One year on, still wishing for a better future for Scotland

025023

Anna Crow

If you could have one wish for Scotland’s future, what would it be?

To mark the first anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, yesterday on Buchanan Street in Glasgow city centre there was a wish tree.  Passers-by of all ages, whether shoppers, those heading home from school or work, or those simply out for a walk enjoying the late afternoon sunshine were invited to write their wishes on a tag to tie onto strings connecting two trees, forming what became a multi-coloured and diverse washing line of people’s hopes and dreams, people’s desires for their own lives, those of others around them, and for our country as a whole.

There were no limitations as to what people could write.  ‘Everyone should be given a puppy!’ read one.  ‘Better weather’ was a desire expressed by several.  ‘Legalisation of cannabis’ another read, with a drawing of a marijuana leaf.  Another said ‘Happiness’, with a big smiley face.  Some were strongly worded, such as one which read ‘FUCK OFF TRIDENT!’ underlined multiple times.  Hope was expressed by one person for Scotland to become a ‘sexy socialist utopia’.  One read ‘For my ex to be lonely for a long time’.

Others included wishes for no child to be born into poverty, for more girls to get involved in science and politics, for an internationally recognised Scottish passport, for exams to be made easier, for Scotland to have an entry in the Eurovision song contest and unsurprisingly, for a second referendum.  Common themes included greater power for Scotland and independence from Westminster rule – one that I saw simply read ‘Freedom’ – and opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland and the current austerity regime and its consequences.  Another expressed the simple desire to keep the political discussion going.

There were a diverse range of contributors, even including elected members of the UK Parliament such as Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire.  Those involved in the event included Common Space’s Michael Gray and Stephen Paton from Left Scotland, who was filming the event.  The main organiser was Aileen McKay, a Glasgow-based activist and student who like numerous others become engaged in politics for the first time in the lead up to last year’s referendum, and whose passion for positive social change in Scotland continues to engage and inspire many.

The spirit of this event was one of openness – where all were welcome, discussion was invited but never forced, and no opinion should be censored.  One person there asked me whether it was okay to write something in Arabic on the card.  ‘Of course!’ I replied.  Others who I had conversations with included those who were visiting Glasgow as tourists, someone who still regarded Scotland as home even after living in Australia for over 40 years, someone who was passionately opposed to the EU as a whole and could see no possibility for EU reform, and an older woman who some minutes into our conversation admitted to being a Conservative party supporter.  Even in that conversation some common ground was found as we discovered we shared a mutual respect for new UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Events like this are a clear demonstration of the nature of our new politics in Scotland.  This politics is bold and visible, diverse and creative, even humorous upon occasion.  This politics is about genuine engagement with the people of Scotland; listening to them to speak about the things that affect them, inviting them to express their hopes and dreams, welcoming honest discussion and debate, and politics where at the very heart there is an invitation to work together where there are things we agree on, to work together build a better future for our country.

I feel privileged to count Aileen and others involved in this event as personal friends.  I myself was not engaged in campaigning on the streets or involved with the work of pro-independence groups including Yes Scotland and National Collective in the lead up to the referendum last year, as many of these friends were.  In large part, work commitments at that time limited my involvement in the Yes movement primarily to discussions with friends and family, both in person and over social media platforms such as Facebook.  But in the time since the referendum, my political engagement has increased, both through the Scottish Green Party and involvement in activism that is not specifically party-affiliated, often through people such as these who I have met in social circles in the past year – people who like myself are part of a growing and vibrant activist network in Scotland.

Politics should not be about Oxbridge educated middle-aged white men in suits looking down on the little people and enjoying the power and privilege they hold over them.  Politics should be about all people – people feeling free to ask ‘stupid questions’, to take to the streets standing up for things that matter to them, to laugh together, even to cry together.

From my own perspective, I can attest to the power of this type of politics.  Friendships form because the things we care about have drawn us together.  Friendships grow stronger because we are still fighting.  One year on from the referendum result, our movement is still growing and the political discussion is still going – long may it continue.

