New Releases From Chemikal Underground Records

Since its inception in 1995, Chemikal Underground has maintained its profile as one of the most consistent providers of quality Alt Folk music from both Scotland and the US. Created to provide a platform for releases by Glasgow band The Delgados, the label soon built a reputation as the home of some of the most innovative and influential Scots bands of the late 90s – Mogwai, Arab Strap and Bis among others – and the early 00s saw the label diversify towards music from outwith its Clydeside roots. My own writing career started in an office based in the same building as that of Chemikal Underground, and I’m always pleased to receive new music from a label I’ve always felt a certain affinity with, as well as to inform the readers of adequacy.net about these. Only last week I received a package of the labels newest releases, two of which are from US bands, so clearly the Chemikal bandwagon is showing no signs of slowing, quite the opposite in fact.

King's Daughters & Sons - If Then Not When

King's Daughters & Sons - If Then Not When

King’s Daughters & Sons If Then Not When shows a band whose range of songsmithery is very well matched by their musicianship. Starting with the deceptively underplayed “Sleeping Colony”, the remaining seven tracks display some highly adept musicality, particularly on instrumental track “A Storm Kept Them Away” which has the Kentucky band venturing into improvisational territories similar to those inhabited by their sometime labelmates Mogwai. Post-Rock is only one aspect of their sound though, the pared down minimalism of “Volunteer” and the frenetic “Dead Letter Office” might almost belong on different albums, such is the bands versatility. Final track “Open Sky” is the track that probably reveals King’s Sons & Daughters at their most inventive, an anthemic choral introduction that develops into an extended and verging upon spectacular instrumental conclusion to what is a highly complex and intricately structured song sequence. Modern folk rock posessed of a subtle power, If Then Not When is a both remarkable and assured release.

Loch Lomond - Little Me Will Start a Storm

Loch Lomond - Little Me Will Start a Storm

It takes a band from Portland, Oregon to really put some overt Scottishness into the proceedings, although Loch Lomond (named after one of Scotlands more famous tourist attractions) are very far from the bagpipe-wielding traditionalists their name might suggest. The album’s first track “Blue Lead Fences” with it’s mixture of folk instrumentation and the kind of angular drum and bass rhythms more often associated with the further reaches of the Artpunk scene isn’t very like anything I’ve heard recently. A lot like King’s Sons And Daughters though, there is more than one side to Loch Lomond’s own idiosyncratic take on Alt Folk, one that bases itself around traditional Scots folk and then adds to that a dreampop resonance reminiscent of both The Magnetic Fields and Arcade Fire. Triumphantly unpredictable, ‘Little Me Will Start A Storm’ has more than the energy and commitment in its playing to achieve precisely that.

Aidan Moffat & Bills Wells - Cruel Summer EP

Aidan Moffat & Bills Wells - Cruel Summer EP

Lastly, if you’ve read this far and think you might want to hear something of the music on which Chemikal Underground founded its reputation, then the Cruel Summer EP will provide a very welcome introduction to the songs and storytelling of former Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat. Backed with the sonorous tones of pianist Bill Wells, Moffat’s dryly sardonic humours bring a definite air of subversion to the table, whether he’s dissecting the remains of a failed relationship (“Box It Up”), describing a Halloween party that went on well into November (“Man Of The Cloth”), or performing jazzy loungecore covers of 80s pop hits (the EPs title track), and he’s perhaps the one artiste whose work provides a summation of the ethos that has kept Chemikal Underground at the forefront of independent music production for over 15 years now. Inventive, artistically innovative, mildly eccentric and with a continuing ability to present challenging and often brilliant new music, Chemikal Underground’s reputation will only continue to grow on the strength of releases such as these.