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  • Alistair Braidwood

Sapphire & Steel: The Best New Music From Last Month…

The nights are fair drawing in, with SAD lights being switched on across the land, and this seems to be reflected in the first new music of Autumn. The pure pop which dominated the summer months has mostly been replaced by more reflective fare with some angular electronica, plaintive acoustics and evocative ambience all featuring below.

There’s a lot of grand visions and big ideas on show, but what else are you going to do at this time of year? It all adds up to the perfect soundtrack for autumnal stravaiging, so tune in, wrap up and get out there.

Last year we recorded a podcast with Ross Whyte alongside Alasdair Roberts as they collaborated in residence in Braemar for the project ‘New Approaches To Traditional Music’, and it’s a fascinating insight into the working methods of two very different musicians. Ross Whyte’s latest album, Kaidan, is now with us and it is a thing of great beauty and intrigue which gives you something new on each listen (and I should know; it’s been in my ears regularly over the last few days). It seems a little perverse to pick just one track as Kaidan is a complete piece of music designed to be listened from beginning to end, and that’s how it works best. Having said that, here’s a taster. This is ‘Carnival’:

Originally from Ross Whyte’s home town of Aberdeen, but now making music in Brighton, next up we have the eclectic music of Lockah, which can range from early ’80s electronica reminiscent of The Human League and Heaven 17 to the more expansive sounds of Harold Budd and even John Carpenter. Released earlier in the year, but too good not to mention, Lockah’s  album It Gets More Cloudy is wonderfully rich, packed with unusual melodies and taking a wicked delight in surprising the listener at every tune. Like Kaidan,  It Gets More Cloudy should be listened to as a whole to get the most from it, but you can get a taste of the whole in the first track ‘Important 2/ Hate, Meet Fate’:

Next up is the new single from Batteries, the latest musical project from Bis’s Sci-Fi Steven. Their first single, also called ‘Batteries’ featured back in June and hinted at their potential, but their latest, ‘Human Requirements’ really delivers on that promise. It’s a classic piece of 3-minute guitar driven pop of the type which has become all to rare. This is a man who knows exactly what he’s doing, and is having the time of his life doing it. Also good to see him give a nod in the video to the fact that the best keyboard players should always have a medical background. Take a listen:

Early in the year I Am David Laing released a great single, ‘Marmalade’ which showed his talent as a singer/songwriter and marked him as someone to take notice off. Well, he’s back with his debut album Please Don’t Mind The Words and it confirms those first impressions. Here’s exhibit A; ‘Hoover Boxes’. It’s a wonderfully poignant picture of childhood and Laing’s plaintive vocals are the perfect vehicle for such tales. Gorgeous:

Pop Campaign are one of the most intriguing bands around, as interested in ideas as much as the music which delivers them, they are often challenging but it is a challenge worth accepting. They may now reside away from Scotland, but with songs such as ‘Where Are We Living? (Shut Yer Piehole)’, ‘Aye Like (Hame 1)’ and ‘Twatting A Tory’ you are left in no doubt that home is never far from their thoughts. Their new album is called Dead Dark, and it is in places, but they can’t suppress their pop sensibilities for too long. From Dead Dark, this is ‘Glasgow Style’, and I think this is rather marvellous:

While we’re at the unusual, straight out of Lanarkshire comes Kung Fu Jesus – where else? They make Scottish electro/funk that will brighten your day, put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. It’s a sort of mix of The Beta Band and the Mickey 9s, which is a very good thing, although I admit I feel warmly towards it partly because I too keep a samurai sword in the back of my truck. An angry, funky, delight:

Perhaps the most interesting band of the moment, if you can call them that, are The Hate Eighties. I could try to explain who they are and what they do further but that would take a post of essay length, so I’ll let them do that for me; “The Hate Eighties are archaeologists of the future using the prism of the past to reflect a bleak present you just haven’t realised you live in yet.” An interesting mission statement, I’m sure you’ll agree, but it would mean little if the music wasn’t as good as it is. But it is, and if your interest is piqued you can spend hours exploring The Hate Eighties here. Here’s an introduction to whet your appetite further, but I warn you, this is going to take you down the rabbit hole:

Listening back to the above, that’s a lot of great music for you, with plenty to think about. It’s what Autumn is for. Turn, turn, turn…


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