Paul Research has had a long career in the Scottish music scene. Originally a member of seminal Edinburgh postpunk outfit The Scars, he has also been involved with Voicex and The Scottish Symphonia.
This album was released early in March on CD to some some great reviews, but is now widely available to download as well.
The nine tracks feature vocalists Carrie Furniss, Leeloo (Leanne Greenman) and James.
This is just glorious music, taking in a number of influences including punk, disco, dreampop, electronica and possibly musicals or opera (!). There is also a European sensibility here which is rarely heard on Scottish records, and could date right back to some of those Associates releases back at the turn of the 80s.
Opener ‘Overture’ is well under three minutes but manages to shoehorn a huge number of concepts into its brief length. A half-rapped vocal (by Leeloo) gives us a diatribe on modern life and compromise in music (“milestones, deadlines, got me on the breadline…”), with a great chorus as well. The “big gold dream” turns into the “new cold dream”, for some at least…
‘Supercar’ gives us a massive raw guitar riff (a relative of a Stones one BM thinks!) and a rock and roll parody of big cars and dreams, but with a melancholy edge – there are more references to the industry and perhaps manipulation, also the idea of ‘Skating the Royal Mile’ …(vocals again are by Leeloo)
Things slow down a bit with ‘Deal With This’, with vocals by Carrie Furniss, and there is a very interesting processed bassbeat thing going on. Again there are melancholy chords and the feeling that some of these songs could actually come from a musical, (although BM does not generally like musicals, there is something about some tracks which are almost operatic).
The next couple of tracks ‘Time Stops’ and ‘Chained To A Radiator’ are simply sublime, the first one with a claustrophobic beat-heavy beginning before launching into a minor chord progression at high tempo, electronica burbling below the female (Leeloo this time) vocals… while the latter (vocals again by Leeloo) has a more traditional indiepop sound to the guitar licks, while there are again more references to late night city scenes, rain and murk…
‘Strangers’ follows, with a male vocal by James, which has a great timbre, channelling a bit of Scott Walker maybe – it is a slower, longer track than the rest but very affecting, with electronic percussion and other effects.
Next is ‘Indecision’, which has has one of those riffs that you think you must have heard before, can’t quite place it but the Carrie Furniss vocal is lovely, again sounds like from a musical, lovely guitar riffing and bass notes – a bit Nancy Sinatra possibly…
The last couple of tracks ‘Brandenburg Gate’ (with Leeloo back on the mic) and ‘Ein Litztes Lied’ are quite amazing, the first with some great scratchy guitar, the second with James emoting on nature, the seasons and the rest… truly beautiful.
This does really sound like a suite of songs, an album which hangs together, and Research’s work here is comparable to maybe Barry Adamson or Paul McGeechan in his bringing together of other artists and a vision of a cycle of musical reflections.
Probably one of the albums of the year for this reviewer.