|Modern Studies||Swell to Great|
Modern Studies — Swell to Great (September 12th, 2016) ? Impressionistic mix of sea shanty post~rock and chamber pop.
Location: Glasgow~via~Yorkshire, UK
Album release: September 12th, 2016
Record Label: Song, by Toad Records
01. Supercool 3:18
02. Black Street 2:11
03. Father is a Craftsman 2:46
04. Bottle Green 3:24
05. Bold Fisherman 6:23
06. Today’s Regrets 2:54
07. Dive~bombing 2:36
08. The Sea Horizon 4:05
09. Sleep 2:45
10. Everybody’s Saying 4:26
11. Ten White Horses 2:44
12. Swimming 4:23
Modern Studies is a collective comprising:
? Emily Scott: Singer~songwriter and classical bassist. Composes in a cupboard. “One of Edinburgh’s most cherished musical possessions. Free from constraint, her unbridled approach to expressionism creates a sound that’s crisp and poignant” (THE SCOTSMAN).
? Rob St John: Wrangler of experimental landscape sounds: “A Lancastrian singer~songwriter with the range, boom and profundity of Ian Curtis, Nick Drake and Stuart Staples whose songs animate geography like Luke Haines do history” (Andrew Collins, WORD)
? Pete Harvey: Proprietor of Pumpkinfield, cellist and arranger of repute. Arranger for King Creosote, Best Girl Athlete, and Lomond Campbell. Cellist with King Creosote, Iain Morrison, the Leg “Terrific, unhinged chamber~punk” (THE HERALD), and Paul Vickers and the Leg “winningly odd” (MOJO)
? Joe Smillie: Drummer and venue manager, The Glad Cafe, Glasgow. Drums, percussion and vocals with Iain Morrison “Utterly compelling” (musicOMH), and Call to Mind “Rich in texture and flawless in rhythm” (MUSIC WEEK)
? “there is a calmness in its melancholy, a beauty in its blues. These are songs that see the mystical beyond the material, abstracted folk ballads awash in memory” — **** MOJO (Sept 2016)
? “an understated joy building into a magical climax of quirky brilliance… we predict it will be a contender for next year’s Scottish Album of the Year Award” — The Scotsman
Written by: Nicola Meighan / Date: 7 September 2016 / Score: 4
? They’re officially a four~piece, but there are five protagonists in chamber~pop cartographers Modern Studies. Emily Scott, Rob St John, Pete Harvey and Joe Smillie craft exquisite hymns and shanties on analogue synths, double bass, cello, drums, guitars and wine~glasses — but the character at the heart of this Glasgow~via~Yorkshire alliance is an old Victorian pedal harmonium, whose creaks and wheezes, puffs and drones, breathe history and life into these melancholy landscape psalms.
? Swell to Great’s elemental meditations on memory, nature and bodies of water (oceans, rivers, tears, ourselves) are calming and evocative, with a colour palette of bright moons, black streets, hidden depths and bottle greens, all shot through with unspoken blues — from the gorgeous, undulating folk~rock of ‘Dive Bombing’, through ‘Black Street’s nocturnal reverie, to longing songs awash in salt like ‘Bold Fisherman’, ‘Ten White Horses’ and ‘Swimming’.
? St John has long excavated nature and environment in his work — from debut album Weald through environmental art explorations like Water of Life and Concrete Antenna. His aesthetic and warm Lancastrian burr chimes beautifully with Scott’s gorgeous voice and rich, poetic song~craft, as gently embellished by Smillie (also boss of Glasgow’s magnificent Glad Cafe) and Harvey (The Leg, King Creosote). The latter’s typically spacious, sublime arrangements are understated and mesmerising.
? And the old harmonium speaks volumes, conjuring a sense of yearning and times past, as love letters to memories and the faraway slowly unfold. Lilting, orchestral opener ‘Supercool’ yearns across distance (‘Oh the summer, long ago’ … ‘Oh the water, so far out’), ‘Father Is A Craftsman’ is a stunning folk~pop ode to tradition, kinship and lineage, and ‘Bottle Green’ marvels at (and perhaps also mourns) ‘The Ocean, deep as hell, flat as stone’. This is a treasure trove of songs that embrace, and transcend, place and time. ? https://www.list.co.uk/
David Cowling, November 4, 2016 / Score: 8/10
|Modern Studies||Swell to Great|