034

Edinburgh International Festival Review: Sufjan Stevens and Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear (5 stars)

Stevens Edinburgh Playhouse

Photo credit: Elijah Wade Smith 30/08/15

Anna Crow

Sufjan Stevens may not often come to Scotland – his last gig here prior to this event as part of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival was at Òran Mór in Glasgow in 2005 – but at least he is well informed in certain important respects about our beautiful country.  Knowing that Scotland’s national creature is the unicorn seems like a befitting piece of essential Scottish knowledge for the multi-instrumentalist and musical artist, a being almost mythical in certain circles, whose creativity and talent can transcend any number of genres and who may even sport an impressive pair of wings upon occasion, but who may equally be seen in the unassuming guise of a baseball cap-wearing, acoustic singer-songwriter who can even laugh at himself when he makes a mistake during a song.

Moreover, as Sufjan Stevens himself informs us, he actually grew up with a unicorn. It perhaps was not the usual type of unicorn depicted in iconography and mythology, and some may have tried to belittle and disregard this unicorn, calling it merely a goat which had sustained a unfortunate accident to one of its horns, but who are we to say it was not a unicorn nonetheless?  In the gospel according Sufjan Stevens, what you were told elsewhere to disregard as imperfection can be beautiful.  In the gospel according to Sufjan Stevens, things you were told were impossible may be not so impossible.

The 40-year-old musician has acquired a cult level of international following in the years since releasing his first recording A Sun Came in 2000 on the Asthmatic Kitty label he co-founded with his stepfather Lowell Brams.  His 7th studio album Carrie & Lowell, named after his mother, who died in 2012, as well as his stepfather, was released early this year to widespread critical album.  Many, myself included, consider this recording his best to date.  It is no mere return to the elegantly melancholic stripped-back indie folk previously showcased in recordings including the 2004 album Seven Swans but a gorgeously crafted piece of musical artistry which does not shy away from pain in its exploration of intimacy and loss.  The level of excitement was palpable as crowds gathered from Edinburgh, Glasgow and even further afield at the Edinburgh Playhouse last night for this rare opportunity to see him live and in Scotland.

For myself and undoubtedly a significant number of others present, this event was also our first introduction to mother-son duo Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, who released their first album Skeleton Crew on Glassnote Records this year.  The compelling, melodiously interweaving acoustic guitar playing teamed with rousing and soulful vocals in their supporting act set left me keen for more, particularly for the chance to perhaps see them in the future in a more intimate setting than the formal space of this theatre, which did strike me as somewhat incongruous in this context.  I am jealous of those who have got to encounter them at open mic nights in coffeehouses in Independence, Missiouri, where they first performed as a firm duo.

By contrast, the way in which Sufjan Stevens’ set was crafted for such a performance space as this was striking to an overwhelming degree.   Pictures and videos including beautiful landscapes, geometric graphics and images of the artist himself and his family, and a range of impressive lighting techniques provided a vibrant and interactive backdrop to this musical showcase, largely and unsurprisingly focused around his most recent release.  A startling feel of intimacy despite the large physical size of the space was created through powers of passion, imagination and technical skill, which intermingled visuals, sounds and more into an extraordinarily beautiful and moving experience.  Crescendos spanning these multiple dimensions were built to with hypnotic intensity; contrastingly, moments such as during Fourth of July when Sufjan Stevens’ vocals and those of his backing band dropped down to soft auditory caresses were somehow both soothing and utterly heart-breaking.  I know I was not the only person there who had tears running down my face for much of his 2 hour long set.

Sufjan Stevens’ artistry is also evident in the sense in which each created and recorded track when performed live is an evolving and unique thing – rhythms and tempos may be changed, new instrumental elements, vocals or visual elements may be added, or tracks which may encompass a whole orchestra of instruments in the recorded form may be stripped down to a bare minimum of largely acoustic elements.  There is an inherent sense of the joy of adventure in this, in moments such as last night’s performances of All Of Me Wants All Of You and undoubted fan favourite Chicago, the closing track of the encore, yet this is balanced by the warm, comfortable familiarity of meeting old friends and finding them to be virtually unchanged over the years.  One of a number of examples of this was For the Widows In Paradise, For the Fatherless In Ypsilanti from the 2003 album Michigan, a personal favourite of mine as the first Sufjan Stevens song I ever got to know.

Some might feel I should be embarrassed about getting to know the music of Sufjan Stevens after that track was featured in an episode of the third series of the TV show The O.C., first aired in 2006.  Why should I care, when for me the important thing is not the ‘how’ but that I got to know it, and not only the music itself, but through that gain the privilege of some insight into the mind and life of the artist himself?  The only thing I am still disappointed about is that this introduction happened after Sufjan Stevens’ last Scottish gig in Glasgow in 2005.  Even in the knowledge that powers exist that can make things previously thought to be impossible not so impossible, to change this fact unfortunately remains impossible.  I remain incredibly grateful that Sufjan Stevens is who he is and does what he does and that I had the opportunity to experience such an amazing artist and show live in Edinburgh last night.  5 stars.

