Posted: March 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

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The independent and ubiquitous STV has managed to raise £2.5m to help alleviate poverty. “Which unfortunates are we feeding and clothing now?”  some may ask. Children. In Scotland.  One in five. 220,000. More than the population of the whole of Aberdeen. This being the 21st century and potentially the 6th (economically) richest country in the world, yes, a shockingly unfair state to be in. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s rare to hear stadium quality music even in a stadium these days. Bands are wheeled out to play the same old hit(s) and the 4/4 chord chops that many young guitarists learn in their first lessons. In the manufactured, mediocrity ravaged music industry sausage factory, dullness and predictability stalk live music venues like ex-boyfriends on Facebook. However, tucked away in the North East of Scotland is some intriguing talent warming the cockles of the listening public. Three bands; three big sounds: Uniform, UTN and Same Faces. Their latest playground: The Tunnels, an intimate underground venue and one of the UK’s best avenues to hear live music. One weekend saw the arched roof shake with quality tunes from these three very talented bands.

Uniform providing great support

The first support act, Uniform, made an impact from the start. A strong six-piece presence with 3 guitarists, a bassist, drummer and- rarely seen these days-  keyboardist, filled the stage physically and with  a solid wall of  sound. With strong Robert Smith style vocals and some intricate interweaving guitar work, very much like early U2, they held their own like a mainline act playing to their own crowd, rather than just filler while the main acts wait in the wings. This very tight and melodic sextet of indie-rockers are due to do very well, being huge crowd-pleasers as well as consumate musicians, uniform in thought and form.

Stuart, leads from the front

George milks the guitar

Aberdeen stalwarts, UTN, were up next and whipped up the crowd with their wonderfully inventive songs. Harking back to the days of solid rock craftsmanship but with a great modern vibrancy, they played their strings and drumskins bare, reminiscent of the Black Crowes and Black Keys. The rangy and emotion driven vocals of striking lead singer and guitarist, Stuart Youngson, sailed across the fantastic precision rhythm of John Christie on bass and Attila Kiss on drums.

Attila: drum-master general

John in full bass flow

George Gillies punctuated and supplemented this wonderful landscape of musical mastery with well executed riffs and legato solos. Their songs never let your interest wane for even a split second, with multiple sections and tempo changes- all of them pure platinum class. I was impressed that they kept this energy through the whole gig as if they were aiming all songs to each member of the audience individually. This culminated in the whole crowd chanting along to the last tune which came with a ridiculously catchy chorus that I am still singing to myself now- a week later.

Charlie, charismatic frontman of Same Faces

Finally, Aberdeen’s answer to ACDC, Same Faces swaggered onto the stage to give their MOT tested and guaranteed blistering performance. As ever, the domineering presence of Charlie Munro and his razor sharp vocals roared the clever yet brutally honest lyrics to their confirmed fans, old and new.

Gordon and his golden Gibson exploits

Rich and his rich bass sound

Gordon Leith brandished his axe and tore through the songs with the chunkiest guitar chops I’ve heard in a long time. With his trusty Gibson Les Paul switched to the neck pickup, he certainly made sure his sound had hard edges that packed a real guttural punch. Tunk Reid was sat on his drumstool throne giving the kick drum hell and making cymbal thrashing a near Olympic sport. New bassist, Rich Lewis, fit right in with pumping fingerstyle bass playing that added massive tonnage to the already weighty tunes. They all look the part. They all sound the part. The songs are great. A great band whose phenomenal music rings true with all who hear it.

To all who say rock is dead in Scotland, think on. We have three bands in our seemingly sleepy corner of the world who are ready to rock the sh*t out of all who come. See it live. Hear it loud. Aberdeen rock is alive and great and proud.

All photos reproduced with the kind permission of Euan Ross. To see of his pictures from this gig, go –>here<–

–>Download your very own copy here <–       (all donations will be gratefully spent on frivolities)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In times of perceived economic gloom, we look for escapes and ways to lighten the drudgery of day to day life. Many of us in the UK head off to sunnier shores; some make a shorter journey down to the local pub. For those in need of  instant cheer, they can listen to Kick and Pull by Aberdeen based singer-songwriter, Oliver Richards.

The first track, Gimme Love, starts with a soaring arpeggio and strings reminiscent of the joyous dance music of the 90s which pulls up the listener just in time to hear some gorgeous finger picking on acoustic guitar, Oliver’s signature to this uplifting song. The lyrics offer a simple, plaintive message which is sung pleadingly and sweetly in a near whisper.

