They say that music can be atmospheric (who they are I don’t know), the kind of artistic expression that can makes you laugh, cry, repent, or feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

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Something going by the name of ‘concert’.

Short of corporate sponsors and barely hidden back-handers to elected officials, it seems that the idea of the concert is coming back, albeit with a fragile sense of optimism. So it is with that warm, fuzzy feeling of positivity that I was really pleased to see the ‘going ahead of’ Hidden Door Festival.

There was once a time when musicians would advertise their presence in some sort of location, outside or in, with the express intention of playing some music for an allotted period of time. On coming to know of said musician’s intentions, members of the public (onetime referred to as fans) who felt some kind of intangible affinity with the music, would seek to be present for the duration of the musical performance (set), even going so far as to pay for the privilege of just being there. This whole affair was called a concert.

Leggi tutto “Something going by the name of ‘concert’.”

A wee musical update

Well, it has been some year. We’ve had some good times…well not really good times per se, but I did find a pack of mandolin strings in my sock drawer back in April. if that isn’t a musical high point for a year of lows, then I don’t know what is. Anyhow, it’s not all doom and gloom and before the ruling powers of Giliad, or Westminster to revert to anachronism, lead us into more red, white, and blue soaked crap times, let’s have a look at what’s going on musically. 

The music is starting to be picked again by what I would call the glue of grass-roots music; community radio. Special mention goes out to the team at Sunny Govan, and I will leave you with the prospect that maybe, just maybe in the future, and if they let me of course, I will maybe get behind the desk again. Imagine that, a radio show.

To conclude, a couple of pals stick out as shining examples of how to manage music during this time, and I’d like to make special mention of Fiona Liddell and Jack Hinks. The former’s ‘Local Heroes’ list is a ‘go to’ for new Scottish tunes, while the latter’s humorously titled ‘Hot Singles in Your Area’ features an interactive take on the concept of the new release. You might even hear a bit o’ yours truly.

For bookings, info, or my award-winning discount catering service please get in touch. You can find me across the board online, or in person to the right of the gate at Alexandra Park and Cumbernauld Road, my chosen busking location. Come one, come all!

This could be yours for only £4.45/head +VAT!

God – Jack Hinks

Scotland + Organised religion. To say that this storied double act has had a complicated relationship would be quite the understatement.

A while back, while a’wandering round the dormant volcano that sticks out the middle of Edinburgh, my gran, my girlfriend, and I stumbled across a strange iron contraption stuck to the wall of the local church. Shaped like a snare, with a length of chain to tether it to the kirk’s wall, it begged the question from my better half:

‘What the hell is that?’

Nonchalantly, my gran replied that the unknown piece of masonry attached to the church was in fact a ‘Scold’s Bridle’, a bleak concept in which women who dared to express opinion could be chained up in order to receive a dose of public humiliation; in this case ecclesiastically-sponsored public humiliation.

Here is a typically progressive pamphlet from the time.

Unbelievably, this ritual punishment continued until terrifyingly recently, with the Calvinistic notion of Scottish Presbyterianism fuelling the idea of the submissive women, bound to a life of grisly servitude. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. Complaints to be addressed c/o the Witchfinder General.

Scotland + Organised religion. To say that this storied double act has had a complicated relationship would be quite the understatement. From the notions of church goers’ ‘come for the service, stay for the torture’, to the mob that destroyed Glasgow cit centre last weekend in the name of a Dutch monarch who died over 300 years ago, I think it would be safe to say that old Caledonia and the praying game has been a pretty volatile combo.

Maybe it was probably better before all this malarkey eh?

There’s always good in pain, that much I have learned

God, Jack Hinks

Jack Hinks is deep into a cyclical series of tunes that focus on the grieving process, and we currently find ourselves at the stage of bargaining, hence God.

Lyrically the above line spoke to me, a blatant reminder of the wee figure of John Knox that appears on my shoulder every time I consider my path as a musician. My interiorised 16th century clergyman usually hits me at the low points (busking in a downpour, an empty gig venue, a friend’s wedding with loads of graduate trainees) to tell me to get a real job, or that enjoying what you do is fundamentally wrong and sinful or something. Is this just me? Is there more to it? A bigger picture? Should I set up a helpline for artists plagued by a constant feeling of inadequacy and shame due to a deep-rooted history of Calvinistic brainwashing?

Well in the meantime, there’s probably no need, as Jack Hinks’ lyrics sound out the frustrations felt by many:

God damn these eyes, these eyes that prove me blind
God damn these eyes, they fail me by design.
God damn this mind, this mind that knows me best
God damn this time, I’ve pinned it to my chest

God, Jack Hinks

From an artistic point of view, I think Scotland has a really weird relationship with creativity, given that it is arguably one of the most creative nations on earth. The idea that we are blessed with all this talent and ability; the eye to see, the mind to imagine, and the time to do it (especially now!), yet we have this bizarre sense of self-discipline and fundamental shame, is a really Scottish concept. Like having an abundance of something great but not being able to really use it properly, a bit like trying to play Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney in the same starting XI.

I might be miles off the mark here, my music writing usually is, but that’s what I got out of Jack Hinks’ latest piece.

I ask God what they mean
She says they’re both the same
I say you’re no god to me.

God, Jack Hinks

Great lyrics, god as ‘she’ too, ace. Get those words sent to the Church of Scotland General Assembly laddie! See what they make of them! Turns of phrase that once may have left the author chained up outside the wee church by Arthur’s Seat, but now represent a move away from the superstition and pointless discipline of the path towards a more progressive future perhaps.

I eagerly await the next instalment of the song cycle.

Support Jack Hink’s directly by purchasing his music via Bandcamp.

Get in touch with me if you want an irreverent review of your music.

Pass Me M(m)y Matches – Grammar and Music

Hold up. I set out to write this blog to avoid just spinning out the same clichés of music writing worldwide. ‘Dark, broody, full of soul and body’ could describe anything from Oscar nominations, to craft beer, to a fucking Audi commercial. So let’s steer clear of that pish.

I’ve committed the blogger’s cardinal sin; not posting for a while. So many great blogs lie in stasis, or worse, in the hellish limbo of having no recognised domain. Derelict and directionless, these former fountains of opinion, ill-informed or otherwise, now lie at the mercy of the cruel Internet, an online society that devours content at an alarming rate.

Well, that’s a cheery picture of the future, but here at Scotland’s #586 most popular music blog I say:


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Knowledge is Power: Save Whiteinch Public Library

Whiteinch is a community that is in the process of seeing its services stripped, a social scarification that paves the way to private development and a complete sidelining of its current residents.

*This article originally appeared on Bella Caledonia. Read it here and support independent journalism in Scotland.

There is a light on a Whiteinch library, G14. The gates are locked, and have been for over a year, but from time to time, there is a light on. There’s smoke from the chimney occasionally too, a wee hint of life on the corner of a Glasgow street that has been dead for a long time.

Greg Sheridan via Flickr
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Felix and the Sunsets – Leaving on the Next Train

As for spending your life doing something you despise. Well for any born and bred millenial, the line isn’t so much a statement of fact, but a mantra.

I was thinking back to primary school the other day, a bunch of annoying wee pricks crammed into a hall and forced to sing along to songs that were supposed to be non-denominational, but usually featured some kind of bigging up of the Bible etc. There was the usual turgid fair of musical parables of some of the Old Testaments’s greatest hits (Jonah, Noah) plus a smattering of so-called ‘new religiously-themed tunes’. Whichever vacuous, loveless human, void of all imagination could come up with such guff music as ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’ or ‘Think of a world without…’, will one day reap the collected ire of a generation.

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