The Wild Places

Wires

Self-released on February 28, 2020

TV REALITY shows would have us believe that pretty much everyone is trying to escape the humdrum of their lives to become a singer or a musician.

It is no different for Ewan Fergus, who after ten years as a west of Scotland journalist before switching to public relations decided to pull together lifelong schoolfriends and regular collaborators Tim Berridge and Neil Plews to see if they could cut it as band. That was six years ago.

Painstaking stop-start rehearsals for the trio of dads at the cavernous Carlton Studios in Glasgow led to a debut EP which spawned You're The Bomb three years later, that made my 'Best Scots Tunes of 2017' list and served to indicate that they might just have something.

If they began as a part-mash up of Radiohead and Bloc Party with a fragile heart, their long-awaited debut album shows a diversity that they have only hinted at before, perhaps a reaction to all the, privately disliked, Thom Yorke comparisons.

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They kick off with a bang. Crime of the Century was the band's first single off the album, and probably their most blatant attempt at pop, which actually turns into a four-minute surf-rocking aural voyage through a forgotten spaghetti western.

If the band prefer not to be identified alongside any popular beat combo which has 'head' and 'radio' in their name, then the engaging Last People On Earth propels them away into twisted Wedding Present territory, at least the predominant riff does.

READ MORE: Video - New Scots band The Wild Places share the ten songs that most influenced them

While you know what to expect, say, from a Lewis Capaldi album, Wires takes you on a far different journey, from deep melancholy, to hope and even anger, while the band musically blast off in different directions. It's a thrilling ride.

The recruitment of recording guru Steven Ward (Errors, Phantom Band) has helped to further expand the soundscape beyond the original guitar-drums-bass axis, and keep the trio with a semblance of direction.

Nevertheless the delightfully dynamic Light The Way takes the loud-soft-loud axis and then cheats by ending just when you expect the crescendo. More is less, I guess.

Fergus may not have employed his newswriting skills in his tantalisingly oft abstract lyrics employed in the pounding Little White Lies with its "I'll take you down, if it's the last thing I do" hook and enticing baggy beat. It may sound like it is about infidelity but it is actually about "the overwhelming power of obsessive love and the line between constructive and destructive relationships". Not a million miles off.

The idea of moulding reggae and prog-rock might seem a fools errand, but the breezy Ghosts On Every Corner really works.

There is a feeling that the band themselves are not sure when they are at their best.

The debut EP highlight This Is How, was the last song , and their big anthem here arrives at track nine out of 11. The cinematic Fear City has everything that make this band so exciting, a flicker of desolation, a hint of regret and lost love, a smidgeon of optimism, cunning guitar work, dramatic percussion, thrusting bass and a soaring, spinetingling Thom Yorke (yes, him again) vocal pay-off, that comes half way through rather than, as you would expect, at the end.

The less immediate Hello Monster and In The Dying Light in the second half of the album, are suffocated against the other more compelling nine tracks here, but fit neatly into the sheer eclecticism on offer.

READ MORE: Top 100 Tunes from Scotland in 2019 Part 1 (100-76)

The towering finale comes in the shape of Black Sky, a surprising (again) piano-led ballad with its "I'm lifted up, into the atmosphere" hook which even finds room for a delicate drum 'n' bass and an unexpected power-drum before drifting off into the ether.

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It is no wonder the band picked Danish artist Trine Bork Christensen for the cover artwork.

Like the album it is sometimes dark, partly colourful, always twisting, quite hypnotic and ultimately magical.

And all this from a home-recorded LP. There's no place like it.

What do the band say?

Ewan said: “We love recording and are used to working in the time-pressured environment of a professional studio where time is money and everything can get pretty stressful.

“With these songs we didn’t want that, we wanted to really take our time and make the record we knew we had in us. So thanks to our very patient families we took about 14 months and basically did everything at home. Even Tim’s pretty full on massive drum sound was recorded in my living room with a full drum kit, which my very kind family and cat were good enough to put up with. It was hilarious. There were mics everywhere, the living room, the kitchen, cables all over the place.

"Chaos... but it worked.

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“We’re all dads with day jobs and kids and all that real life stuff, but it’s been important to us to really get this record right - a proper labour of love in granular detail. You never know if you’re going to get the chance to do this sort of thing again so you really need to grab it. When Steven told me he was up for working with us again, I thought -we’ve really got to go for this!

“I think the results speak for themselves, which is absolutely the core philosophy behind the band - it’s all about letting the music do all the talking.

“We also had the privilege to work with a fantastic Danish artist Trine Bork Christensen who made lots of incredible unique artwork for our music. I’ve been friends with Trine since I met her when she was studying at Glasgow School of Art.

"Over the years we’ve worked together to make art for some of our other music projects so it was amazing to work with her again. She makes these incredible abstract images in a variety of materials and the swirly wash of colours and and angular shapes really seem to match our music.”