15 November 2010

The Scottish Enlightenment - St.Thomas: Track By Tack

I guess if you are like me and you read a lot of Scottish blogs, then you will be fully aware of the 'buzz' surrounding the Scottish Enlightenment at the moment. If not, then just trust me on this one, there is quite a stir brewing on the old blogosphere about this lot.
So is the buzz justified, quite simply, 'fuck yes'. The four piece from Fife have quietly managed to produce an album of great beauty which deserves your full attention and love.
I have been living with this album for quite a while now and every day it grows on me a little bit more. I find the songs slowly seeping into my brain, so much so that it's not even a conscious decision when I find myself hitting play on my MP3 player.
I spoke to Al from their label Armellodie a month or so back who confessed that he had been sitting on the album since around the turn of the year. I don't think I would have been able to keep an album this good a secret for that long. Anyway that's enough of my ramblings, here's David from the band to let you know a bit more about the album as he talks us through all of the tracks....

Gal Gal

This is a bit of a manifesto for the album. I think it sets out our intentions sonically, all the feedback, the grandness. There's a video somewhere on the internet of me doing a pretty disturbing froggy kind of dance to this, playing a wee keyboard on the floor. It was originally called 'How to Build a Church'. Gal Gal is a name that came from one of my illicit Wikipedia raids at work. It is a Hebrew phrase related to angelic creatures in some context or other, and it carries a meaning along the lines of 'rotation of fortune' or 'change'. So it think it makes for a pretty good intro to the album.

Earth Angel

Someone said in a review of the album that we screwed up this 'Back to the Future' reference. It should be noted that The Penguins first recorded the song Earth Angel, so who's to say it wasn't a penguins reference eh? Well it wasn't. It was a big fat Marvin Berry reference. Alternatively, its about an angel come to earth. We were a bit concerned about putting this song at the start of the record, because its very slow, very repetitive. But it felt a lot like the kind of band we have become. Repetition is a great thing, and its at the root of pop music. Repetition in bass and drums makes people dance. And I think repetition of simple, beautiful melody can be hypnotic. Like meditating. Bottom line, we like it, and we decided to do a lot of it on this record for that reason. Some people wont like the repetition. The Fall like repetition. My wife doesn't. So be it.

Little Sleep

This is the radio friendly unit shifter. Only its not really been played on the radio much. It's a song about a boy and a girl getting through hard times together. Soppy, that. I've always thought is sounds like Arcade Fire, but I'm not sure it actually does. Its always good playing it live; I end up playing the outro bit differently every time, but usually the aim is to break the low E string. Our old bass player Karen sings on this, and she sings on Earth Angel, List Right and The Soft Place too. And plays the cornet parts. She's our fifth Beatle.

Taxidermy of Love

This sounds like a fairytale to me. A friend of mine, Beth, plays Clarsach on it, which is a small harp. She's a doctor and was in between some pretty hardcore shifts, and did a brilliant job just making stuff around the three chords. I told her to just wander about the chords absent-mindedly, which i think wasn't a problem as she was jiggered. It sounds ace to me. I like this song a lot. When we were first arranging it Dave played the raked chords that come in after the first verse and it gave me shivers. I think that set us on the fairytale path with the whole song. Its got some little twee melodies that i love, but its really like musical fantasy. Maybe its the sort of music Tim Burton would record. Or maybe Tim Allen.


The intimate song. Angus plays chords on the bass all the way through, bless his wee ginger soul. We played the outro to this for about ten minutes straight in Dundee a couple of years ago. That was us falling in love with repetition.


This is the oldest song on the album. Its been around for a few years, and it used to have another verse and probably two guitar solos. Its much better now. I love the guitar sound in between the verses - a totally bone-shaking clatter. Its a love song this. Albeit a bit of a creepy one.

The First Will Be Last

This song was going to be on Little Sleep EP, because it was recorded after all the main recording sessions we did at Green Door Studio in Glasgow. But everyone liked the song so much we ended up putting it on. And its pretty important to the story the album tells. But its probably the darkest song on the album, the most despairing. And we found it very easy to arrange - it works kind of like a singer-songwriter thing. I just play guitar and sing the song, and the band plays along. Its really nice to have a song like that to play live.

List Right

If The First Will Be Last is the darkest song, this is the most gloomy. There is a difference. Im a connoisseur of the miserable. Musically its a great big moan, and it would probably be unlistenably gloomy if it wasn't for the big rising piano bit in the middle. When i first wrote this song I was listening to The Boatman's Call and Nocturama by Nick Cave. Hence the gloom, the piano, the low vocals.

The Soft Place

A few years ago i helped run a film festival on the topic of organ transplants. It showed 21 Grams and another movie, and a lot of documentaries. One was about a people going through living donor kidney transplants. The emotions involved are cataclysmic. Everyone is facing the possibility of death. Everyone is terrified. There's guilt on the part of the one requiring the transplant. There's love and hope too. Having a kidney cut out is awful. Having to live with a kidney that isn't yours is awful. But the alternative is worse. There's some enduring truth about what people are always going to face - things will be really hard at some point and the only way through will be really hard. So this is a love song too. And its probably the most uplifting song on the record. The end sounds like a church congregation singing.

My Bible Is

This song sums things up a bit. The album is about a church-goer's tussle with faith and doubt. This song is about the ambivalence that an honest person will find in everything. We decided to make it one big crescendo built up of all the parts, so that the song would be a big stack of staggered parts, leaving a big overwhelming clamour at the end. It means there are too many parts for us to play live though. So its only for special occasions. We're due to play it on Vic Galloway's show in December with a wee choir. Should be cracking.

St.Thomas is out today on CD and Digital Download through the excellent Armellodie Records.
I would strongly suggest that you get it added to this years Christmas wish list, or perhaps you could even treat yourself. Go on you deserve it!
The band launch the album with a show at the 13th Note in Glasgow this coming Thursday (18th), supporting them on the evening will be Le Reno Amps and Deathpodal.


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