_________________________

If you like what you read please check out some of our other articles.  If you don’t like what you read please give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scots politics and culture. And if you have never written before, give it a try. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page

“OPEN FIRE!” – Sub-human solutions from behind a British keyboard

Kos

By Alan Stares

Freedom

The internet can be a really braw place! Almost every single piece of information on any topic can be accessed with a few clicks and as a tool it almost (almost, not completely) replaces the need for contemporary schooling of any kind as literature, music, art, science, engineering can all be learned to an extremely competent level with a few downloads and videos.

It is also a place of fantastic expression with all kinds of people from all walks of life being given a voice to discuss, debate or simply say their piece. Of course this comes at a price for as we all know the world is also home to the most horrible, ill informed shite hammers and they too must have the right to be given a voice (as is the nature of free speech) but it is not so much what they say which is shocking but rather who is saying it.

Bastards

If one looks on any comments section from bog roll websites like the Daily Mail you can see a fine use of this type of mindset.

A perfect example would be the recent migrant crisis where back in May innocent people were fleeing a war torn country by boat to the island of Kos, a favourite place for British holidaymakers and…..immigrants (let that sink in!) The lack of sympathy for these people was nothing short of shocking with Kos being described as a “Hell hole” for said holiday makers having to suffer the inconvenience of stepping over starving, traumatised people and the general opinion that they should be shot at by actual firearms with even reigning Queen slack fanny Katie Hopkins suggesting that gunships be used on these poor people (Of course I doubt she even has an opinion either way or even cares as she is just one big ploy to sell papers by way of sensationalism…..but that’s another story for another time!)

Aside from faceaches like Hopkins these heartless suggestions unfortunately don’t come from the slabber hawks at Britain First or even the BNP as one would expect but from 50+ upper middle class people who have lived all their lives in a cosy bubble, probably in a sleepy village somewhere in Tory hard middle England (Let’s cut the beef equally though, they are here in Scotland too as this Kilmacolm boy can testify to!)

The vile spewings conjure images of fat old women with a constant snarl and nasty gold jewellery who have probably never worked  a day in their lives. The kind of people that don’t like anything new and get their malnourished but equally vicious BMW owning, suit wearing husbands to complain about everything if a single thing is wrong (or even if it’s not) and have never used the words ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ in their black magic stained pawed and saggy titted life.

Scourge

Of course they are not the only ones. The misinformed youth of today in all areas of the UK (and the world) have been swept up in what is little more than neo nazi bullshit from the press which unfortunately and sadly appeals to their much lacking sense of belonging. These organisations provide a sense of that belonging when it should be coming from family, friends or creative groups but hate has always been a powerful attraction for lost souls who wear it as armour. Sometimes though it isn’t too late for the young to change their ways but it is the aforementioned ‘grown ups’ that harbour a harrowing lust for destruction of anything that doesn’t fit their world or threatens to invade it.

These are the real people who are the problem with Britain today, clinging to some fantasy image of a once great nation that was never really great to begin with and using it as an excuse to hate on brown people who through media programming are no longer seen as human, an identical technique used by one Adolf Hitler when he targeted the Jews.

In their lilly white world they sit with their coffee and cake inside a cosy cottage (a sweet location for such abhorrently sour output) and give opinions on things which they clearly know nothing about or have learned directly from the sanitary pads of media like the Mail or the Torygraph whereas if the tables were turned and the same vitriol were spat about them from other countries they would without a doubt be called “Savages”

“Look in the mirror of your fellow man and see yourself as you wish to be seen!”
Some scruffy writer somewhere making quotes up

References:

The Daily Mail website and article on Kos refugees. I refuse to post a link to that toilet of a site so look it up yourself.

The Wedding Stinger – Austerity vs The Wedding and the touring band

Riff-Raff

It’s 6pm on a sunny Sunday in Glasgow and I’m strutting down towards Wild Caberet in Merchant City to do my best intrepid reporter/Clark Kent impression while at that moment realising that I’m probably attending a bit of an upmarket venue and dressed like an off duty trucker from somewhere in deepest southern America!

