Scottish New Music Round-up: February 2024

We are so ready for February – there's great new music this month from Savage Mansion, George Demure, Aurora Engine, El Ghoul and more

Feature by Tallah Brash | 01 Feb 2024
  • Savage Mansion

No messing, let's get into it! The tail end of January saw the vibrant dancefloor-worthy Bliss land from mighty miserablists Arab Strap, announcing alongside its release that an epicly titled album wouldn’t be far behind it. I'm totally fine with it [thumbs up emoji] don't give a fuck anymore [thumbs up emoji] arrives in May, which has us wondering how the fuck we’re going to publish that title on our website, one that gets quite literally crippled by emojis, so thanks for that headscratcher, lads, as well as the exciting new tune! [thumbs up emoji]

Last month we also missed EPs from AMUNDA (All of the Love), and Former Champ (Vol. 1), as well as singles from Tina Sandwich (Joni), Susan Bear (Shake (Say Yes)), No Windows (Song 01), naafi (Magnolia), Queen of Harps (Where You Find Me), Aster YVS (Listen), neverfine (Colours), Josephine Sillars (Move Higher), wojtek the bear (slowly, then all at once) and Naum Gabo (This 1¨º∆), a new collab between Optimo's Jonnie Wilkes and James Savage, occassional engineer for Slam, released on DFA. Plus loads more we don’t have room for here. Follow our Music Now playlist at the QR code below.

Sliding into February, the first Tuesday of the month brings us the debut solo record from Future Get Down frontman Oli Kass, under the name El Ghoul. Volume 1 is a collection of songs dreamt up in the early days of the pandemic when he set himself the task to record one song a day for 14 days. Three years in the making, its thoughtful and exploratory nine tracks are now ready for all to enjoy. 

All set at a much slower pace than what we’re used to from Kass, this is quite simply music to get lost in. That's not to say that Volume 1 doesn’t have its bolder moments, as those exist across the record too in the trudging and ebullient second half of Head Song, the wobbly and throbbing More Failed Photos of the Moon and the crunching end of Day 1. But it becomes quickly clear that sticking to one idea, and remaining stagnant at any point across this record, wasn’t an option for Kass, no more exemplified than on Don’t Let the Sun Take Your Energy, a seven-minute shapeshifter that starts mournfully dystopian, and ends on a pang of hope. Made using a combination of half-working instruments and reel to reel cuttings, Volume 1 is a record of exploration and juxtaposing ideas worth your time.

El Ghoul. Image credit: Laura Meek.

Later that week, as Aurora Engine, Deborah Shaw unleashes Secret Knock (9 Feb), a record that feels like wandering cautiously through an enchanted forest, wide-eyed at everything that crosses your path. Part of this is down to Shaw’s deft playing of the harp, an instrument that conjures pure magic when plucked, plunging you into a dreamland when strummed. But it’s not just the harp here that transports, that combined with the rest of the record's rich instrumentation and Shaw’s vocal delivery, one of childlike wonder. This theatrical style could so easily become jarring, but on tracks like Louder in the Dark, Shaw practically channels Kate Bush.

On the same day, George Thomson, aka George Demure, releases Ear Candy Dandy on local label Hobbes Music. There’s a playfulness to the tracks here, which all feel markedly different from one another as they pogo through a plethora of genres and moods, held tightly together by Thomson’s self-imposed limitations when it came to recording: “No samples, one drum machine, two analogue synths… maybe some real percussion and melodica.”

While the record is described as “post-club sounds of a more leftfield persuasion”, don’t leave it on the shelf only to be listened to in those wee small hours. At that time of day you might miss its intricacies; the womp of the basslines hit different in the light of day, and the ominous tones on some of the tracks would be better left for moments when your skin isn’t crawling with paranoia. 

The following week, prolific Glasgow outfit Savage Mansion release The Shakes (16 Feb) on Lost Map Records. Their fourth album since 2019, it's their most authentic sounding yet, with the band brimming with a new confidence, the songs richer and more shapely than before. This, of course, could be down to new approaches taken on this occasion, in both the songwriting processes and the fact The Shakes was recorded live to tape, beautifully capturing the band's live sound on record. This has also given The Shakes an undeniable vintage feel, with their amalgamation of ideas and different kinds of guitar music landing somewhere between Pavement, Ought, Personal Trainer and Bodega.

Elsewhere, on 2 February Gates of Light release Gates of Light II (Paris Edition), the second in a three-part series, while on the 23 February, The Snuts release Millennials, and Redstone Press are raising money for SAMH with their Feeling Everything, All At Once compilation. There’s also a glut of singles coming this month with new releases from Too Red (Jumpstart, 1 Feb), Florence Jack and Nat Cartier (Read the Room, 2 Feb), Alex Auldsmith (As the Crow Flies, 4 Feb), Pearling (Wildfire, 9 Feb), Quad90 (Anodyne, 9 Feb) and Chiara Berardelli (Little More, 23 Feb).