Hot on the heels of FOUND’S fifth album ‘Terra Nova’ (released in July on Chemikal Underground) front man Ziggy Campbell is about to release his first album under his Lomond Campbell guise.
‘Black River Promise’ (to be released on Triassic Tusk) marks a dramatic shift away from the modernistic, synth led sound of the last two FOUND albums towards something far more organic and naturalistic. More than that, BRP is something of a revelation, and is based around acoustic guitars and layers of sumptuous, sweeping strings.
It’s also a record which boasts ambitious song structures none more so than the epic title track which may be an acoustic ballad at heart but which is propelled forwards by some elegant, exhilarating string passages.
There are also two instrumentals one of which, the dramatic opener ‘Fallen Stag’ which makes an unequivocal statement about the type of album BRP is going to be.
At its core though lies Ziggy’s songwriting and ‘Brutes In Life’ is the sort of quirky pop song that could have appeared on ‘This Mess We Keep Reshaping’.
As Ziggy explained to itm?, ‘Black River Promise’ was also almost an accidental album.
“I moved to the Highlands a couple of years ago and the building I moved into had no electricity or water to begin with as it had been dormant for 7 years.
“I sat around playing loads of long-form, open tuning finger picking just to amuse myself until the electricity was switched on. This turned into songs, which I recorded fairly hastily in single takes with 4 microphones set up in different parts of the building.
“I didn’t intend to do much with the recordings other than let Pete Harvey (who does string arrangements for Modern Studies, King Creosote, The Leg etc etc) hear them to get an idea of what I was writing as we had been chatting about collaborating.”
By sending Pete what he thought were essentially demos, Ziggy triggered a burst of creativity which transformed the original songs into something very special.
“Pete came back to me a couple of months later having written amazingly complex, spiralling string arrangements over my recordings … so we just went with it.
“We then recorded the 10 piece string ensemble (called the Pumpkinseeds) in a 500 year old castle in rural Perthshire. It was a totally new recording experience for me and was very challenging but I learned loads from working with Pete.”
Bringing ‘Black River Promise’ to a live venue in its full glory would be an enticing prospect, even as a one-off, but unfortunately Ziggy cautions that it’s unlikely to happen.
“I think both Pete and I would love to play the album live with the full 10 piece string ensemble and all the other musicians on the record. But it would cost so much money in players’ fees that I doubt it’ll happen.”
Nevertheless, the album will be getting live promotion in the next week or so albeit in stripped back format.
“We’re off on tour round Scotland this week with King Creosote (appearing as his darker electronic counterpart Kwaing Creasite) but it’ll just be myself on guitar and vocals and Pete on cello & bumslaps.”
Whilst he has played a number of shows as Lomond Campbell, Ziggy admitted that the name was also something of an accident in which KC played a fundamental role.
“I’m not sure when exactly but I do remember I was hanging out with Kenny and he took a picture of me pointing at the Lomond Hills, prompting him to start calling me Lomond Campbell. He then billed me as such when I did a solo performance supporting him on one of his small tours of Fife.
“I read in a Scottish newspaper that Lomond was one of the most common ‘new’ names for babies last year. Just saying likes.”
‘Black River Promise’ is just the latest instalment in a musical career which has explored fresh ideas with every new cycle of work. Whilst this approach challenges Ziggy creatively he admits that it also has its drawbacks.
“‘Black River Promise’ is a totally different beast to anything I’ve done with FOUND or anyone else as the whole album ticks along at a different pace.
“I just think if I’m not going to do something different then there’s no point in doing it at all. That’s probably why there was such a big gap after ‘factorycraft’.
“But I’m not entirely sure why I do that. It doesn’t really do you any favours because you can’t build much of a following if you keep wrong-footing everyone.”
This constant forward movement explains in large part why the debut Lomond Campbell E.P. ‘Only a City Apart’ sounds quite unlike the debut album. Indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, ‘Only a City Apart’ now sounds like a transitional record between ‘factorycraft’ and ‘Cloning’ as Ziggy readily admits.
“Those two records are 3 years apart so I’m not surprised they sound dissimilar. I was very much in the throes of writing songs for FOUND when I recorded ‘Only a City Apart’. Now when I listen to that record it sounds like it could easily have become a FOUND album with the inclusion of a couple more tunes.”
‘Black River Promise’ though is just the latest in a series of records involving Ziggy.
“That’s four albums in the space of a year if you include ‘Cloning’ and ‘Screamers, Bangers & Cosmic Synths’, a compilation which was released through our new record label Triassic Tusk. Pretty good going, eh?”
‘Pretty good going’ doesn’t begin to cover it! Certainly no-one could have predicted that, after a gap of 5 years between ‘factorycraft’ and ‘Cloning’ FOUND would produce a follow-up to the latter album just 9 months later.
‘Terra Nova’, again on Chemikal Underground, was released in July and Ziggy explains that there had been a degree of urgency about its release.
“FOUND was commissioned to make some new artwork based on the rescue mission sent out to free Captain Scott’s failed expedition to Antarctica. The rescue ship was called Terra Nova so we wrote a ‘concept album’ about what would essentially turn out to be the end of that great era of Victorian exploration.
“We had to write, record, mix and master ‘Terra Nova’ in 4 days as I had really gruelling work commitments at the time. We then rushed it out in order to have copies in time for exhibiting the artwork in Edinburgh in July.”
Despite those circumstances, Ziggy is very proud of the resulting album.
“I think the fact that we released it so hastily meant that it snuck out with very little fanfare. But, in my opinion, it’s one of FOUND’s finest albums although, perversely, I like that it came out so benignly. Maybe it’ll be our ‘lost’ album.”
Well, personally I hope that it doesn’t become ‘lost’ at all because it’s a fine piece of work. With a similar mix of types of material as ‘Cloning’ it comprises songs such as the melancholic title track and more abstract instrumental interludes such as ‘Souter’s Lens’. However one of the stand-out tracks is the spoken word piece ‘Eerebus’ which merges poetry and reportage delivered by Neu! Reekie’s Kevin Williamson.
Whilst FOUND were once a regular feature on the Scottish live circuit, their live shows in the last couple of years have been far more infrequent. Ziggy feels that’s not likely to change any time soon.
“I had an epiphany and realised that over the years I’ve only enjoyed a small percentage of the live shows we’ve played, so I became much more selective.
“I also don’t like playing live if I feel under-rehearsed and, as I’ve moved very far away from the other members of FOUND, rehearsing has become more challenging.”
‘Black River Promise’ is out now, on Triassic Tusk.