I make it to the place and after relief at seeing many jeans and t-shirted punters, caught up with Wedding band ‘The Brightsde’ who are hosting and performing at an exhibition night in the venue for potential couples/clients (brides….lets face it!) and anyone else who may be interested in hiring them for their big day.

Eton mess

The band play to an almost full house and pull out an absolutely cracking set consisting of songs ranging from rock staples such as ‘Jump’ by Van Halen to early 90’s dance classics like ‘Ride On Time’ from Black box.

osborne-cameron-457647

The Shiteside

It’s fair to say that wedding bands in general do rather well but with the current economic climate of austerity and more lovely cuts on the way by Chancellor Snort Goblin George Osbourne, how does this hit on the public affect a group like ‘The Brightside’? I met up with guitarist Lyle and singer Selina after the gig for a boozy and revealing late night chat in Maggie May’s and after much well deserved brown nosing I asked the pair how the current economic climate and austerity measures by the aforementioned Lord Cocaine has affected the band.

“It’s hit us too!” Say’s Selina, who says business in the last few years has definitely taken a bit of a nosedive with at least  30% reduction in clients since 2012 with more couples relying on DJ’s and more financially slender weddings. Haggling has also become a ‘thing’ for the more shameless bride (in which one could argue that they are quite right) with The Brightside confirming that couples do indeed ask for discounts, price trims and flat out reductions on a regular basis and while this has never been a new thing in the history of anything anywhere it seems to have grown in trend since the country’s broken political system has elected and re-elected the Irvine Welsh cast of a Muppets movie to parliament.

I quizzed the two Brightside members on why they think that Wedding bands seem to always do relatively well (even with the current situation against them) as opposed to the band playing their original material?

“It’s completely different!” says Lyle “We’re providing a service rather than fulfilling our own musical needs!” with the pair (who also happen to be a lovely couple!) confirming that potential clients regularly work with the band to create tailor made setlists for their special day, usually from an extensive list of covers that the band already know but also are willing to learn on request from whatever rabid bride may be hiring them.

It’s more than fair to say that the band have an extremely sharp and high level of musical skill to be able to learn pretty much any song on request, but do they feel that this is all they do in life? The answer is a resounding no! A few of the band members have their own projects where they write their own music so the avenue for a creative outlet is covered but why is this large portion of the bands talent on the whole ignored by the public?

Couples and weddingy type folk like to try to define their love and affection for one another by using other peoples words and music but with the wealth of talent available to them why do they settle for second hand feelings when they could ask the band to compose a song that is 100% original and for them and them alone?

The question received a split response from the Brightside pair with Selina seeming very much in favour and keen on the idea of a personalised touch to offer couples (with the advantage of having writers credits and royalties to play around with) whereas Lyle took the hairy man approach of practicalness by putting forward the case of overload if the band are trying to musically satisfy three or more couples a week and and hence taking the magic out of what is meant to be a truly personal experience.

Flipside

So it seems like the Government putting the ordinary folk of the country in a rather crap production of Oliver has indeed affected the Wedding Band community like everyone else but not so much that they can’t still comfortably live off what they do, but what of the other side of the coin? What about the musicians that struggle day in and day out writing & recording their own material and sometimes not even getting the price of the petrol to the gig never mind payment?

It’s no secret in the musical community that most people are out and out idiots when it comes to music appreciation with the general populus quite happily swallowing the same spoon fed crap that the radio and media offers up with zero deviation or even want to stray from the indoctrinated path of Orwellian machine made pop music or the same 30 year old radio ‘classics’ that are repeated to the point of murdered on the commercial airwaves, so what happens when a band do their own thing and try to take it on the road?

Big Muff

Bacchus Baracus are a rock band from Glasgow who play a particularly energetic brand of fuzzy, raw edged retro style music which is extremely popular at the moment in the guitar based band community but time and time again they have failed to be able to get a tour organised as costs are simply far too prohibitive because putting it lightly, they don’t get paid…….ever!

bacchus photoshoot 164

Bacchus Baracus

These are no amateur musicians either! The band have a full length album out on Wasted State records, a music video, their own personal rehearsal space and have played extensively over the last 5 years to legions of enthusiastic crowds who go crazy for the bands brand of bluesy driving rock so why aren’t they making a living?

I spoke to drummer/singer Quzzy about the band’s most recent tour failure with American band Heavy Glow.

