Fans of Fence Records supremo King Creosote who don't own a turntable have been breathing a sigh of relief this year as reworked versions of songs that appeared on 2010's vinyl-only That Might Be It, Darling have entered the wider world on 12" EPs and – hallelujah!
– in digital form.
First we had the four-song I Learned From The Gaels, which led with the life-affirming, full-band belter of Doubles Underneath. That might have surprised newcomers drawn to the KC brand by the fragile atmospherics of Mercury Prize nominee Diamond Mine; if so, they'll be able to ease their way into Ankle Shackles which opens To Deal With Things, the EP to be released by Domino tomorrow.
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The pace is slower here, the background soundscapes closer to what Jon Hopkins achieved on Diamond Mine, as Kenny Anderson's voice circles around an obsessive stanza, slipping every now and again into the quicksand of a minor key, watched from afar by a lonely phrase on an old piano. Anderson, right, is often at his best when he sets the sweetness of his voice against the bitterness of his lyrics, and that's the case here. It is truly remarkable how one man can be such a consistently brilliant songwriter over so many years.
King Creosote's Fence labelmate, The Pictish Trail, has also filled the gap before his next album with an EP release. Michael Rocket, the lead song on The Summer Is Empty Of Idiots, is a mesmerising slice of psychedelic folk music, whose soft and floaty aura is underpinned by a strong heartbeat rhythm and surrounded by chorus/delay/reverb effects that suggest when you let Johnny Lynch into a studio, he's like a kid in a sweet shop. And yet the mood isn't entirely sunny: there's an underlying menace to the song, the sense of a hippy era that knows there's bad drugs at Woodstock and that Altamont is just around the corner.
If these are two of the guys at the forefront of the modern folk scene in Scotland, there are always plenty of lesser-known singer-songwriters ready to bite at their heels. One such is Stephen Harrison, whose latest album, Today Tomorrow, is out now on his own independent Close Up Records (go to www.stephenharrisonmusic.com for details on how to listen to/buy it in download and physical CD formats).
If The Pictish Trail's Michael Rocket is rooted in the late 1960s, Harrison's deeply resonant voice and more straightforward acoustic guitar come from another place within the same era – somewhere closer to the albums of Leonard Cohen. There are some terrific songs on here, notably the title track and the genuinely haunting closer, Nobody There.
They are like postcards from an earlier, purer, more positive time.