The idea that nothing happens in Scotland outside Glasgow and Edinburgh is ridiculous, but there are certain places that have become something of a cultural wasteland, and despite its central location and proximity to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Falkirk, Stirling is one of those. It’s not that there is nothing going on – The Tolbooth has a great music programme, but its slant is very much towards classical and jazz, while the sporadic concerts at the castle are reserved for the likes of Runrig and Ocean Colour Scene.
It’s heartening, then, to see that young people in Stirling are taking matters into their own hands, and the result is mFEST. Taking place at the Macrobert arts centre from 30th July – 2nd August, mFEST boasts a brilliantly diverse line-up of music, comedy, dance and theatre, all programmed by young people. Highlights include Hadouken! supported by New Young Pony Club, Unicorn Kid and the excellent Darwin Deez, beatboxing troupe Shlomo and the Vocal Orchestra and comedian Daniel Sloss. Full line up details are here.
Going from such a dearth of cultural activity to this is a huge step, and if it’s as successful as it deserves to be, it has the potential to be the start of something huge.
Excellent news that the proposed closure of 6Music isn’t going ahead. It’s impossible to say something that hasn’t already been said, but it’s still incredibly heartening to see that public opinion actually got something done, and that after a huge swell of support in the beginning, the campaign didn’t die out. So we can look forward to more of everything good about the BBC: a deliciously eclectic playlist, interesting documentaries and more Lauren Laverne, AKA the best thing on the BBC. Today, we can rest safe in the knowledge that, for a little while at least, discovering new music can be done without having to listen to Fearne Cotton or Zane Lowe. Now shhh – Nemone is playing Ace of Spades…
Released last week, Delays‘ new album Star Tiger Star Ariel is their fourth, and it’s been a strange ride getting here. Emerging at the end of 2003 as the least Rough Trade-ish band ever to sign to Rough Trade, they’ve had two label changes in three years and occupy a sort of limbo on the outskirts, their popularity never quite catching fire in the way it deserves to.
The tricky fourth album, then. Everything about Star Tiger… suggests a band deciding they have nothing to lose and throwing their heart and souls into their work. It’s not quite the minimal electronic opus that pre-release taster and album opener Find A Home (New Forest Shaker) suggests, but it does embody the atmosphere of the album. A sedate, dreamlike slice of electronic pop which erupts halfway through, it’s a brave choice of opener, not quite like anything they’ve done before and an unmistakable sign that things are about to change.
And indeed Star Tiger… is an astonishingly mature record that, thankfully, doesn’t sacrifice the band’s exemplary pop craftsmanship, but everything just fits better. On previous album Everything’s the Rush, the guitars and synths were almost struggling to out-do each other: here, the balance is perfect. Shanghaied and the title track just wouldn’t have existed on any of their previous albums.
On May 45 and the gorgeous sweeping Lakes Can Be Lethal (you’ll quickly forgive the title), there’s a real sense of melancholy, but there is still room for some bouncy pure pop: In Brilliant Sunshine sounds like it should be sung, arms open, from the top of a mountain, while current single Unsung is the kind of aural glitter you’d like to herald your arrival into any given room, and boasts a chorus so high that accurately singing along deserves both a medal and a medical examination.
Nothing here quite has the bottled lightning urgency of You and Me, but that’s not what Star Tiger… is for. It’s the sound of a band growing up and doing so with invention and grace.