“The Heavy Glow/Bacchus tour for this autumn fell through as promoters just ether are unwilling to book bands who don’t have a massive name or are looking for what they see as too expensive (£150-£200 was what we were looking for for both bands…considering that Heavy Glow were coming from the US of A and most English bands seem to get about I don’t consider that expensive at all!”

Quzzy also tells me of a proposed tour of France and Spain that also fell through last year due to Scrooge like promoters offering as little as 50 euros total to the band and how the situation in the UK is just as bad if not worse due to a rather inefficient way that money is handled and distributed in music venues.

“The Venue/PA/Soundguy cost alone in most places might just be covered by the walk through on the door…but when you factor in flyers/posters/feed the band/petrol extra venue cost…How can a band get any cash deals at all?”

The band continue to write, rehearse and play under difficult circumstances and one may have a thing to say if such a life choice was simply poorly paid but to have absolutely no payment at all for providing the service of entertainment with just as much skill, blood and sweat as a wedding band there seems to be something severely wrong in how people today see music and musicians in terms of value.

Final thought

After much deliberation it is the sad conclusion that the general public do not want new, original and interesting music, but rather the same old stuff that hasn’t changed in the last three decades or simply rehashed versions of existing songs and genres. The Brightside and other wedding and venue bands have obviously and absolutely quite rightly so capitalised on this rather sad state of affairs but make no bones about it, the band work incredibly hard at what they do and deserve every single penny of what is both a physical and mental job which demands time, effort, a personal touch and bucketloads of talent and this is backed up by the hundreds of satisfied clients who praise the band ever week on their services.

It’s sad then that groups like Bacchus Baracus have to struggle through life with a prick’s chance in winter of seeing any money at all from anything, yet the cost of musical equipment, recording and travel are identical (and extortionate) for both groups.

As the second wave of austerity comes from the gremlins at Westminster who preach that we are all in this together while quaffing their champagne and parking their nibs inside small children, the arts community has clearly suffered in all areas due to the obvious primary school maths problem of people not being able to buy anything because they have no money. Of course you can’t expect any less when you elect a penis masquerading as a politician to head office but bands like The Brightside can still make a living out of doing what they do but the art of music is in serious danger of imploding on itself due to the acute stifling of new talent who are not out with the intention of becoming millionaires but just simply trying to pay some bills

Whether this is down to public stupidity or the current trend of devaluation of music isn’t clear but the cuts from the chuckle brothers at Westminster certainly don’t help as they not only affect the paying public but the artists themselves who, contrary to belief, still need to eat, sleep somewhere warm and hand over cash to buy overpriced petrol and that isn’t going to change anytime soon but still they power on like troopers for the love of what they do.

As Rick James once said (and probably George Osbourne too) “It’s a hell of a drug!”

The Brightside can be booked by visiting their website at http://www.thebrightsidepartyband.com

Bacchus Baracus can be booked by visiting their website at http://www.bacchusbaracus.com

Bacchus Baracus Photo by Chez M Photography

Edinburgh Fringe Review: Govanhell (4 stars)

247

Anna Crow

Welcome to Govanhell.  In this debut spoken word solo show as part of PBH’s Free Fringe, young Glasgow-based poet Liam McCormick introduces us to a district of Glasgow that fell 2000 miles into the Earth’s mantle sometime in the late 20th century.  Forget polite handshakes and how-do-you-dos, this introduction is one that will challenge, provoke and inspire as we are plunged into the depths of a struggle both historic and ongoing against dark forces including poverty, bigotry, sexism and disillusion, domestic abusers, minotaur-like homogenous entities of lower level civil servants, and possibly the worst villain of all – post-industrial capitalism.

This journey may not be one for the faint-hearted but it is certainly one worth taking.  A varied range of characters will be encountered along the way aside from the host himself, including the girl who tried to win the £50 prize in the Govanhill Library summer reading contest despite her limited English ability, ‘eccyed Alec’ who may try to tell you that those red Mortal Kombat pills weren’t that bad actually, and William Dixon, founder of the metalworks which became commonly known as Dixon’s Blazes, and whose influence, along with that of his family, for better or worse played a large role in shaping the Govanhill we now see today.

