The Douglas Firs

The Furious Sound

(Armellodie)

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Strolling through the heart of Edinburgh, you can't miss the plaques that recount dramatic stories of witchcraft for camera-wielding tourists. It's rare, however, for these tales from Scotland's dark past to filter into music other than the folk tradition. In the wider indie sphere, perhaps only Neil Insh of The Douglas Firs, one of the capital's more indefinable bands, could be expected to shape an album around the East Lothian witch trials of 1590 and record certain passages in appropriate sites, including the dungeons of Tantallon Castle. There's something very incantatory about the result, as moody vocals are set against the sheer heft of near-tribal drumming. On Black Forest, for example, a cold, distorted soundscape is broken only by the sparse vegetation of sharp piano chords, although tracks such as Alone do offer a brief melodic break from the shadows. A more oppressive album than the band's debut, Happy As A Windless Flag, and probably as much Matthew Herbert as it is Matthew Hopkins, this is Scottish indie striving to become a more literary art.

Alan Morrison