To the Undiscovered Ends...

These days conventional Rock 'n' Roll is a dead entity rife with clones, claims The Skinny's Ali Maloney. So here he guides Scottish gig goers through a virtually unchartered galaxy of alternative listening for the month of June

Feature by Ali Maloney | 06 Jun 2008
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I blame the Beatles. No other group can be held so responsible for the stubborn laziness and un-inventiveness of the modern vocals-guitar-bass-drums line-up. That is not to say that The Beatles are anything other than a brilliant band, more that those who have been inspired by them choose to mimic their aesthetic and approach at it’s most superficial. And so we are left with clones upon clones of dreary, barely competent guitar bands who make music in the laziest and easiest possible way.

Bob Dylan was a genius poet, but a terrible, terrible singer and musician. Frank Sinatra wasn’t as remotely a good a singer as Sammy Davis Jr or Dino Martin. John Coltrane got better as he grew closer to death.

These aren’t elitist things to think (I think), not a matter of disliking things that are more popular. It is a matter, however, of the majority of the ‘alternative’ music scene consisting primarily of bands trying to recreate something that has past, and possibly wasn’t very good to begin with. That is not to say that gimmickry makes a band better than a straight band, or that a more wacky band is better than a less wacky band. It is scientifically proveable that Led Zeppelin are better than Dread Zeppelin. But there is more soul in one Frank Zappa song than a million by Oasis.

So where can you begin? You’ve spent all this time considering Arctic Monkeys as an alternative to pop rubbish, well, basically they’re pop rubbish too – FACT. But it turns out there’s hyper-narrative cut-up hip-hop, psychedelic funk, jazz made with circuit bent children’s toys, post-glitch electronic head-fuckery, ambient crunk, cosmic zouk, chronosynclastically infidibulated lounge noodling and sacrificial J-pop in warp drive out there waiting to be discovered.

First, and foremost, recommendation for a dip into the unknown are Japanese lunatics Melt Banana. These John Peel favourites play The Arches on 18 June. It’s prog hardcore crossed with saccharine space pop played at head spinning velocity, it’s as cute as it is ferocious and wonderful fun.

Also on that coast, there are some wonderful acts playing the Glasgow International Jazz Festival – which puts Edinburgh’s antiquated Jazz festival to rightful shame. The Bad Plus kick out the jams with their cross of avant-garde jazz and hard rock in the Old Fruitmarket on 26 June. They are a perfect way into modern jazz for anyone who likes the idea of crossing Black Sabbath with Aphex Twin. Also worth seeking out are ex-Portishead member’s band, The Blessing playing “wonky jazz-rock” at Stereo on 20 June. The bill also features great performers such as the sublime Haftor Medboe, maverick trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer and the abstract beauty of Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura.

Over in Edinburgh, the spectacular cinematic electronica vs. classical music of Joe Acheson can be heard at the Jazz Bar on 7 June and the enigmatically named Pearly Doors night at The Hive on 28 June.The Jazz Bar also hosts the return of Asazi’s Space Funk Explosion on 21 June. A good ol’ fashioned freak out and a great excuse to break out that salvia divinorum you’ve been putting off. On a similar vibe, albeit far more funky and wordy, Underling will be ripping up the Meadow’s Festival on 7 June with their ultra-groovy hippity-hop.

For more literate adrenaline rushes, VoxBox hosts Scotland’s first ever team poetry slam at the Meadows Bar on 5 June. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to keep track of Edinburgh’s bulging underground hip-hop scene. Also worth looking out for is the new CDr from ritualistic monk black drone duo, Wraiths, tentatively due out this month.

June also sees Skinny favourite and all round gorgeous human The Laurel Tree co-directing the Audible Motion Alliance - a cutting-edge collaboration between classical, electronic and electroacoustical music with breakers and dancers.

So even in a quiet month there is a wealth of music to choose from right on your door step that offers a true alternative. Don’t be afraid of taking a chance: you might hear music that you can’t stand, but you might here something that will change your life.

One word of warning though, you might not be able to consider Radiohead or the new Portishead album all that unique or interesting afterwards.