Liam is a compelling performer with a level of raw energy and intensity matched by few that I’ve encountered on the current Scottish poetry and spoken word scene.  He was the winner of the 2015 New Materials Poetry Slam, earning a rightful place in the Scottish Slam Championships next year.  He displays a rare talent in the structuring and cadence of each poem and indeed, that of the show itself – in which a cohesive and interlinking narrative is formed.  Much that is thought-provoking and challenging and no shortage of dark humour are found here in a wide range of circumstances from the rage or paranoia-inducing to the mundane, and from the historical to the present day.

This show is not one for the political correctness brigade or any who may get outraged by a drug reference or use of the word ‘c**t’, often while being happy to turn a blind eye to social problems and deeply-ingrained injustice in society.  It is all the better for it.  Expect an uncensored visit into the depths of a frequently maligned area of Glasgow, but one in which hope may still be found in forms such as a growing and active arts movement, pro-active measures to tackle problems within the area such as the high domestic violence rate, and a strong sense of community in general.  The history of Govanhill in terms of social change, its industrialisation and the subsequent growth of varied ethnic minority communities in the area, to the extent it has been termed ‘Glasgow’s Ellis Island’, and issues such as gender inequality and the stigmatisation of groups such as the unemployed are explored with a striking level of insight.

This reviewer highly recommends a trip to Govanhell if you dare.  4 stars.

Govanhell is on daily until 30th August, 3:15-4:05pm at George Next Door Space M (venue 430), 9 George IV Bridge as part of PBH’s Free Fringe 2015.  More details here: http://freefringe.org.uk/edinburgh-fringe-festival/govanhell/2015-08-16/

Find out more about Liam McCormick and any upcoming performances here: https://www.facebook.com/liammccormickpoetry

SKELETON GONG – For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky (CD review)

Skeleton Gong

Alan Stares

Skeleton Gong’s second recording after the self produced 2011 demo ‘Eskimo Wizards and the Louisiana swamp priests’ this next offering sees the Glasgow psychedelic doom fiends take a step up a level to the next purple tinged cloud hovering above their collection of cowboy hatted heads.

Presentation/CD Case

Coming in a standard jewel case the cover art is a simple, minimalistic affair depicting a shot of the Earth and an astronaut against a sheer black background which deceptively hides the bands ‘far out’ sound but clever enough to give a nod to the spacey-ness of the affair. A set of wings on the aforementioned astronaut is the only indication one gets into the smokey, export fuelled brain of the Gong.

The sleeve booklet is a single folded sheet made from what seem like disappointingly cheap matte card paper giving minimal information aside from the most basic contact details. The back cover fairs better, mainly due to the fact that you can’t touch it but comes double sided with a reproduction of the rather excellent CD label art which can be seen through the clear housing that the disc sits on which is a feature of CD’s that is almost always welcome and gives the package that extra boost of professionalism.

Music

Musically the band make no bones about what they like with opening track ‘Old man Gong’  barely even scratching the belly of what would be considered reasonably slow. It doesn’t take long after the doom specific open chords give way to some mega-spacey analogue synths and this feature as well as the heavy focus on instrumentals sets the Gong Apart from other doom bands in the genre as there love of all things analogue and 70’s is apparent.

The whole feel is melancholic but surprisingly melodic too with ups and downs in feeling reflecting perhaps an imaginary psyche of a person going from sad to sinister to at times optimistic. The meticulous and refreshing blending of guitar harmonies and reverb soaked cleantones along with some messy guitar solos (which are strangely but charmingly reminiscent of Hendrix if he were out his tits and doing a single take recording) in amongst the slabs of heavy chord meat and retro synths goes a long way to lift what is most certainly the scourge of many lesser doom bands and that is too much of the same thing for every song.

Technicalness is never an issue in doom and with the band not being constrained by this particular variable the purity of the music is allowed to shine through with many textures being layered through driving but not boring repetitions, a balance that is exceptionally hard to achieve and is lost of more than half the bands of this genre.

The structures are typically erratic but controlled to the point where you feel like it isn’t just a big jam that’s been recorded and a there is a reason for every relentless riff cycle that is like time and space folding over on itself hitting you with the same cryptic life message until finally it sinks in.

Production

Doom and black metal are notoriously hard to judge on production values as their standards are almost polar opposite of what is ‘the norm’ and Skeleton Gong wears the lo-fi badge with some pride but took the wise decision to have a little polish to their product as well. The guitars are surprisingly crisp, not so much for the band but for the genre with the typical farty crackle associated with the stoner tone being absent. This allows for much more room in the frequency spectrum (as does the lack of vocals in most songs!) and one suspects it was a deliberate and clever decision to make room for the many sounds and textures that make up the bands sound to shine through.

