Assai Recordings (label)
18 September 2021 (released)
18 September 2021
The mercurial Alan Horne resurfaced recently in the pages of music monthly magazine, Uncut. The feature saw him looking back on his helmsmanship of the legendary Postcard Records, the short-lived Edinburgh ‘hit’ factory (of only four groups) that spawned Orange Juice, Josef K, Aztec Camera and Australians The Go-Betweens. Horne reactivated the label in 1992 to issue records by the celestial voiced Paul Quinn, whose back catalogue the once more resurrected Postcard are overseeing.
If there are echoes of the former groups in the ornate orchestration and onward (and upward) experimentation it is the latter that ‘new pop’ sensation, Hamish Hawk (backed by a superb group), most brings to mind and memory on debut LP ‘Heavy Elevator’ (produced by Idlewild’s Rod Jones).
Throw in some glorious Morrissey-esque hopeless forlorning (‘Daggers’) and word-weary, world-wary warnings and The Monochrome Set’s artful bemusings and heart-full musings (particularly on the hit-‘em-where-it-hurts, punch-in-the-gut-wrenching ‘Your ceremony’) and the result is a rich mix of the prose-ache, the infernally doomed, eternally roaming antics of the, well, you can work it out.
These sonic sketches, existential etches, vari-vocal stretches are drawn, derived, decisively dragged from Hawk’s external/internal dialogues. Lifelong, residual diary entries wrenched free before the weight becomes too much, chance meetings, snatched greetings, converted into a comparative narrative, figments, fragments, a retelling of tales of the least expected.
The words flay, flow, flood, fly out, rolling, tripping, falling and laughing off and from the tongue, all dexterous Caledonian swirls, twirls and whirls. The lush instrumentation (co-writer Andrew Pearson – guitars; Alex Duthie – bass; John Cashman – keyboards; co-writer Stefan Maurice – drums) sweeps, swoons, swoops, suddenly sways, all senses salved and soothed.
The title alone of ‘This, whatever it is, needs improvements’ is enigmatic enough and that’s before you get to the hanging, the pausing, the anticipating of the next utterance, the alliterative announcement, the penetrative pronouncement. Which inevitably arrives. Poetry in emotion.
The exquisitely titled ‘The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973’ had me reaching for the racquet sport’s equivalent of football’s Rothmans Yearbook or cricket’s Wisden, to ascertain just who ‘was’ the said victor, to no avail. Hawk archly, poetically and metaphorically using this notion to reflect on the idea of legacy, remembrance, traces, asking the question what structures do we (wish to) leave behind as testament to a life? Maybe a rusting trophy on the mantelpiece is the perfect symbol.
The disco-intent of ‘Caterpillar’ ups the ante, exercising all its legs *ahem* to weave wend and wind its way to the perimeter of polite society, tentatively observing the frayed edges of entry, a five-and-a-half minute noir narrative. Billowing bass-driven, synth-laden, skittering percussion, vocal vexations, ghostly echoes, all with the punk-funk labyrinthine mystery of ‘Remain in Light’ era Talking Heads.
This is the sight of the sunshine peeking through the rainclouds, the gleams in the cracks. These are the sounds of the upbeat for the downhearted, down low anthems for the upstarts. This is the feeling of euphoria, the album that cures dysphoria. Ingest.