Category: Scotland


Exif_JPEG_PICTUREThe 7″ single Carnival/Canter on the DIY imprint ITLAN based in Edinburgh, Scotland marks the welcome, and long overdue, return of Tissø Lake, the recording project of Ian Humberstone.

I blogged about his album Song Of The Black Dog in 2008 but since early 2010 he has gone off the radar.

Now he’s back and the good news is that the single will be closely followed (on April 14th) by a re-release of ‘The Hollow Wood And Wondrous Cold’ which was recorded in 2005. Unless you live in America and snapped up a copy of this on the now defunct Banazan Records label, the ten tracks on this mini album will also be new to you.

Both records are highly recommended for lovers of quiet, introspective folk music. I love ghostly yet intimate quality of his songs which, to borrow a line from the song I Am A Lake, leaves you with the feeling of being “breathless and alive”.

Ian very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his song writing and the background to these releases:

How come The Hollow Wood And Wondrous Cold was only released in the U.S and why has it taken 8 years to reach Europe?

Ian Humberstone

The Hollow Wood and Wondrous Cold was recorded when I was still in my teens, making music with whichever instruments fell to my hands, borrowed microphones and a reel-to-reel recorder salvaged from a local sixth-form college (it was headed for the skip, though with some care it’s served me well since). There were few people interested in releasing the album at the time and the best offer came from a U.S. label who wanted exclusive rights to the album. Those rights only recently expired, freeing up the record for re-release. Continue reading

KAFKA, CAPRA AND CAPALDI

This might come in handy on the Tardis - Peter Capaldi with his Oscar statuette

This might come in handy on the Tardis – Peter Capaldi with his Oscar statuette

Before he was sharp-tongued media adviser Malcolm Tucker in BBC’s The Thick Of It and, more recently, being transformed into a gigantic (in global marketing terms) time lord as the new Dr Who, Peter Capaldi won the Oscar in 1995 for a quirky short film he wrote and directed called Franz Kafka’s It’s Wonderful Life.

This is one of a virtual treasure trove of 550 free movie listed on the Open Culture website.

Gregor Samsa post metamorphosis

In the film, we find K (Richard E. Grant) struggling to overcome writer’s block while writing the famous opening to his short story Metamorphosis.

He is distracted by a knife salesman searching for his pet cockroach and by the noise from a party downstairs attended by a group of young women who look like extras from Picnic At Hanging Rock.

Like Frank Capra’s feel good Christmas caper, it all ends happily as Kafka gets his inspiration and wins some new friends in the process (“call me F”).

Just like Kafka’s life it is dark, strange, surreal, satirical and short.

Sexy beast! Scarlet Johansson as the alien in Under The Skin.

Sexy beast! Scarlet Johansson as the alien in Under The Skin.

When I read the novel Under The Skin by Michel Faber, I found it disturbing and a little distasteful. It’s the story of a woman who fell to earth who lures hitchhikers in a remote part of Scotland to a sticky end. Forget any tales of cute extraterrestrials – this is one alien who does not come in peace.  It was all a little too vivid for my taste although I’m tempted to read it again to see if I feel the same way about it now. The main motivation would be that it has now been made into a film which is currently doing the festival circuit  - Telluride , Venice and Toronto. The movie gets a bad review in Variety but the critic’s closing complaint about “the thick Scottish brogues rendering large swathes of dialogue incomprehensible” make me suspect that this is not to be taken too seriously.  This seems to me equivalent to bitching about the street patois of the black characters from Baltimore in HBO’s ‘The Wire’.  One man’s incomprehensibility is another man’s authenticity. I give more credence to Mark Cousins whose magnificent Story of Film (book + TV series)  makes him a movie expert whose opinion I respect. He has just written two Tweets which read as  follows: “I think it’s years since I’ve seen a film as good as Under the Skin directed by Jonathan glazer. A masterpiece”. “S Johansson + Scotland + hidden cameras + new imagery + death music + tenderness + brutality + sex + Orphee + Glasgow = Under the Skin” Continue reading

BOYRACERS by Alan Bissett (Polygon Books, 2001)

Cover

“Like characters in a plotless novel, we race through night after night, story after story, film quote after film quote, eternity stretching out before us like an open road”.

The above quote may sound like a romantic dream, but this rambling, but entertaining, tale is set in Scotland not America so the symbolic open roads have a nasty tendency of going in ever decreasing circles or else ending up at brick walls.

The ‘boyracers’ of the title are groups of teens who race cars in industrial wastelands in the city and exemplify the speed of life which is a double-edge sword of excitement and terror. A kind of modern equivalent of the ‘chicken’ game played out in Rebel Without A Cause.

This is not the story of the racers themselves but of four young male onlookers whose beat up car named Belinda is not built for speed. The Falkirk friends are soccer mad Irn-Bru addicts in pursuit of any combination of sex, booze and rock’n’roll that they can find.

Continue reading

Cover to Imaginary Walls Collapse

Y’all Is Fantasy Island is not a name that rolls off the tongue easily and when this Indie band from Falkirk, Scotland split in 2010 few grieved and  many, myself included, didn’t even know they existed.

I came across them while reviewing the excellent new album by Adam Stafford who was the band’s lead singer and driving force.

Stafford has his own record label Wise Blood Industries (which I like to think was named after Flannery O’Connor’s sublime novel) and if you go to the label website you will find a link to a zipped file containing the complete works of Y’all Is Fantasy Island -  55 songs and 5 albums.

The cynic in me thought that if he was now giving all these away tracks they must have been crap so I was, to coin an overused phrase, blown away by how good they are/were. An album called No Ceremony is particularly impressive.

Sure, it is derivative (what isn’t?) but they have processed their influences in a way that sounds pretty dynamic to my ears. You can tell they had fully absorbed their albums of gothic alt.country like Songs:Ohio and Will Oldham’s various incarnations of Palace together with a healthy diet of Grunge. It will cost you nothing to take a listen for yourself.

And while you’re about it you really must near the aforementioned Adam Stafford solo album called Imaginary Walls Collapse and is out now on Song, By Toad Records. Continue reading

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