With so much going on it’s easy for the production to turn into mush and of course sacrifices have to be made with the drums being pushed somewhat nearer the back of the mix but everything can be heard and it is heard with impact at just the right times which undoubtedly shows a well trained engineer and a keen ear from the band themselves. The overall master is quieter than one would hope for with a focus on mid rage and not a lot of high end sparkle or wideness but this gives it a strange feel reminiscent of a retro production and is easy on the ears having not been smashed to pieces by a limiter.

Final Thought

Skeleton Gong are a band that (if you will pardon the pun) is just beginning to gather speed in their local scene after years of gathering their forces at a rate that is almost as slow as their music. With the doom and stoner genre becoming increasingly popular a band will have to have a special something to set themselves apart from the guff in order not to be lost in the mediocre saturation and Skeleton Gong have the distinct advantage of not only having this trait already but doing it completely because they want and have always wanted to and not actively forcing it on themselves for whorish popularity.

For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky can be purchased directly from the band in digital or CD format via Bandamp at – skeletongong.bandcamp.com
_________________________
If you like what you read please check out some of our other articles and if you don’t like what you read please give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scots politics and culture and if you have never written before, give it a try. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page.


Fringe Review: Loud Poets

Loud

Louise Wilson

Being relatively new to the spoken word scene, I’m not yet totally au fait with all the names in amateur poetry. However, I am familiar with one of the most popular Scottish collectives: Loud Poets. So when the opportunity arose to go watch their showcase at the Fringe earlier this week, I jumped at the chance.

Self-described as “slam-style, make some noise, fist-thumping, side-tickling and heart-wrenching poetry”, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. I was initiated into the poetry world just six months ago – with some scepticism, I must add – where it was proved to me at an open mic that it is so much more than the dry anthologies I studied at school. They say good poetry makes you feel something. The Loud Poets are a prime example. As it turns out, their description is pretty spot on.

Beginning with a somewhat cringe-y film about how each member of the collective got into poetry and ending with them answering the question “why do you write?”, the whole evening is geared towards inspiring any new and potential poets in the audience. The Loud Poets hope to bring performance poetry into the mainstream. Beyond this overarching theme, the show does not stick to any particular structure – you move from Miko Berry’s smart but adorable piece on childhood crushes to Joe with the Glasses’ hard-hitting story about a father’s difficulty in explaining his prison stay to his daughter. However, it never felt that the show was lacking a structure either; each performance was able to stand in its own right and was loosely tied together with further footage of life as a Loud Poet.

The sudden changes of pace and emotion work well. It emphasises the diversity and range of the collective’s skill without being overbearing. Poems are engaging, thought-provoking and often fun, and whilst perhaps tailored to the stereotypical poetry crowd (a bit geeky, a little left wing), there is something for everyone. Not every piece was my cup of tea – perhaps a sign of its diversity rather than a bad thing – but the enthusiasm and feeling with which it was delivered could be appreciated throughout.

As expected, the Loud Poets capitalised on Agnes Torok’s recent youtube success with Worthless. Debuted at their 2014 Fringe show, the video was uploaded last month and has since received over 190,000 views – seen by many as a response to the general election though in reality it predates this. Her piece is even more powerful live, complete with musical accompaniment (which features throughout the show to complement each poet’s work) and raw anger.

It would be remiss of me to not mention my personal highlight of the show, which moved me to tears in its honesty and sincerity: Kev McLean’s Evelyn. Unravelling his grief at the loss of his mother, it is being performed on the anniversary of her death. He is open and truthful about his emotion – and it is beautiful to witness.

Loud Poet’s Fringe set is definitely worth seeing. Each night will be a little different with the entire collective not featuring all the time – so if you have a particular favourite it is worth checking they will be there when you’re attending. But tickets are going fast with their first sell-out show on Tuesday (and standing ovation). The Loud Crowd is growing, and I am one of them – ready to tell the world #IAmLoud.

Loud Poets are performing every night of the Fringe at 21:00 in the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Tickets are £10 (£8 concession).

