Building on the impetus of her SAMA Best Electronic Award earlier this year Plum (aka Shona Maguire) has released a new EP ‘Betsy Thunder’. Just after releasing the EP she played a gig in The Pleasance, Edinburgh supporting Conquering Animal Sound so in order to introduce Ralph’s former man in Scotland, Malcolm Parry as a fully fledged blogger (Scottish Sounds) in his own right, here’s his review of the EP and gig…
The EP opens with ‘Burn Us’ and There’s a real Goldfrapp/Saint Saviour feel to the intro with it’s haunting choir like vocal style. The opening tune creates a grim electronic vision with the lyrics – “Burn us if we’re not like you” – a song that could easily have been written about witches in the dark ages.
But this is a concept EP about a imaginary native American Indian so we’re in Soldier Blue territory. A dark time none the less. Plum sings in whispered tones until mid song we get soaring synth, a tempo change and the lyrics – “Cut me til I bleed for my life” – to fade. A promising start.
‘Casting Shadows’ is the first of two new tunes co-produced by fellow Scottish Electro bass-heads Roman Nose. Melody wise reminding me of the tune from ‘The Seed’ album ‘The Truth And The Knife’, building to atmospheric levels while remaining restrained and never unleashing a full throttle bass attack on the listener.
My favourite cut from the EP is ‘Catapult’ and sees her reunite with electronic producer Teklo. It’s a perfect slice of ghostly Halloween style Electro pop and a great release for October. Spine tingling Xylophone sounding notes are heard under a drop bass attack, this reviewer imagining being at a Rave on Elm Street.
‘Death Comes With A Bow’ is the nearest Plum gets to the commercial sounding side of electro pop music with her slightly off kilter keys intro before the uplifting sing along – “Capture my heart in the thunder” – and it’s real anthem for the imaginary character on whom the EP is based. If CHVRCHES run out of tunes they know where to come.
She takes it down on ‘Only Human’ which is a dreamy, floaty imaginary soundtrack snippet in the characters life; maybe about losing her loved one’s in a battle or on death’s door herself with the lyrics – “Hanging on by a thread, wishing I was dead” – while overdubbed vocals – “Letting go, letting go..” – fade us to black.
‘To Destroy Everything’ is a track where the keys melody has a early 80’s Depeche Mode – ‘A Broken Frame’ – period feel, before Roman Nose add euphoric pulsating synth on the chorus – “Did you come for me to destroy everything that I love” – and I imagine Betsy losing it catapult in hand poised ready to enact revenge on the soldier boys. “This is what I need, this is what I breath, this is what I am” – the outro is brought back down to hushed vocals and ambient soundscape.
All in all a great little concept EP and it definitely works well as a whole listening experience and a sneaky insight in to the world of one Betsy Thunder. Plum showing there’s more ‘strings to her bow’ in her writing duties and not just songs about her own life experiences. I say bring on the album.
Limbo – Pleasance Theatre , Edinburgh 24/10/13
A review by Malcolm Parry: Being an electronica fan I was quite excited about the prospect of tonight’s line up, all electro artists from Glasgow/Edinburgh.
First up Glasgow based Engine 7. The duo of producer Alan McNeil and Glaswegian but based in London Marie Claire Lee. Main man takes the stage creating ambient electronic soundscapes while visuals are projected onto a screen behind. Its all atmospheric and music to soundtrack a cool indie movie. Singer Marie Claire Lee joins him while the first piece flows seamlessly in to the next. She swoons and sways along like a snake in a trance to the charmed beats from McNeil, she floats in and out from the Mic, adding loose lyrics.
Unfortunately I couldn’t quite make out the lyrics, maybe the sound levels were out, but the beats were loud, I like. In the last tune I can make out a chiming melody like a ice cream van at the Sonar Festival, the lyrics are more prominent and I hear a touch of Bat For Lashes lead lady Natasha Khan in Marie’s vocal style. Some great pieces of music and production.
Speaking to Marie before she told me the new album is sounding cool and she’s excited to get it out. What I’ve heard tonight I’ll be getting my hands on a copy. Nice start to the show.
Plum quietly takes her place in front of her table of electrical tricks, holding the mic – “Hello, I am Plum“ – then joking “I’m sounding like a comedian.” and ‘Meadow of Weeds’ is first. She’s recently defected to Brighton and since being there had a few mishaps happen to her; including injuring her wrist, so unfortunately we don’t get the full Plum experience moving between bass and acoustic guitar.
Before she was like a mad professor, now more of a one armed DJ/vocalist. Having said that she still provides a great show, adding warmth and charm when she makes a mistake, laughing and telling us what she has done wrong. The beats and tunes are still there, especially the excellent new material from her new EP, ‘Betsy Thunder’.
Catapult takes us to new highs with it’s spine tingling xylophone melodies and thunderous bass all mixing in to the electrifying set with tunes from The Seed. She banters with her old sacked producer (in joke) Martin who’s sitting in the audience and tells us her dad loves that new track ‘Death Becomes A Bow’ and who says it like – “take a bow” – an uplifting piece of electro pop.
Last tune ‘Smile’ she introduces us to her favorite song to play live, it certainly has brought smile’s to the faces of tonight’s crowd. An electronic artist/producer with bags of talent and a favorite I never tire of seeing live, especially nice to see her back in her home town.
Little Buddha I have been looking forward to seeing for a long while and they don’t disappoint with their Bass heavy sounds and tight production from main man Grant Tyrie , keyboardist of three years Fergus Black and lead lady ( slightly scary ) vampirish looking Kat McDonald who jokes and banters, but leaves us all slightly unnerved.
McDonald sings the songs like she’s providing the soundtrack for a Tim Burton animated movie or theatrical musical. Hints and nods to Massive Attack and Portishead on ‘Life Support’ with its trip hop stylee and dark noir-ish overtones, slightly electronic/jazz with more focus on the bass wizard trickery. I’m loving their set until just before the last song an emotional Grant takes the Mic and announces – “This will be our last gig. I’ve loved being with the band and partner Kat making music together for 15 years“ – all very sad and slightly uncomfortable for the audience, also a shame as they looked like they were getting somewhere with recently being featured on BBC radio live in the Edinburgh Fringe. I’m glad I got the chance to see them live and they will be missed.
Finally it’s up to head-liners Conquering Animal Sound to pick us back up. The electro duo consisting of Anneke Kampman and James Scott create strange other wordly experimental electronic music. The petite Kampman live on stage is a intense force, moving back and forth, confidently singing in to the mic like Bjork. Scott provides minimal sounds and gentle comments between songs.
At times it’s a trance like experience, especially on one of their new tunes with it’s hypnotic beats and ending with it’s – “I did not look like me mother” – lyrics. They’re an intriguing live act but unfortunately not captivating enough for me to last out the full set.