Go Baby is a more sultry affair with  bossanova driven minor chords and seductive suggestions in husky undertones. This calming piece of music is a pleasure to listen to and acts as a lovely counterpoint to the less subtle pick-me-up of the first track.

Things become more urgent and driven with Poison Ivy. The relentless rhythm raises the heartbeat and the fractious keyboard riffs jolt the senses. Oliver’s acoustic guitar is there too, palm-muted and as lively as the kick drum and double time hi-hat. The lyrics ring true with anyone who has been in an acrimonious relationship, with the eponymous Ivy being held up as a prime example of a dangerously beguiling lover.

Yeah No is more of an ensemble piece, with a full band sound in which the acoustic feel is adorned with electric guitars, bombastic drumming and pumping bass. Although the intimacy of the EP is somewhat lost in this track, the fullness of sound and production quirks make this an enjoyable listen.

The final track, 19th July, is a soaring masterpiece of acoustic folk where Oliver gives his voice a rest, bares his Scottish folk roots and reminds us what he can do with an acoustic guitar. The flurry of fingers combined with an awe inspiring church hall sound makes this song a fantastic finale for a well crafted EP full of surprise, joy and fervour.

Kick and Pull is a wonderfully crafted piece of work, well thought out without being forced or overindulgent. The production is phenomenally good, managing to combine acoustic beauty with hard-wired electronica, rock power and Oliver’s diverse vocal range. For an artist still young in his years, his music has a maturity that can speak for itself, urging you to listen as it will make your day just that little bit better.

*****

     Kick and Pull is available for download on iTunes  and Amazon

Download your own copy here —>The Chunt-Issue 05- Aug 2012

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One of the stipulations for any story is that it must be self sustaining, keeping the reader engrossed enough to travel to the end with a feeling of satisfaction of having been on a journey worth taking . The short story, if written well, is one often overlooked medium which satisfies this rule.

Ryan O’Neill, a Scottish writer now living in Australia, proves this repeatedly in his short story collection “The Weight Of A Human Heart”. This book is a treasure-house of journeys that he deftly steers us through with all the wisdom and vision of a seasoned traveller.

Superficially these journeys are literal, taking us to Australia, China, Rwanda, Lithuania and Scotland, providing us with a breadth of landscapes on which Ryan carves his characters and delivers haunting narrative. This merely reflects his own world experience, sharing it with not a hint of self satisfaction or showboating: he shows us a glaring, unaltered view of scattered continents, their inhabitants and invaders.

Ryan also steers us through the mechanics of storytelling. In some pieces, we enter the familiar territory of traditional narrative outlay, such as in “The Saved”, a story of injustice through unfettered bigotry painted expertly on a Rwandan backdrop of verdant hills, shimmering lakes and unrepentant sinners. The intimate and rich nature of these tales prove that Ryan is at home in the company of other short story writers such as Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut and Graham Greene.

In other outings, Ryan sends us to uncharted lands. He bends, or rather reinvents, the rules of narrative structure. In “Figures in A Marriage”, he graphically demonstrates the disintegration of the relationship between a husband and wife using Venn diagrams, flowcharts and doodles (among other devices). These visuals, far from distracting us from the plot, bring the destructive nature of the marriage into stark view by reducing it to cold categorisation and bare statistics.

This realism is further portrayed in “The Examination” where the 1994 Rwandan genocide is handed to us through an English test paper of a survivor. At this point the reader is no longer passive but employed as the boy’s invigilator and marker, mentally circling certain passages in blood-red ink. Never before has this horrific act of human savagery been so sensitively described by an outsider.

Alternatively, Ryan takes us inside his craft by dissecting the art of short story writing. “In Seventeen Rules For Writing A Short Story” he literally follows the stipulations outlined by other writers, deliberately creating a mish-mash of pulp fiction, demonstrating that creativity and originality cannot be governed by laws, even those pronounced by fellow writers.

However, at the centre of his collection are its wide range of characters, our travelling companions through these wonderful vignettes. Despite the all too brief moments that we spend with these people, Ryan manages to portray them so masterfully that they stay firmly with us. Even in the first paragraph of the first piece, “Collected Stories”, the huge chasm between a mother and daughter is firmly established, a chasm filled with the obsessive story writing of an isolated, chain-smoking widow. In “The Chinese Lesson” the true nature of the relationship between a teacher and student is revealed, recast and then revealed again, polarising our feelings towards them: wishing protection for one and perdition for the other.

“The Weight of A Human Heart” is a work of relentless brilliance with a heart of its own: deeper than the South China Sea, wider than the Australian outback and heavier than the salt tears cried by a world of characters in joy and sorrow.

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To hear my exclusive interview with Ryan, click —>here<—