The link between the arts and politics is an empowering force for positive change in Scotland and beyond.

free your mind

Anna Crow

In a time where to keep up with current political happenings can often feel a bit like watching a car-crash in slow motion, powerless to intervene, it would be easy to become disillusioned.  It can seem tempting to turn away when we as individuals feel unable to help.  But now is not the time to feel we are worthless, that we are too wee, too poor or too stupid to make a difference.  Now is not the time for our politics to be based on fears, which are so often unsubstantiated, or a desire for self-preservation at the expense of others.  Now is a time for our politics to be about hope, to be about seeing a vision for positive change and getting engaged in new ways in making that change happen.  More than ever, creativity in the way in which we engage with politics must be embraced.

Many of us who are politically involved were born decades after 1964 but Bob Dylan’s words from back then ring true to us right here, right now. The times they are a-changin’ and this is happening both in Scotland and beyond.  Even on the social media sites that so many of us use daily, politics cannot be avoided.  For many of us politics has become a draw to use social media in new ways to connect with current events and with those who share common values. Our vernacular is increasing, with words and terms like ‘austerity cuts’, ‘electoral reform’, ‘new alternative media’ and even ‘maiden speech’ coming into daily use.

On the 14th of July 2015 the video of the maiden speech by Mhairi Black, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, went viral – with a dramatically escalating number of views in the first 24 hours of being posted.  It has now been viewed over 10 million times by people worldwide.  For myself and many others this was the first maiden speech we had ever watched and indeed, after watching it, we would be inclined to watch more maiden speeches, were they all so articulate, inspiring and passionate, and such a clear illustration of the current political climate in Scotland.  However, this was not the only video of a woman speaking about politics to go viral that day.

On the same day, a video of ‘Worthless’, a poem written in response to the Conservative-led government’s budget by Agnes Török, a spoken word performer who is part of the Edinburgh and Glasgow-based Loud Poets collective, surpassed 100, 000 views within 24 hours of being posted.  In this powerful piece she challenges the system where so many young people can graduate with no career prospects beyond unpaid internships and volunteering and may be more likely to end up living on the streets than in paid employment they are qualified to do, where people’s basic needs such as food and accommodation for them and their families are disregarded, where people are belittled and treated like less than human, just a cog in a machine whose sole purpose is to increase the GDP and when they fail to do so due to circumstances beyond their control they are told it is their own fault.  ‘Go on, tell us we are worthless’ is her response to a government which is openly treating so many as such.

We live in a time when the establishment must be challenged.  When the rich are getting richer, enabled by the neoliberal agenda which is the root cause of measures such as the current austerity cuts in the UK, when food-bank use and child poverty are sky-rocketing in one of the richest countries in the world, when every day seems to bring a new Tory-led assault on marginalised groups in society, we have a responsibility to stand up and speak out.

Of course not all of us are in elected roles such as Mhairi Black, neither do all of us have Agnes Török’s poetic talent, but we need to use the skills and opportunities we do have to find our voice and speak out for the things we believe in.  Our politics in Scotland today is an evolving and vibrant thing.  Our politics should be creative – seeking to question and challenge what we are told by those we know, those in government and the media, and through this forming our own vision for a fairer, more equal Scotland and beyond.  Our creativity can also empower our politics – enabling us to reach out and connect with others in new ways.  There was much evidence of this in the lead-up to the referendum last year, through the work of both individuals and groups such as National Collective, and there continues to be a growing politically motivated arts movement in Scotland.

The poetry and spoken word scene in Glasgow and Edinburgh is flourishing; I myself have started writing and performing poetry in recent months.  Politics is the inspiration for much of what I and many others write.  Poetry and politics may not seem like the most likely companions but right now it could be argued that poetry is the new protest song.  This art form enables us to craft our feelings, our passions, even our anger into a form that reaches out to others to provoke and inspire, even to call to action, because words alone can lose their power without actions to back them up.

The power of the arts goes beyond the superficial – beyond elegantly crafted prose or pictures that are beautiful on purely an aesthetic level.  Our creativity provides us with new opportunities to engage with politics in significant and meaningful ways.  It empowers us in situations where we may otherwise be made to feel that we are worthless.  It enables us to see that change is possible and that all of us can be part of making that change happen.

______________________________

If you like what you read please see some of our other articles. If you don’t like what you read give your own perspective and contribute! As a new venture we are always looking for talented writers with something to say about Scotland politics and culture. And if you have never written before, give it a try. You never know. Please contact scotsperspective@gmail.com or message our Facebook page : scotsperspective.